Sep 23, 2014

WNPR Guest Speaker Blows Whistle On our State's Court's Sentencing for so called Domestic Violence cases.

Tonight, quite by happenstance I came upon WPNR on my car radio station, and they were in the middle of an extremely enlightened and informed program regarding "Domestic" Dating and Partner Violence. 

The nights program began centered around the NFL player who was recently arrested for serious battery, assault and other charges, which unfortunately for the female victim were classified as a "Domestic Violence crimes" ,

Very quickly, the guest speaker helped spoke in no uncertain terms why a violent crime being thus relegated to the melting pot of " Domestic Violence" is so very detrimental to any victim of violent crime.

As I listened to the Guest Speaker expound about the real  truths regarding how our Court System's handle brutal assaults against women, I sat up straighter leaning in.

These insider facts are rarely spoken of and the average citizen has no idea what the Courts have been getting away with for years insofar as all Violent crime that inappropriately or not is dubbed Domestic.  .

Thus, despite a long and difficult day, I was instantly captivated by the speaker and his  unapologetic whistle blowing of sorts regarding our Connecticut Courts.

Although I was familiar with crime thanks to the main-stream and tabloid like gluttonous coverage, I imagined another Kobe Bryant like media feast culminating  in a bitterly disappointing end:  After much ado, Justice so rarely doled out to "sports figures" who batter and Rape.

The NFL would seem rife with therm  as the NBA has had it's fair share. 

 thanks to the male speaker who was informed and unapologetic his sharing of the facts and the truths that lie beneath this tsunami of Violence - I was at once impressed and hopeful that someone else got it.

I  had half expected a program about the latest string of professional athletes and their brushes with violence and drug related crimes, Instead I heard a young man speak the real skinny; an interview rife with truths about violence against women and the way they are thus handled in our courts in what was still  generalized incorrectly as "domestic violence"

This term irritates and unnerves me as it has become an umbrella term to all crimes whereupon the victim simply knows their attacker. In most cases there is absolutely nothing domestic at all  between the two people involved in crimes that are routinely tossed into the Domestic Violence court dockets, particularly in Connecticut.. 

Why does it matter?  Read on and you'll quickly come to understand that being relegated to the "Domestic Violence" docket or mindset is the kiss of death to the statistically female victim t of serious violence. 

The term Domestic Violence seems only to require within the criminal judicial system a requisite that the offender is, or was, somehow familiar with his victim. This can run a huge gamut; from a man you have dated twice, to  an ex- boyfriend you haven't seen in months and of course the most common the ex husband..

As we read any local or national paper we encounter daily horror stories of women being killed or brutalized by someone they know or knew. From a neighbor to a man from work of church its all lumped in as " domestic"! From the police blotter to the first page reserved for the ultimate result of an escalation of these violent acts punching choking concussions and broken bones

All too often, the woman winds up needlessly dead murdered by the very man who had several involvements  with Police calls, whether he was arrested or not , convicted or not . 

These  deaths have become so rampant that weve become accustomed to reading and hearing about them at least every week and often every day.

The assault and stalking crimes escalate so often escalate that unless stiff prison terms are given the first offense, the  offender will become accustomed to a  sense of nothing going to happen to me anyway and they go too far and they Kill.

Tragically, a new partner of the main victim or other people in the victims life get caught in the crossfire so to speak and also get killed. Parents sisters friends;

Think of  Ronald Goldman but this happens everyday even children aren't spared as an ex decides that they are his property and he will sooner kill them than allow them to be with a new boyfriend of his ex wife or girlfriend. 

And even this, the taking of a life or lives, as we noted in that case and thousands of others like it, the criminal judicial results are shockingly lenient, certainly compared to murders committed by a complete stranger, celebrity-ism not withstanding.

In our courtrooms to varying degrees,  dating and domestic violence are still being treated with a blatant leniency compared to the exact same counterpart crimes committed by strangers-- including sexual crimes such as rape.

This disparity in sentencing and the blatant free passes are inexcusable especially as in OJ Simpson case: Simpson got free passes from Police for years for assaulting his wife and finally he took her life after they were divorced and despite scads of evidence he was acquitted.

