GREENSBORO — A Greensboro man convicted of assaulting a 17-year-old girl by grabbing her by the hair and dragging her across a pizza restaurant before hitting and choking her will remain in prison after losing his appeal.
Dejuan Yourse, 39, of 2 Mistywood Court argued that jurors weren’t given self-defense instructions and that the trial court did not have “subject matter jurisdiction,” meaning it did not have the power to rule, on a habitual misdemeanor assault charge.
“Defendant received a fair trial, free from error,” Court of Appeals Judge Phil Berger Jr. wrote in an opinion earlier this month.
Yourse is well-known in Greensboro for being punched and thrown to the ground by then-Greensboro Police Officer Travis Cole during a robbery investigation on June 17, 2016.
The case led to protests, calls for police accountability and the resignations of Cole and Officer Charlotte Jackson, who also responded to the robbery call.
City officials settled with Yourse for $95,000.
At the time, Yourse was already under investigation in the assault of 17-year-old Savannah Skeens.
Skeens, a Fox Pizza employee, had walked into the restaurant on March 4, 2016, as Yourse was arguing about a cold pizza with her manager, Saad Arafa, and a cook.
Skeens saw Yourse try to walk to the back of the kitchen and stepped in his path despite their size difference — she’s 5-foot-1 to his 6-foot-3. Yourse “initiated physical contact with Skeens,” who pushed him away, court documents show.
Yourse grabbed Skeens by the hair and dragged her across the restaurant, hit her repeatedly and held her down on a table before grabbing her neck and choking her, court documents show. He also struck her with a chair.
Berger wrote that the trial court did have jurisdiction to decide on the habitual misdemeanor assault charge. He also said Yourse was not entitled to self-defense instructions.
Berger wrote that under the law, self-defense can only be used if that person is “without fault in provoking, engaging in or continuing a difficulty with another.”
Yourse “initiated physical contact with Skeens when he attempted to go into the kitchen,” Berger wrote. “He continued yelling at Arafa and then began assaulting Skeens.”
Berger also noted that Skeens had asked Yourse to leave the restaurant before he made contact with her; when he refused, he became a trespasser.
Yourse, who has been in custody since Dec. 13, 2017, has three infractions on his prison record: disobeying orders, unauthorized tobacco use and illegal cloth, linen or sheets, records show.
Yourse was also convicted in 2018 of assault by strangulation, assault on a female and habitual misdemeanor assault in an assault on his girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time.
He received sentences totaling a minimum 10 years and three months in prison in the combined assaults on his girlfriend and the pizza worker, state records show.