Monthly Archives: June 2008

Supreme Court Silences Murdered DV Victim

June 27, 2008
Supreme Court Silences Murdered DV Victim
A Supreme Court ruling made on Wednesday may make it easier for murders from intimate partner violence to go unpunished.

In Giles v. California, victim Brenda Avie called the police three weeks prior to her death, reporting that her boyfriend Dwayne Giles choked her and threatened her life. A trial court convicted Giles for murder which the California Supreme Court upheld, but the Supreme Court justices threw out the conviction in a 6-3 ruling. And it was because Avie wasn’t available to be a witness:

The case revolved around the Sixth Amendment, which affords people the bedrock right to confront and cross-examine witnesses who give testimony against them. At issue is whether defendants forfeit their confrontation rights by doing harm to people whose statements are introduced in judicial proceedings.
So because she had made the prior report about his violent behavior and wasn’t available for Giles to cross-examine, the conviction was thrown out. The exception of the amendment is if the prosecutors can prove that the accused purposefully killed the victim to keep them from testifying.

And Justice Breyer argued just that in his dissent: “The defendant here knew that murdering his ex-girlfriend would keep her from testifying; and that knowledge is sufficient to show the intent that law ordinarily demands.”


Court Rejects Executions for Child Rape

Court Rejects Executions for Child Rape

June 27, 2008
The Supreme Court on Wednesday outlawed executions of people convicted of raping a child.

In a 5-4 vote, the court said the Louisiana law allowing the death penalty to be imposed in child-rape cases violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Patrick Kennedy, 43, was sentenced to death for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter in Louisiana. He is one of two people in the United States, both in Louisiana, who had been condemned to death for a rape that was not also accompanied by a killing.

“The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion.

Justice Kennedy was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens in the opinion; Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

There has not been an execution in the United States in 44 years for a crime that did not also involve the death of the victim. The Supreme Court banned executions for rape in 1977 in a case involving an adult female victim.

Wednesday’s decision does not affect the imposition of the death penalty for other crimes that do not involve murder, including treason and espionage, Kennedy said.

Kennedy concluded that in cases of crimes against individuals — as opposed to treason — “the death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim’s life was not taken.”

“The harm that is caused to the victims and to society at large by the worst child rapists is grave,” Justice Alito wrote in dissent. “It is the judgment of the Louisiana lawmakers and those in an increasing number of other states that these harms justify the death penalty.”

Kennedy also acknowledged that the decision had to come to terms with “the years of long anguish that must be endured by the victim of child rape.”

Sexually violent predator missing – sentenced to probation not prison

Missing Sexually Violent Predator Avoided Prison

Updated: June 26, 2008 09:37 PM MDT

COLORADO SPRINGS – Police continue to look for a sexually violent predator who moved without telling authorities.  According to his arrest warrant, 26-year-old Kevin Alter moved out of the Aztec Motel on Thursday, June 12th.  Alter then met with his probation officer the next day and again Friday, June 20th.  According to the warrant, he didn’t tell his probation officer he had moved.  Alter hasn’t been seen since.  He’s 5’10”, 183 pounds, blond hair and blue eyes.  If you’ve seen him, call police at 444-7000.

Alter was arrested in August 2006 and charged with sexually assaulting a six-year-old and an eight-year-old.  He reached a plea agreement in June 2007.  In April, he was sentenced to probation, for 20 years-to-life.

“We were asking for a sentence to the Department of Corrections, a term of four years to the rest of his natural life plus 20 years-to-life parole after that,” says El Paso County Deputy District Attorney Brien Cecil.  “I felt it was the most appropriate sentence based on what he had done, he had committed sexual assault against two very young children.”

Judge Barney Iuppa presided over the case.  NEWSCHANNEL 13 stopped by his chambers to ask about Alter’s sentence.  We were told, “It’s not proper for courts to discuss decisions that have been made.”

“Typically, an individual that is on probation would be deemed more manageable in the community,” says Gail Harwood from the El Paso County Department of Human Services.  “Anybody who may know where this individual is right now would really be doing a service to this individual’s victims, as well as the community at large, to let authorities know where he is.”

