A former University of Virginia student charged with attacking his ex-girlfriend after last year’s Wertland Street Block Party will serve one year and six months in jail.
Cayden J. Dalton, 20, was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in January to felony abduction and felony unlawful wounding. The charges carried maximum sentences of 10 years and five years, respectively.
Dalton was arrested on Aug. 26 after Charlottesville police responded to a 2 a.m. call at 1215 Wertland St.
In Charlottesville Circuit Court on Thursday, Areshini Pather, the city’s deputy commonwealth’s attorney, outlined the long-term health effects of the attack on the victim, and how her schooling and future were affected.
In court, the survivor detailed the attack and the months of physical and emotional abuse she endured beforehand.
Dalton had been very insecure while they dated, she said, forcing her to block male friends on Instagram whom he perceived as threats and blocking the phone numbers of male classmates.
She also suffered various forms of physical abuse, she said, including being thrown into walls, hit and strangled with her own scarf.
“He would use my own hands to hit my face so he could say he wasn’t the one hitting me,” she said.
Despite the abuse, she said she intended to break up with Dalton on several occasions but didn’t because he said he would stop the behavior and get better. Because she loved him, she said, she chose to believe him.
Last August, after the victim had broken up with Dalton for the last time, he attacked her. During the attack, Dalton tackled her, repeatedly slammed her head into the ground, strangled her and stuck his fingers in her mouth when she tried to scream for help, according to testimony.
“There was no doubt in my mind I was going to die,” she said, fighting back tears. “He said the one thing he wanted most was to see me dead, and the one thing he wanted most was to be the one to do it.”
As a result of her injuries, both physical and mental, she said she was unable to complete her fall course load and will miss out on internships as a result of having to take those courses this summer.
“He took away her future, and you can’t quantify that,” Pather said during closing arguments. “You can’t quantify the loss of safety she feels when she walks around campus.”
Rhonda Quagliana, Dalton’s attorney, said he is a gentle soul who had made “poor decisions,” in part because of alcohol. Quagliana called family friends of Dalton’s parents, a childhood friend and his father as character witnesses. None of his UVa classmates was called.
Quagliana asked the judge to straddle the line between deterrence and punishment, citing the 77 days Dalton spent in jail after his arrest in August. Additionally, due to the severe nature of the felonies, she said Dalton would have a very difficult time finding gainful employment or being admitted to a university.
Pather countered that Dalton’s crime was so violent and severe that it was amazing he did not kill his ex-girlfriend. To give him no jail time would be an injustice, she said.
Though the court heard from people close to Dalton, Pather said the Dalton they know is not the one who was sentenced Thursday. Intimate partner violence happens outside the gaze of family and friends, she said, and the court needed to send a message that it is not acceptable. Pather requested a prison sentence of between two and four years.
“It occurs in the dark, it occurs when they are alone and it occurs when there is no one around to help,” Pather said.
Ultimately, Judge Humes J. Franklin struck a compromise between the two requests, sentencing Dalton to 10 years — all suspended — on the abduction charge, and five years, with three years and six months suspended, for the strangulation charge, for a total active sentence of one year and six months.
Additionally, Dalton will be on three years of supervised probation upon release and subject to 10 years of good behavior, a condition of which will be to have no contact with the survivor.