Jef Whitehead, aka Leviathan, aka Wrest, sentenced to two years probation

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In January 2011 Jef Whitehead, aka Wrest, the man behind black-metal solo projects Leviathan and Lurker of Chalice and a contributor to metal supergroup Twilight, was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend. Last month the 43-year-old Whitehead was found guilty of aggravated domestic battery, and earlier today Cook County Judge James Linn sentenced Whitehead to two years probation.

Whitehead initially faced a 34-count indictment, though the state dropped 28 of those charges before the bench trial in April. He was tried on four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, one count of unlawful restraint, and one count of aggravated domestic battery; he was found not guilty on all but the aggravated domestic battery charge. Court documents describe the incident resulting in that charge as the strangulation of his girlfriend.

According to a spokesperson for the Cook County state's attorney, Whitehead could have served three to seven years for the one charge of which he was convicted; that's certainly a serious sentence, but nothing compared to what the initial charges could've brought. "The minimum mandatory sentence is enough that a man of Jef's age would have died in prison," says Whitehead's defense attorney, Joel A. Brodsky.

Brodsky, who's also the criminal defense attorney for Drew Peterson, had been hoping Whitehead would get probation for the guilty verdict. In a post-trial motion, Brodsky lists several ways in which he believes the state erred in declaring Whitehead guilty beyond a reasonable doubt: among them, a witness for the defense and a witness for the state both made the point that there was no evidence of strangulation; photographs of Whitehead's accuser didn't show any sign of strangulation or neck trauma; and the state's case was based on uncorroborated testimony from a single witness, Whitehead's ex, who Brodsky says "had given several inconsistent statements prior to, and even during, the trial."

Whitehead himself did not testify during the trial. As Reader music critic Miles Raymer wrote in the fall, Whitehead caused a bit of a stir with an interview for Pitchfork's metal column, Show No Mercy, which addressed the latest Leviathan album, True Traitor, True Whore. When Brandon Stosuy asked Whitehead if the charges influence the title of the record, Whitehead gave a fairly cryptic reply:

The true harlot has been revealed . . . I'm playing O.J. and paying for my freedom . . . [True Traitor, True Whore] is most definitely an expression of what I've been thru in the past year . . .

Whitehead hadn't even gone to trial at that point, but Raymer pointed out that the interview and album title didn't help make him look sympathetic. News of Whitehead's alleged crime began circulating online, popping up in album reviews, comments sections, and even a Metal Injection post on the "Top 10 Worst Crimes Committed by Black Metal Musicians," which listed "Jef Whitehead Charged with Sexually Assaulting Girlfriend with Tattoo Gun." That headline makes a common mistake, assuming that the phrase "tattoo tools" mentioned in the original Sun-Times report on Whitehead's arrest meant "tattoo gun." (According to the information on file at the Cook County Clerk's Office, the tattoo tools in question were "ink caps that were about the size of a quarter." Whitehead was found not guilty of the charges involving the ink caps.)

Though metal fans and observers of the scene hotly debated Whitehead's guilt or innocence outside the courtroom, during the trial metal played no role at all. "Jef's music was never really an issue in the trial," Brodsky says. "It never was really mentioned."

Whitehead's probation will be transfered to the state of California, because he intends to leave Chicago for the Bay Area as soon as possible. The only special condition applied is that he not have contact with his now former girlfriend. He'll undergo a mental health evaluation and return to court for a probation check July 20; the judge may modify the probation based on the evaluation. Whitehead has been incarcerated for the duration of the trial (a total of 94 days) and will be released later today.

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