Mom helps catch sex offender daughter talking to on MySpace

Longmont Mom Helps Catch Sex Offender


Updated: June 15, 2008


LONGMONT – A convicted sex offender who had failed to register with authorities was caught after a mother found he was exchanging E-mail messages with her daughter on MySpace.

“My daughter first came to me and told me that she was talking to someone, and it was starting to make her feel uncomfortable,” explained the mother, who wishes to remain anonymous. She said she began checking for phone numbers, then decided to check the state’s sex offender list. “When I saw his name and face pop up, that was the worst.”

Police arrested Andrew Coslett, 30, who has served time for attempted sexual assault on a child on 2000. Tim Lewis of the Longmont Police Department praises the mother for being alert, getting involved and contacting them. “She prevented something much more tragic from happening. We looked into it and found (Coslett) had not registered; that he was working on the Internet–and that was a violation of state law.”

The mother said she discussed the experience with her daughter. “When I showed her his photograph and there it was as a sex offender, she started to cry.”

Police say Coslett also has previous arrests for aggravated vehicle theft, burglary, forgery and fraud. They also will investigate whether he had communicated with other children.

Source: Colorado Springs

Sonoma County DA Fires Veteran Victim Advocate Miriam Gaon


~ An Affront to Justice ~

~ A Wake Up Call ~
for All Who Seek to End Violence Against Women and Children

by Marie De Santis
Women’s Justice Center

On June 13, 2008, Sonoma County District Attorney Stephen Passalacqua fired Miriam Gaon, our county’s most veteran victim advocate. Miriam has worked in our DA’s office for 19 years orienting countless crime victims through the justice process. She has also fought vigorously on a daily basis for victim’s rights in a DA’s office that routinely attempts to trample those rights.

When prosecutors mislead victims telling them there’s ‘not enough evidence’ to prosecute their cases, for example, Miriam tells victims the truth and presses prosecutors to do their jobs. There’s no doubt, DA Passalacqua has fired Miriam Gaon because she has stood openly for the ethical pursuit of justice in an office that has shown nothing but contempt for both ethics and justice, and for the community it’s sworn to serve, especially for women and children.

Miriam’s firing not only exposes the mounting dangers for victims of violence against women and children in our own local DA’s office. It also spotlights the impossible conflicts of interest and the inevitable repressions unleashed when advocates are paid by, or in any way contractually bound to, law enforcement, as is most victim advocacy today.

Miriam’s firing is an urgent wake up call for the immediate need to re-invent independent victim advocacy as a critical step in pushing the justice system to respond properly to violence against women and children.


Miriam Gaon is only the most recent in a long string of top tier DA prosecutors and professional staff who have been driven out or dismissed by Passalacqua. By the end of his first term in 2007, 19 of the office’s 43 prosecutors were gone.

Most disturbingly, among them were nearly all the veteran level 4 prosecutors most experienced and commited to dealing with violence against women. One way or another, each had confronted Passalacqua’s legal misconducts, his sexism, or his incompetence, and they were out. With the firing of Miriam, we are left with a DA’s office of sycophants, most of whom are willing to be complicitous in Passalacqua’s ever more flagrant abuses of power, as outlined further on.

For years Miriam endured the retaliations and harassment heaped on her by the past and current DA for her own strong voice for victims. She has been suspended, her office has been gutted and stripped bare, she has been banned by the former DA from entering superior court, and more. Each time, the women’s community has had to launch a fight to get her status reinstated.

Despite the constant stress of working under these conditions, Miriam’s courage to fight for victims’ rights has never buckled. Moreover, in the course of her career, she has developed extensive expertise in child sex abuse and homicide cases, and, in fact, was assigned to those cases at the time of her termination.


As just one example of the daily corrosive conditions under which Miriam worked, consider this incident just prior to the administrative leave that ended in her firing.

The DA child sex abuse prosecutors had been flat out refusing to meet with the child victims until the very last minute before these children were needed to testify. Sometimes the prosecutors weren’t even getting the subpoenas out to the children’s guardians until the night before. When Miriam protested these practices, one of the prosecutor’s said to her, “I don’t need to bring these children in, we can do these cases without them.” (This is just one more of the hundreds of ways prosecutors have shown their disregard and distaste for dealing with crimes of violence against women and children.)

