Connecticut Law Obfuscates Abuser Accountability

Thanks to a change in Connecticut law, law enforcement agencies in that state may not report the names and addresses of people accused of Top Secretdomestic violence crimes. Supporters of the new state law say the change guarantees confidentiality to domestic violence. In most cases, they say, releasing the name or address of the offender results in the release of the victim’s identity.

Here’s the key section of Public Act No. 15-211, Sec. 24, Section 54-86e: all names and addresses of victims of domestic violence remain confidential “and shall be disclosed only upon order of the Superior Court.”

Although the intention of the law is to prevent re-victimization, Big Mountain Data opposes the move. The law stands in direct opposition to our philosophy: Only by publicly identifying perpetrators and holding them accountable for their criminal actions can we end domestic violence. We support public access to the names of perpetrators as well as statistics about arrests, convictions and other details about domestic violence offenders.

After the policy became law in July, the police department in the town of Redding changed its official policy, apparently becoming the first agency in the state to do so. Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) told The Redding Pilot in November that she supported the Redding department’s move and hoped the decision would spur open discussion of the issue.

“I do support this policy because it offers confidentiality for the victim. We are, therefore, not outing the perpetrator, but from where I sit, offering confidentiality is the stronger [objective],” Jarmoc said in November.

The Connecticut law conflicts with another state law – one that requires identification of anyone who is arrested. Connecticut lawmakers got around this by approving legislation Oct. 1 that exempts law enforcement records from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act under eight circumstances. One is “if they were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime and disclosure would not be in the public interest because it would reveal … the name and address of the victim of sexual assault or risk of injury to a minor.”

Thomas A. Hennick, public education officer for the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, told The Easton Courier the dispute reveals “a conflict in interpretation,” adding, “there is no such thing as a secret arrest in Connecticut.”

We’ll keep an eye out to see how this issue evolves. It may take a legal challenge from a media outlet, relative or concerned citizen to push the issue into court. In the meantime, we respectfully disagree with CADV’s Jarmoc that the Connecticut law is a good thing. But we agree with her on this: Let’s debate this issue publicly.

 

NFL Fumbles Again  — This Time On Greg Hardy Case

Another pro football season, another horrific domestic violence case involving an NFL player.

Last year it was Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. This year it’s the aftermath of the Greg Hardy case.

According to a harrowing account by the sports news and commentary website Deadspin, Hardy’s then gNFL-Footballirlfriend, Nicole Holder ran from Hardy’s Charlotte, N.C., apartment in 2014 minutes after “he had, she said, thrown her against a tile bathtub wall, tossed her on a futon covered in assault rifles, and choked her until she told him to ‘kill me so I don’t have to.’”

When a police officer ordered her to stop and asked why she was crying, she gave this heartbreaking response: “It doesn’t matter. Nothing is going to happen to him anyways.” As Deadspin noted, she was, unfortunately, right:

Last year, Hardy was convicted of assault in a bench trial, but the charges were dismissed on appeal and, it was reported yesterday, expunged. He missed more than a season of football, but went on to sign with the Dallas Cowboys, for whom he’s become a bigger star than ever despite (or perhaps because of) a series of incidents ranging from making sexist comments in a press conference to going after a coach on the sidelines. Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ billionaire owner, calls him a “real leader” who has the respect of all his teammates and inspires America’s Team.

Once again, a professional athlete – a highly paid celebrity who makes his living from an arguably violent sport – was not held accountable for a vicious attack on his intimate partner. Accountability for the offender is key to our work at Big Mountain Data. If the big guys – celebrities, athletes, wealthy men, cops – aren’t held accountable, it’s unlikely that the Average Joe taking out his aggressions on the woman he supposedly loves will ever pay the price for his unacceptable behavior.

Holder accepted a settlement from Hardy, which means she’s no longer talking about the case. Still, the Hardy case echoes patterns we’ve heard before:

  •             The abuse escalated over time.
  •             Weapons were in the home where the abuse occurred.
  •             The victim underplayed the abuse, saying she “fell down the stairs.”
  •             The victim told police she had not reported previous abuse because she feared the perpetrator.
  •             The perpetrator claims HE is the victim, although photo evidence from the police clearly disputes that.
  •             On the opening day the trial, a judge threw out the case when the accuser stopped cooperating with prosecutors.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has faced criticism for signing and supporting Hardy. In response to Deadspin’s account of the Hardy case, SI.com’s Doug Farrar called on the NFL to take action on domestic violence. NFL leaders had seen the police photos of the Hardy case before Deadspin published them, he noted.

“The NFL needs to come out and say, ‘we have screwed this up royally,’” Farrar said. “The NFL has to do something real, not an empty statement from the leader, but something real.”

Here’s a thought: How about no longer enabling players who beat up women? Stop fumbling your response to domestic violence.

 

It’s Outrageous That Ray Rice’s Domestic Violence Charges Dropped

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife Janay during an NFL football news conference, Friday, May 23, 2014, at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md. Ray Rice spoke to the media for the first time since his arrest for assaulting his fiance, now his wife, at a casino in Atlantic City, N.J.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife Janay during an NFL football news conference, Friday, May 23, 2014, at the team’s practice facility in Owings Mills, Md. Ray Rice spoke to the media for the first time since his arrest for assaulting his fiance, now his wife, at a casino in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Remember your outrage at news that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked his fiancée unconscious? Remember being outraged that the NFL commissioner suspended Rice for just two games before he (supposedly only then) saw the video of the violent incident and indefinitely suspended Rice? Prepare to be outraged again: A New Jersey judge last week dismissed domestic violence charges Rice because he had completed the terms of his pretrial intervention.

