Plea Deal, Guilty Verdict Reached in 2019 Deep Ellum Bartender Assault Case

The violent confrontation was caught on cell phone video

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The man caught on camera beating a woman during a fight in Deep Ellum will spend time in county jail and be on probation.

Jurors found Austin Shuffield guilty of misdemeanor assault and third-degree felony obstruction. He faced up to eleven years behind bars after being convicted Monday in the 2019 attack but both sides agreed to a plea bargain.

The victim, L’Daijohnique Lee left the courtroom and briefly spoke to reporters saying she is satisfied with the punishment.

“It is what it is,” she said. “At the end of the day justice was served.”

It took a Dallas County jury of seven men and five women about eight hours over two days of deliberations to come to a unanimous decision.

They found Shuffield not guilty of aggravated assault, despite him being seen on camera holding a gun at his side during part of the confrontation.

The incident began when Shuffield confronted Lee for driving the wrong way down Elm Street and blocking a parking lot, preventing him from leaving. The fight escalated when Shuffield said he reportedly tried to take a picture of Lee’s car to call the police, accusing her of doing drugs. Both got out of their vehicles during the confrontation.

During deliberations, jurors asked the judge to watch videos of the brutal attack a bystander captured on a cell phone video.

It is what it is. At the end of the day, justice was served.

L'Daijohnique Lee, who was beat by Austin Shuffield in a 2019 Deep Ellum attack

Shuffield, then a bartender, did not take the stand in his own defense but told police in a video interview played for the jury that he feared Lee would follow through with a threat to call her friends to come and ‘shoot him up,’ so he went to his truck to get his gun.

He told police he slapped the phone from her hand because of the same fear. 

Prosecutors told jurors Lee was trying to dial 911 when the phone was thrown, though Lee acknowledged she was not during her cross-examination last week.

Video shows Lee hitting Shuffield after the phone is slapped away and him punching her several times in the head. Shuffield later admitted to police that more than one hit was "probably" excessive.

After the trial ended, special prosecutors Russell Wilson and Messina Madson explained why they agreed to the deal.

“We reached an agreement that was similar to a person who was not convicted of an aggravated offense,” said Wilson.

Wilson said they agreed to the plea bargain only after jurors found Shuffield not guilty of the more severe aggravated assault charges which could carry up to 20 years in prison.

Additionally, the issue over whether Lee saw the gun at Shuffield’s side was argued in court. Shuffield’s defense, which included attorney Scott Palmer, emphasized police body camera video where Lee did not report seeing a gun when initially questioned by police on the scene.

Wilson said he is pleased to have secured a felony against Shuffield for slapping Lee’s phone away.

“Which means he can never lawfully possess a firearm,” he said.

Shuffield’s defense expressed frustration at the felony conviction.

“This was a way to throw every aggravated felony charge at Mr. Shuffield in order to increase the chances or to satisfy a community that quite frankly three-and-a-half years ago was quite outraged,” said defense attorney Rebekah Perlstein.

Anger indeed erupted over the video that became viral and after Lee was briefly charged for smashing Shuffield’s truck windows following the attack.

“The decision to charge or attempt to charge Mr. Lee by the Dallas Police Department was perhaps one of the worst law enforcement decisions I have seen in my career,” said Wilson.

Perlstein admits the video is hard to watch.

“It’s hard to have a ton of sympathy for how we got here when we watched how a community called for him to be killed or shot or individuals to go to his home and retaliate,” she said.

She said Shuffield’s parents, who were present during the trial, even had to move from their home out of fear.

When asked what she wants to say to Shuffield following the verdict and sentencing, Lee simply said “nothing.”

As part of the plea deal, Shuffield will spend four days in the Dallas County Jail beginning immediately. He also agreed to settle a pending DWI case out of Collin County and spend 90 days in Collin County Jail.

The 34-year-old will be on probation for up to five and a half years.

Dallas County District Judge Lela Lawrence Mays added a stipulation for Shuffield to undergo outpatient treatment for alcohol, including completing a 12-step program and being tested for drugs or alcohol.

Shuffield has also waived the right to appeal.

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