Miriam wasn’t the only one disgusted by this mounting mistreatment of the child victims. An attorney who represents children who have been removed from their home by the county was also outraged that the children she represented were being jerked into the criminal courts at the last minute without adequate preparation. In fact, this attorney was so upset that she was reticent to continue delivering kids to the DA’s office under these conditions.

In an attempt to correct the situation, Miriam arranged a meeting between the DA child sex abuse prosecutors, the attorney for the children, and herself. The prosecutors agreed to a date. On the day of the meeting, the attorney for the children and Miriam waited for the prosecutors: and they waited, and waited, and waited. The prosecutors had stood them up, in one more show of the malignant contempt our DA’s office has for any one who would challenge their abuses.


Miriam’s firing is a terrible loss to the community. It poses particular danger to victims of violence against women and children who depend on Miriam’s knowledge and courage to stand up to prosecutors who try to sweep the women and their cases out the door. But the loss of Miriam, along with the earlier hemorrhaging of veteran attorneys and staff, threatens safety and justice for the entire community.

Consider just these few already publicized outrages perpetrated by DA Passalacqua in just the last couple years. Consider that this is only the visible tip. And that it’s only going to get worse:

** The DA systematically denies justice to rape victims. In 2005, the most recent year for which we have statistics, 177 cases of adult rape were reported to police, and that same year, DA Passalacqua obtained only 7 rape convictions.

** DA prosecutors knowingly present false state expert evidence to the court in the homicide case against Zack Rutledge and mislead the court on key evidence in the child pornography case against John Mark Karr. (Both these cases were ultimately dismissed because of these deceptions, with the judges in both cases openly expressing their shock and disgust at the prosecutorial misconduct. The DA re-filed the Rutledge case which then ended in acquittal.)

** DA prosecutors withhold exculpatory expert evidence from the court in the homicide case against Corbin Esterling. The case wasn’t dropped until 2 days after Passalacqua won election to a second term, though the exculpatory evidence had existed for months, and though Esterling was in jail.

** The DA refuses to file criminal pimping charges against Raman and Rita Patel, despite the fact that Judge Mark Tansil has ruled in the civil case (May, 2008) that the evidence rises to the criminal level of “beyond a reasonable doubt”, and despite the fact that the Patels managed a mega operation of multiple pimps who police found to prostitute minors, and kidnap, traffic, and falsely imprison prostitutes. Santa Rosa police were furious the DA didn’t pursue the case. And the public should be, too.

** Latina rape and domestic violence victims are routinely denied all protection and justice when their perpetrators are quickly whisked off to Mexico courtesy of our justice system before prosecution of their cases – only to have these perpetrators quickly return here to continue or escalate their crimes.

** And in a May 22, 2008 column Chris Smith reports on an ominous foreshadowing of what will become even more standard fare with Miriam out of the office. In his column and in a later conversation with us, Smith tells of a 15-year-old girl who is totally disgusted because the DA plead out her perpetrator in lieu of trial to one felony count when the perpetrator had been originally charged with 15 felony counts. The girl had been sexually molested for three years on a weekly basis by a local radio announcer, and she wanted to testify. This kind of give-away plea deal in even the most egregious cases where the victim is willing to testify is classic Stephen Passalacqua.

Furthermore, the girl found out about the completed plea deal through a newspaper article on the deal. California state law (Penal Code 679.02(a)(12)) requires that prosecutors consult with the victim PIOR to the deal being presented before a judge. Such blatant violations of victims’ long standing statutory rights is also classic Stephen Passalacqua. The mishandling of the whole case is also the classic situation in which Miriam Gaon was so successful in intervening on behalf of the victims before the injustices are finalized.

There is one other feature of Passalacqua’s tenure that should be noted here. Throughout his one and a half terms in office, in the most outrageous mockery of reality, Passalacqua has put on an array of maudlin pubic bell ringing ceremonies and a sundry ‘dog and pony’ shows proclaiming his dedication to victims. The public must not be fooled!


