Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Beat(ing) Goes On

Naturally, not everything in the legal realm is humorous. One of the uglier sides of the legal system is domestic violence, also called spousal abuse and wife beating in some circles. When I was a prosecutor many years ago, these were some of the hardest cases to deal with. The physical damage inflicted upon women by men in their anger was only one source of frustration. What really irked me was when the complaining witness (the girlfriend, spouse, or family member) wanted to withdraw her complaint and begged for the charges to be dropped.One tough judge I knew used to hold the woman in contempt or would have the police charge her with filing a false police report if she said she lied about it in order to get him released. There were always tears and excuses. The cycle rarely ends.

One of the most high-profile cases of domestic violence in recent years that we all know about was the Rihanna and Chris Brown incident several years ago. He admitted to beating her while they were in a car, and she cried and mourned the fact that if she wanted to keep her career moving forward she would have to dump him. She did dump him -- at least for a while. Of late they have been seeing each other again, but only on business, if you believe her explanation.

Do I sound a bit uncaring? Probably so. That's because Rihanna announced on an Oprah interview program (I know, I thought she was gone too, but she pops up every now and then) last week that she still loves Chris Brown. Yes, no doubt he is her sole mate, her one and only, her life's love, yada yada yada. Maybe she will get her fairy-tale ending with Prince Chris Charming some day. Color me skeptical.

I wish Miss Rihanna could see the things I saw as a prosecutor: all the lovey-dovey sessions between abuser and abused, full of apologies and forgiveness and promises that it would never happen again. And the charges would be dropped since the witness refused to testify. And they would go off arm in arm, then a month later the woman would be dialing 9-1-1 again, and he would be locked up again, and she would appear in court to get a temporary restraining order again, and then show up to bail him out again, and then she would get a DVO (domestic violence order) and then invite him over to see the kids and when he came over she would say something to set him off and he would hit her with whatever was close at hand. And it would start all over again.

My younger sister was a domestic abuse victims' advocate for a couple of years when I was practicing law. The stress and frustration of her job were evident when she spoke about her work. Luckily she got out of the field, thus saving her sanity. Unfortunately, there is no escape for some of these women -- often by choice.

Mr. Brown's punishment for the Rihanna beating? He got 5 years probation and 6 months of "labor." Sweet justice. He was 20 years old when he hit her. He is now 24. I hope he has truly learned from his mistakes.

All of this thinking was provoked by what happened in a court of law yesterday. A high school senior named Tony Farmer was caught on video tape beating up his girlfriend back in April. Here is how one news report related it:
Farmer was indicted by a grand jury on charges of kidnapping, felonious assault and robbery stemming from an altercation last April with his ex-girlfriend, Andrea Lane, in the lobby and parking lot of her apartment complex in Bedford Heights (Ohio). Much of the incident was caught on videotape inside the apartment building. Bhasker said that at one point, outside the building, Farmer dragged Lane by her hair. Farmer was later charged with intimidation, as well, after he sent threatening phone and text messages to Lane.
Farmer entered into a plea arrangement and was sentenced yesterday to 3 years in prison. What is the hooplah about? He was a 6'7" basketball player, highly recruited by top colleges. He expected to get probation, and when the judge announced the sentence, he crumpled to the ground in disbelief. The video is everywhere on the Internet.

This judge in that case was brave to impose a hefty sentence on the 18 year old. Time will tell if it holds up. The victim was in court when the sentence was announced, and she cried too. From what I have read she is not back with him, so she was not expecting to get in on the big bucks when he went to the pros in a year or two. By the time he gets out of jail, he can go to college for his mandatory year and then be right on time to go pro, as if he had been in college for four years. No problem. He will probably learn more in prison than he would in college anyway.

The Farmer is not the end of the saga either. Just last Saturday another high school (rising) senior who planned to play college basketball was arrested for -- you guessed it -- beating not just his girlfriend. He beat his baby mama. The mother of his child. He is 18.   Aquille Carr is from Baltimore, and he will now have to answer to two misdemeanor charges of assault and reckless endangerment. His victim, luckily, was not hurt badly. Maybe there is hope for Mr. Carr.

I don't know what the solution is. I don't even know what the questions are. It's just sad. And it's happening far too often in far too many places. The legal system can only do so much. Society has to do the rest. And a few strong, courageous judges can't hurt.

No comments:

Post a Comment