It is the year 2014 and " familiarity violence" which would be a more apt term, is completely out of control. Instead of being on the decline, as we as we would expect in a society that has invested millions of dollars into prevention and awareness campaigns, including the advent of teaching younger high school and college age girls about the signs and symptoms of abusive relationships the bottom line is that this type of violence is on the rise rather than the decline.

This recent NFL case is but one in a sea of violent crimes against women, crimes  which when  pared down to base reality equate to our women our children suffering broken bodies, their lives forever changed by the trauma that is inherent with being battered and the surety that you are being killed. 

While all assaults vary in intensity, there is one constant running throughout this brand of violence. If the perpetrator is not vigorously sentenced the first time he strikes chokes or pushes a a woman, his methods of violence always escalate.

Many victims have related that indeed they were told in the midst of an attack which seemed to come "out of nowhere" that the words " I'm going to kill you" were completely believable , especially as they were being strangled and or beaten to an unconscious state.

And these are the women that live to tell about it. 

Thousands of  women  every year are silenced forever, never to tell their tale although almost always when we dig into the court records or Police calls made to their homes, we find a trail of violence that was either dismissed at the scene or handled by the area prosecutors as little more than a motor vehicle charge, if that. 

As the guest on this radio show points out it is within our courts where most of the prevention needs to happen and its not happening. In the state of Connecticut alone our courts routinely dismiss these cases out right using the first time offender excuse, when indeed if this case was dismissed no record remains leaving the possibilities endless for first time offenders" and the public defenders and private attorneys are well aware of this infuriating reality. 

The end message to the oft times male offender is "don't worry about it" Thus all the awareness in the world while indispensable will not stop this carnage;

Our courts, translated our prosecutors, clearly need to have sentencing laws for every person who commits a violent crime no matter its purported  classification that are unwavering - no exceptions. This means no plea bargains, which are in reality only given to the most severe "domestic assault" cases.  If  Police were able to charge felonious assault kidnapping etc, especially in Connecticut which would seem to be back sliding to the pre - Torrington era regarding Partner Violence, then these were brutal assaults to begin with. 

Our Connecticut legislation are famous for making sentencing guidelines for crime, however, if the sentences are not mandatory it is an exercise in futility as well insulting and dangerous Connecticut's residents. over-site committees and fines given out to every States attorneys office that fails to instill these minimum sentencing laws, there must be severe consequences. 

More and more Conn courts have so called "domestic violence dockets" the result of grant monies ill spent. 

This money is handed out with a conceptual system in mind; Ironically, I can attest that one of this States so called Golden standard Domestic Violence docket is in fact one of the worst culprits for revolving door, slap on the wrist sentencing, for men that routinely batter women. 

The grant money in part goes to adding a "victim's advocate" to the " dockets fray. In theory these advocates are supposed to be separate entity's from the State's attorneys office, which would be ideal if it were true and if they had any power whatsoever in the sentencing process or even taken seriously by the States attorneys within that court ie the prosecutors who in many courts are the civil servants not doing their job.

In reality most prosecutors pre-decided sentences (that's if the case isn't dismissed or nolled 

the latter a term that is the equivalent of a freebie "it didn't happen" are rarely over ridden by the attending Judge. Most people envision an imposing Judge overseeing the disposition of these cases in trial like atmosphere. Not the case at all. The violent crime docket resembles the same courrtroom where motor vehicle offenses are dealt with, even in the special DV Docket Courts that sprinkle the State.

For the usual reasons- financial ie keep the money rolling into the Court system, as it funds our prosecutors salaries, many local lawyers make their living specializing in defending men that batter women and children repulsively enough) and remember these prosecutors and lawyers all belong to the same Bar: Cronyism is a flagrant REALITY that would mollify most citizens if they only knew how much favor swapping and closed door agreements over punched faces kicked stomachs brain injuries and worse - there would be an uproar.

Another problem is the dragging out of cases with "continuances"a fancy word for stalling a case which ultimately infuses more and more money into the "court system" 

Continuances are merely a way for both the attorney to make more money in billable courtroom hours,  this includes public defenders, who remember, also work for the State.

Thus it is a no brainer that both sides benefit from "continuing" all cases including violent crime that is thrown into the Domestic violence docket  for as long as the presiding judge allows it.