Miriam’s firing also sheds light on deep seated problem that goes beyond the injustices of our own DA’s office, and should be a wake up call for all who seek to end violence against women.

Over the last 15 years, coincident with the influx of large federal funding, the whole U.S. violence against women movement has become increasingly embedded in the systems we most need to change. Most victim advocates now work directly for, or are contractually connected to law enforcement. Caught in this profound conflict of interest, most advocates have not withstood the pressure.

The federal funding originally started out requiring rape and domestic violence advocacy centers to obtain letters of cooperation from local law enforcement, including from district attorneys, as a condition of funding. This starting point should have been warning enough, as right from the beginning it gave law enforcement veto power over the movement’s funding – and, in fact, it was used in exactly that way.

The retaliatory destruction of our own county’s rape center, Women Against Rape, was brought about by our local law enforcement’s threats, delays, and refusals to sign the required funding letters. This was law enforcement’s swift and punishing response to the center’s activist stance, in particular for exposing law enforcement’s role in the domestic violence homicide of Maria Teresa Macias.

More recently, over the last decade, the funding relationships between law enforcement and the anti-violence women’s movement have grown ever more contractual pulling victim advocacy into a tighter and tighter marriage with law enforcement. Not surprisingly, as with many marriages between men and women, the two became one, and the one was law enforcement. Police and prosecutors, both locally and around the country, have wasted no time in exerting their tightening control over the advocates; repressing the voices of most, and retaliating against those who wouldn’t be repressed.


The results, both here in Sonoma County and around the country, have been inevitable. Social change goals of the movement have been replaced by social service goals. Vigorous advocacy for women and children’s rights leads to discipline, retaliation, and firing of the advocate. Advocacy has melted down to counseling and holding victims’ hands while she is trampled and shunted out the door by the system.

Victims think they have an advocate who will fight for their rights in the system, not knowing that they are dealing with someone who is beholden to parrot for the system. The leading edges of the violence against women movement have been blunted. Efforts have been reduced to mopping up the human debris left in the patriarchy’s wake. The Miriam Gaon’s who can resist the pressure are few and far between.

Yes, we must protest Miriam’s firing. And we must also solve the deeper problem, and re-invent a truly independent women’s movement to end the violence.



Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
575 Administration Dr., Rm 100A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Tel (707) 565-2241

California State Bar
Attorney Complaints
Calling from outside CA

California District Attorneys Assoc.
921 11th St, Ste. 300
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tel (916) 443-2017

Office of Victims Services
California Attorney Generals Office
PO Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244
Tel 877-433-9069

National District Attorneys Assoc.
Violence Against Women Group
89 Canal Center Plaza, Ste 510
Alexandria, VA 22314

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Violence Against Women Section
1889 F St, N.W.
Washington, D.C., 2006


Source:  Women’s Justice Center/Centro de Justicia Para Mujeres

Slain principal’s family recalls her as ‘beacon of light’

Slain principal’s family recalls her as ‘beacon of light’
By Kim Bell

ST. LOUIS — The man charged with stabbing his estranged wife to death in her North Side bungalow had left a rambling note behind that he wrote her on yellow paper. It ended with the threat: “Rest in hell, as I will.”

James Earl Pointer’s landlord found the note — now in the hands of investigators — on Friday, hours after police arrested Pointer for the murder of his wife, Marsha Gentry Pointer.

“She was a beacon of light, a candle this maniac snuffed out,” said Marsha Pointer’s brother, Robert L. Gentry.

Marsha Pointer, 57, was a retired high school principal and educator in Denver who had grown up in St. Louis’ Vaughn housing complex and known James Pointer since childhood. About two years ago, after living in Colorado, the couple returned to St. Louis and bought a house two doors away from her elderly mother in the 4400 block of Catherine Place.

She was tutoring children and running an online travel agency.

A few months ago, after 19 years of marriage, Marsha Pointer and her husband separated, at her insistence, relatives say. She was fed up, they say, with his verbal abuse. He’d berate her about her weight and say other demeaning things to her. One friend said Marsha Pointer complained about his drinking and failure to tend to his own diabetes.”I’m tired of being his nurse,” Marsha Pointer confided to her longtime friend, Susan Kidd, a former television news anchor in St. Louis.