Under terms of the program, Rice paid $125 in fines and received anger management counseling, AP reported. The intervention program is seen as a key tool as the state tries to keep low-level suspects out of jail, the news outlet wrote. Only 70 of the more than 15,000 domestic violence assault cases adjudicated from 2010 to 2013 in New Jersey’s Superior Court were admitted into the pretrial intervention program, the AP reported. According to New Jersey guidelines, offenders who commit violent crimes should “generally be rejected” from the program.

Cue the outrage.

Why is Rice considered a low-level suspect? The incident made public was clearly violent, no matter how many times Rice and his lawyer call it “a misunderstanding.” When high-profile celebrities and athletes are not held accountable, it sends a message that they are above the law. Authorities here missed a chance to show their intolerance for domestic violence.

The outcome of the Rice case, unfortunately, is all too common. Of the 15,029 people charged in New Jersey with assault in domestic violence cases from 2010 to 2013, 8,203 had their cases dismissed or downgraded to a lower court, according to the data provided by the state judiciary, AP reported. Nearly 3,100 pleaded guilty, 13 were found guilty at trial and nine were found not guilty.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) called the intervention program for Rice inappropriate. “Given the severity of Mr. Rice’s violence and the charges filed against him, it is concerning that this program was ever presented, and accepted as an option,” the statement said.

“This is an example of why victims don’t come forward, why they do not feel safe, and why we still can’t trust systems to hold perpetrators accountable,” NCADV Executive Director Ruth Glenn said in a statement.

Ray Rice Wins Appeal Against the NFL

Ray Rice, Janay Rice

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife, Janay, during a news conference. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend we learned that Ray Rice won his appeal against the NFL, reinstating him into the league with the eligibility to sign with any team. Rice won the appeal on a technicality. According to Article 46 of the NFL collective bargaining agreement, Rice is not allowed to be punished twice for the same incident. Since the NFL originally didn’t take the assault against his then-fiancée seriously, Rice has the possibility to continue to play football without any serious consequences. Devastating, but not at all surprising in a society that clearly values men’s careers instead of women’s lives. While many argue Rice is just a one time offender with a squeaky clean history, I am having a hard believing that beating your partner unconscious is a “mistake” that can be easily rectified.

On February 15th, Ray Rice and his then fiancée, Janay Palmer, were arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence after a “ minor physical altercation” that resulted in Palmer being dragged unconsciously off an elevator by Rice. Even though the police had retained the video of the “altercation” when Rice and Palmer were arrested, Rice was only charged with simple assault. How does beating someone unconscious equate to simple assault?

It wasn’t until TMZ released the infamous video of Rice beating Palmer on the elevator that Rice received serious charges for beating her unconsciously. Even with this evidence, his attorney has been on a crusade to downplay the entire incident as a lovers quarrel. With no explanation, Rice and Palmer pushed up their wedding and got married after Rice’s charges were upped to aggravated assault by a grand jury. A suspicious move that helped minimize the whole affair.

Domestic violence is not an issue to be taken lightly. Rice’s case should have served as an example to others that if you use violence as a means of communication, there will be severe and lasting consequences. It’s the least that can be done when a victim of violence has to live with that moment for the rest of their lives. Instead this case has become one of the many that clearly demonstrates the need for a cultural and systemic revolution regarding the fight against domestic violence.


For a complete timeline of the Ray Rice assault case, go here.

Stark Reminder of Family Violence on Nightly News

whiteWe have a solid evening routine. I blast music while making dinner, and then we sit around the table to eat and discuss the highs and lows of our day. Buzzing underneath the symphony of happy chatter is the invaluable knowledge that we are stable and safe. After the dinner hour, my husband and I plop on the couch, flip on the local news, and my bubble of security bursts on a nightly basis.

We live in Central Florida, where family violence occurs at an astonishingly high rate. Last night alone, reporters shared news of four separate homicides. Joshua Ortiz may have killed his mother, Jacqueline Ortiz, and is currently on the run. Police reports indicate Ortiz battered his mother in the past. A trial began for Dwayne White, the estranged husband of Sarah Rucker, who is accused of stabbing Rucker in the neck and leaving her body in a dumpster. Rucker reached out to law enforcement several times before her murder and claimed she was, “as good as dead.” After a domestic dispute with his wife, David Mohney article-orlando3-1017shot three of his children and then killed himself. Only one of the children survived and recently progressed from critical to stable condition. Bonnie Motto called the police after her son’s father, Ricardo De Jesus Barrera, locked her children in their room and broke toys in a violent rage. The police determined it was not an incident of domestic violence. Barrera returned to the home two days later and killed Motto, along with her mother, Julie Motto, in front of Bonnie’s children.

According to Carol Wick, CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida, 98% of domestic abuse homicide victims in this area are women who have left or are in the process of leaving their abusers.

One domestic violence related homicide story is too many, but the sheer volume of stories that invade the comfort of our home each night serve as jarring wake-up calls that we are not doing enough to prevent these tragedies. Central Florida must stand up to offenders and demand accountability.