Many Connecticut  Judges have become for the most part figureheads putting their official auto- stamp of approval on the attending prosecutor's long decided "deal" with the batterers lawyer.

In fact in most courts it is rare for Connecticut Judges to over - ride what the attending Prosecutor has already "worked out" with the assailant's lawyer, behind closed doors without the victim present and  more often than not over the phone. 

I have watched prosecutors doling out dismissals, Nolle's and "Accelerated Rehabilitation" all day long at our DV dockets. AR as it's referred to by the regulars is a term for a dubious 

 Connecticut program that our legislators designed for so called first time offenders"

Undoubtedly they are trying to keep prison costs down and the human toll is growing.

A.R , as it's referred to by those familiar with Connecticut's Court practices, equates to " you get a free pass, as long as you don't get caught again within thirteen months" Then we wipe your record clean. 

This program wasn't designed for offenders who had already had three to four free passes because their cases were dropped ( oft times the assailant are sociopaths, experts at playing innocent and deception and manipulation. They contact the victim to alternately beg or threatened her into dropping the charges or reversing her version of the crimes. This while the victim still bears the bruises of his blows or is teetering from the concussion he wrought upon her.

A concussion sounds much more innocuous than a Traumatic Brain Injury but in fact this is the number one injury to women assaulted by boyfriends ex - boyfriends and strangers alike.

The head neck and face are the first targets for most assaults which are often dubbed blitz style attacks designed to render the victim semi conscious stunned and helpless, according to Mary Carr of the Brain Institute of America  www.BIASU.ORG

Women's heads are routinely slammed into walls, refrigerators, dashboards and whatever is handy. Tragically  these women will often succumb to multiple impact syndrome, early onset dementia, aka Dementia pugilistica, Parkinson's disease, Hydrocephalus, Balance and inner ear disorders, metabolic disorders a cascade of brain disorders brought on by the shearing of the brain when it is struck and bounces off of the inside bony prominences of the skull.

Brain Injury is a staple injury to women who step into the landmine of any predatorial or battering male.

And this happens to our neighbors, work-mates, friends and cousins, and often they will suffer in silence, terrified of their assailant who  often leaves them with a threat of death if they tell anyone how they really got injured.

"I fell down the stairs."  is still the most common reason given in E.R's everywhere for head, brain and facial injuries.. 

And again as life debilitating as TBI is it not prosecuted as seriously as if a stranger had walked into your home and slammed your head into a wall and pummeled and kicked you.

Part Two 

No, Unfortunately, for the millions of woman who know the person that assaulted them, they are far less likely to have their assailant given appropriate sentencing such as if they had been attacked by a stranger.. 

Why is this? What are we saying as a culture? Its okay to brutalize someone you know? The woman must be somehow at fault?  This sounds like misogyny at its worst and from where I stand as represented by our judicial system, it is archaic misogynistic cruel and morally repulsive.

And yet even when the Police and Courts are forewarned, the man more often than not has a history of arrests and or convictions for assaulting women - albeit the usual watered down ie plea deal criminal record where felonious assault ( Assault ie Assault in the first or second degree which is rare for Police to even charge a suspect with - he must have used a weapon in the assault or caused severe medical damage to earn such a charge to begin with. 

But again the plea deal prevails and a" compromise " is reached ie assault one or two which are felonies, become assault three a misdemeanor! according to Connecticut General Statue Assault in the 3rd degree is equivalent to a slap, a push or a shove. Quite a disparity between what was actually committed against the victim and what charges he winds up convicted of!

The most dangerous part of this generally accepted practice of plea bargaining violent crime especially violence against women and children is that the convicted man winds up with an official criminal record that in no way reflects what he has done to another human being translated what kind of violence he is actually capable of. 

Anger management class is not going to solve this problem that's for sure, nor are ill spent grants, grants that generally put money into of the States Attorneys Office's and sometimes will add a Victims advocate" to the Court in Question.

V.A'S are typically well meaning, but have no power, control or true input into a case which is where they become figure heads they're role in these crimes is supposed to be paper pushers and liaisons to  yet technically in Court's like Golden Hill St the victim is never supposed to talk to the prosecutor, that is where the Victims advocates technical role comes in. 