About 6:30 a.m. Friday, James Pointer drove to his mother’s home in Jennings and used his cell phone to call Jennings police. He said he had stabbed his wife and was walking to the police station to turn himself in. When they picked him up a few minutes later, he had blood on his clothes, and his hands were cut up. Once in the custody of St. Louis homicide detectives, he made a videotaped statement, confessing to the crime, police allege in court papers.

James Pointer, 59, faces charges of first-degree murder, burglary and armed criminal action. At his initial court appearance Monday before Associate Circuit Judge Calea Stovall-Reid, Pointer was brought to court in handcuffs, chained to about 20 other defendants. Pointer is a slight man, standing barely 5-foot-6 and weighing about 130 pounds. Both of his hands were completely bandaged by white medical tape. He waved to his two grown children from his first marriage; Pointer and Marsha Pointer had no children together.

Pointer is being held without bond. His next court date is July 14.

Police allege that Pointer broke into a brick bungalow in the 4400 block of Catherine Place sometime on Thursday, when Marsha Pointer was away. Then, sometime late Thursday or early Friday, police allege, Pointer came up behind Marsha Pointer as she sat at her computer in the back room, just off the kitchen. Her two German shepherds, Ebony and Ivory, were in a pen in the backyard.

She was stabbed multiple times, including in the head and throat. Her body was found in the kitchen. Also in the kitchen were a mop and sink full of bloody water, signs that her killer had tried to clean up, relatives say.

The house is full of little touches that Marsha Pointer’s family says defined her. Her refrigerator door was covered by a collection of colorful magnets from the dozens of states she’d visited. Over the kitchen door is a plaque that reads, “Live, Laugh, Love.” Outside, the front yard is tidy, neatly manicured with a flower pot on the front stoop.

Marsha Pointer graduated from Albion College in Michigan in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. She then earned her master’s in recreation at Michigan State. She worked in the Denver public school system from 1979 to 2005, including the last five years as principal of Manual Leadership High School, which served several poor neighborhoods.

“The poorest, wildest, most neglected children were really the ones she’d reach,” says Kidd, the former St. Louis TV anchorwoman and Marsha Pointer’s college roommate at Albion. Kidd now lives in Washington DC. “She was a real success story.”

Kidd said Marsha Pointer “was very outgoing, very energetic and very much believed you didn’t have to accept things the way they were. You didn’t have to live in a neighborhood overrun with trash, or you didn’t have to accept a crappy school. She wanted to make things better.”

Marsha Pointer’s mother, Clarice Anita McClure, raised four children in the projects and let them all know the value of education, Kidd says. She used to take her children to Lambert airport to watch the planes take off. She’d ask them, “Where do you think that one is going?” to encourage them to think more broadly and beyond their own neighborhood. Three of her children went to college; her fourth got a good job at McDonnell Douglas, like his mother.

After retiring from teaching in 2005, Marsha Pointer and her husband returned to St. Louis so she could live closer to her mother, now 77. She bought the house two doors down and rehabbed it, adding all new fixtures inside and a 6-foot privacy fence in back. She wanted to be able to take her mother to doctor’s appointments, take her to lunch and to plays, said Marsha Pointer’s younger sister, Patricia Swindall of Dallas. Marsha Pointer was endlessly helping others, from tutoring children to driving her mother-in-law to dialysis, family members say.

“We’d say, ‘Girl, you gotta slow down,’,” Swindall says. “But she was on a mission to help who she could. We didn’t realize her days were numbered.”

James Pointer, known as “Peter,” had served more than 10 years in Missouri prison for assault and robbery convictions in the 1970s. He was a laborer in Colorado who had trouble finding steady work in Missouri with his felony conviction. Robert Gentry, Marsha Pointer’s brother, said he warned his sister about Pointer. Even though the husband hadn’t been physically abusive to Marsha Pointer, Gentry said he offered to help his sister get a restraining order.

“She’d say, ‘No brother. I can handle this,'” Robert Gentry said.

When he balked at moving out of their home, she found him an apartment on the city’s South Side. But he still showed up two to three times a week at the house on Catherine, cutting the grass or cleaning up after the two dogs they shared. Family knew it was his attempt to keep in contact. “He’d keep saying, ‘I’ve changed Marsha. I’ve changed,'” Swindall says. She tried to be a friend to him, but he was pushing for more, Swindall added.

“It’s just tragic. I didn’t see this coming,” Swindall says. “As long as we’ve all known each other, she always thought through it all that they could stay friends.”

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Austin A. Layne Mortuary, 7239 W. Florissant Avenue, St. Louis. The funeral will be at noon Saturday at Renaissance Chapel, 7203 W. Florissant Avenue, St. Louis.

Deputies kill man who killed children

Mom had asked authorities to check on 2-, 5-year-olds

Scott A. Montgomery’s marriage was disintegrating amid domestic-violence allegations, and he was facing foreclosure on the home outside Manitou Springs he had bought less than a year before, according to court and bank records.

On Sunday, authorities say, Montgomery, 37, killed his two young children at the home, then was shot by two El Paso County sheriff’s deputies.

An autopsy Monday, though, revealed no signs of injuries to the children. Authorities are awaiting toxicology results that would show the presence of poison or chemicals in the children. Toxicology tests can take several days.

El Paso County sheriff’s deputies were called to the home at 6240 Waterfall Loop by Montgomery’s estranged wife, who told 911 dispatchers he had made threatening statements on the phone. Deputies saw through a window 5-year-old Skyler and 21-month-old Canyon lying on a bed, not breathing, with blood splattered across the room.

Deputies entered the home and shot Montgomery to death when he accosted them with a knife, according to Lt. Lari Sevene of the Sheriff ‘s Office. The blood deputies thought was the children’s was Montgomery’s, the result of self-inflicted knife wounds, she said.

Skyler would have been in the first grade at Manitou Springs Elementary School this fall.

“He had the most incredible vocabulary that I ever knew,” said the school nurse and a neighbor of the Montgomerys who asked not to be identified. “He was very loquacious. He just talked all the time.”

Though Skyler had come to her office during his year at kindergarten, she said she never worried about his physical safety at home.

In the upscale gated community of Crystal Park, the deaths of two young children, at the apparent hands of their father, had many grieving Monday.

“We are just so shocked,” said neighbor Virginia Ownbey.

“It’s a hard time. It’s a quiet neighborhood. We very seldom have trouble or need for the police to come up here,” said a close neighbor who would not give his name because he had given a statement to investigators.

Court documents paint a picture of a troubled marriage and a dream of mountain living gone awry.

Scott and Carrie Montgomery, 28, married for nine years, wanted to live in the mountains, according to Ownbey. Scott Montgomery bought the house on Waterfall Loop for $159,300 in July 2007, financing the entire amount, according to El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Offce records.

By November, Carrie Montgomery, 28, was moving out. According to court documents, on Nov. 9, she was retrieving some things from the home when Scott Montgomery came home early from work, disabled her van by pulling a cable under the hood and twisted her arm behind her back during a struggle. Manitou Springs police arrested him on suspicion of domestic violence, which was later dismissed.

Police became involved again in May when Scott Montgomery went to Carrie Montgomery’s apartment in Manitou Springs to pick up the children. He tried to close the hatch of the van on her, and put his hands on her throat and pushed her, according to a Manitou Springs police affidavit. He was set for trial next month on a domestic violence charge.

At the time of the second arrest, he no longer worked at Hewlett-Packard, where he had been for seven years, and was a self-employed solar power installer, according to his booking report at the El Paso County jail.

The two were not divorced.

U.S. Bank filed for foreclosure in April. According to El Paso County Public Trustee documents, he owed $158,746 on the $159,300 loan. The house is set to be sold at auction in August.

Neighbors Monday were struggling to come to grips with the tragedy and some had placed stuffed animals at the house in a memorial for the children. Residents reached by phone said they were unaware there were any problems at the home.

“Nothing like this has ever happened here,” Ownbey said. “Most people are very trusting and they’ll leave their keys in their car.”

Two deputies are on paid administrative leave while the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office investigates the shooting, standard procedure for an officer-involved shooting.

An autopsy on Scott Montgomery is scheduled for today.