In theory, they are supposed to deal with the Victim's of violent crime, supposedly centering on the DV cases, which already run a huge gamut by definition including crimes against children, but DV specifically  is what justifies their salaries via  grant monies given to a particular court. 

However, in my experience,  what I have witnessed at GA2  is the Victim advocates being used in all kinds of cases and in capacity's that they were not given to that Court house for ; And imagine that despite being given brain damage and being kidnapped by an ex boyfriend who broke  into your home, these  are the usually the only face that the victim of the most serious assault ever see's.

This is a mistake in theory as well as being a detriment to the victim;  I have watched the advocates chasing after prosecutors in the hallways of the Court, chattering out important details about a case that they were just told by a victim the victim and one can easily see from the prosecutors blank look as he's walking hurriedly to his office that whatever he was just told was not high on his priority list.  If it weren't so dangerous it would be comical.

These are not slaps those cases rarely make it to court and they should. These are cases where women have sustained brain injury been held against there wills after being knocked out cold strangled with o\bjects and when she returns to consciousness her tormentor refuses her pleas for  medical treatment as she could easily die from her brain injury.

And all of this is poo pooed because it was committed by some man she used to date who decided that he " would decide when they were over."

In the end singularly or collectively the victims advocate program would be better spent on a non state connected lawyer put in place for the Victims specifically to be a true voice for the many victim's who are rightly dissatisfied with the Plea deals that usually put their assailants right back on the street where they can do more harm again and again. 

One Victims advocate who was disgusted with the plea deal that a very brutal attacker received 

said "I've got to work with these people every day, I cant go up against them or Ill wind up without a job"

She wound up quitting after less than a year at our states Golden standard Domestic Violence docket GA2 in Bridgeport Connecticut. Like many newbie Victims advocates begin full of hope at and once they are given the real deal about the plea deal mill and their role in it they became disgusted and frustrated  at their helplessness when they are usually more familiar with a Violent crime's details than the prosecutor who is doling out deals as if on commission for each one.

Its simple like even the rare well meaning new prosecutor or judge they become swallowed up and quickly neutered by the old boy network and the way things really work around the courthouse"  
In the meantime the plea deal is and will likely continue as the method of choice for sentencing our State's Violent crimes committed against women by someone they know. This has far reaching implications for every citizen it doesn't end with that case. 

Besides emboldening extremely violent criminals the courts are setting loose on an unsuspecting community. And without felony records which are rare as can be despite the amount of felony assaults that occur and felony assault has strict parameters for Police to even charge a suspect with it. They ask for hospital records they question possible witnesses and they take photos of the victims that are not too terrified to report these crimes for fear of the promised retaliation - death'

 it was a badly functioning Polaroid camera They don't have two heads. They often are the guy next door.  Often if they escape prison time they will assault again usually the helpless; another woman child or the elderly its common for these men to assault their parents once they become even slightly helpless or dependent.  

As well this m man 's  Police record is going to officially read that he's only committed "misdemeanors" if and when he gets arrested  again. The next time he might do as he promised and  kill the woman. Or another unsuspecting woman. Even when a woman is savvy enough to run a criminal check on someone she is dating, the felonious assault and kidnap charges will not show up, those are the crimes he was arrested for remember that inevitable plea deal knocked all of those felonies down to misdemeanors and even for the sake of "compromise" in multiple charge cases at least one or two charges are dropped completely as if these women's bodies were nothing more than haggling over a Car purchase 

The Plea deal also has practical implications that make these often persistent batterers more dangerous; It excludes him from most persistent offender laws that only apply to felonies!

 As such when he strikes again even if he nearly kills his victim he will probably be given another slap on the wrist plea deal. Prosecutors generally use the excuse that he only has misdemeanors on his record thus their hands are tied unless they go to trial and again trials are so rare for DV cases that my VA informed me she had only seen one in two years at that particular court!

Statistics bear out that in Connecticut 98 percent of these cases,  the ones that are not dismissed outright at arraignment are resolved via plea deals  which despite no trial  are still considered " conviction of compromise.

Trials they say would be too time consuming and with plea deals despite the prosecutor dropping a charge or two completely as part of the compromise with the batterers lawyer as well as reducing the worst of the remaining charges degree by degree after an average of ten months of continuances (mini hearings that resemble the motor vehicle docket,)

 The prosecutor finally adjudicates the "case" They basically inform the judge who is often the third or fourth to preside over the continuances and a"technical conviction" is had at the expense of the victim and the public at large. 

Convictions no matter how inappropriate they are as garnered through phone calls with the batterers lawyer is how their performance is measured. So in their world they "won" 

Albeit that conviction is literally a sell out of flesh bone and trauma. And again that court collectively just set up that victim or another for another set of brutal crimes. 

Often, a suspended sentence  is doled out to those men that have so severely beaten a woman that they must receive something tangible from the prosecutor.  And believe it or not a suspended sentence  with probation is one of the more serious sentences given in our Connecticut Courts for this type of  Violent crime.

 What does that mean?

This translates into the assailant serving no prison time -none,  unless he really messes up and go es on a criminal spree during the length of the suspended sentence. 

It is a non-sentence sentence. Just like probation, which consists of once a month meetings with a Probation officer who is usually overworked and underpaid.  They are not to be confused with Parole officers who require that the convicted man follow certain life rules or else the threat of prison is ever imminent.

The glaring problem is that money is being made by this revolving door stalling tactics and the  victims of brutality are invalidated as they watch their tormentor walk out of the courtroom doors smirking. These women are often physically emotionally and psychologically maimed...
 and now after mustering all the courage they had to press charges and have to face their attacker they ultimately walk away bereft and certain that society as represented by the Superior Court, doesn't care about them. They were not worth getting justice for.

Most of these victims simply cannot pare it down and make sense of the violence that was wrought upon them and then they face the dispassion and apathy of our Courts.

Many never recover their former selves.

The world is not safe and the powers that be cannot be trusted to protect them. Their basic human innocence gone,  their bodies still carrying signs and symptoms of the crimes that were never made right, so many victims lose themselves and become lost and broken.

And the message to the man that seriously brutalized some woman for breaking up with him - or for making a face he didn't like - or for finding a unfamiliar phone number on her Cell ?

He won.  He got a pass this time and  he'll get one the next.

Surprisingly, many batterers have been interviewed re their perspective about why they batter, what they have done and how they feel about it. 

Pioneer Lenore Walker interviewed hundreds of self admitted women beaters. These men are predators to be sure, yet she wisely wanted the full picture, using their own ego's to crawl into their heads to better understand how to break the cycle. They would readily admit to " a period where they "broke down" their girlfriends, by first alienating her from family friends and wearing down her self esteem in other words making a beautiful woman believe that she was ugly or fat. And this is but a snippet of what these batterers were happy to talk about with Ms Walker.

Every woman and man should read at least a cursory collection of Lenore Walkers works. The Internet is awash with them. Have your daughters sisters mothers friends every woman read what Ms Walker's basic tenets that she uncovered in those interviews and all her research. 

A great deal of the men that battered women admitted to being surprised at the slap on the wrist sentencing that they got for brutalizing someone so badly. One man put his girlfriend in a coma with a head injury and actually wound up with a private attorney that helped him receive a mere six months and probation.

" I thought I was going to prison for a long time!". 

" Damn, they didn't do shit " 

But what can you do, many people ask?

For starters, talk about it with each-other, with your kid's, beginning in their teens because abuse is starting with younger and younger girls and boys.

Encourage them to really read and study websites about dating violence, such as and for older girls and women Lenore Walker's books websites etc are a staple for every girl.

Get involved. Vote our legislators out that are soft or apathetic on crime. 

Our courts are failing us,our women, our teenage and  bright eyed College bound young women. We all MUST change how we are handling or not handling this increasingly common Violence that is statistically going to affect one in three females.

This includes date rape and stalking crimes that almost always escalate to sexual assault physical assault, etc..

These crimes cross all class boundaries, that is the point,  there are no boundaries, we read about these crimes happening daily across the entire State. 

The scary fact is that the more affluent the couple is, the less likely the women is to report being assaulted to Police and suffer the shame in her mind of the stigma of being a battered women.