Monthly Archives: August 2008

Judges must explain reasons when denying restraining orders in domestic violence cases

California Chronicle

California Political Desk
August 26, 2008

SACRAMENTO – Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed Assemblyman Jose Solorio’s (D-Anaheim) Assembly Bill 2553. The new law requires judges to explain their reasons if denying temporary retraining orders in domestic violence cases. The bill was signed just before the California budget impasse prompted the Governor’s decree to not sign any legislation until the budget is resolved.

The new law was a response to the practice in courtrooms of “rubber stamping” denials of temporary restraining orders filed by victims of domestic violence. “Without a written explanation of a denial, a judge’s sound reasoning is subject to speculation,” Solorio said. “Victims of domestic violence need to know why their temporary restraining orders are denied.”

Source and complete article

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Man uses shotgun to kill wife

Editorial comments: (1) The headline, “Domestic violence blamed in homicide,” depersonalizes the event so the murderer does not seem responsible for the crime. This is a common error in news reporting. (2) The police captain said, “she’s got to seek assistance to get assistance,” which blames the victim for her death. Also, see the previous article about the woman who was murdered after she sought – and was denied – a protective order.

Domestic violence blamed in homicide
Huntington, W. Virgina, Aug 27, 2008
By CURTIS JOHNSON
The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON — A domestic argument led to Huntington’s 11th homicide in the past 10 months Monday night, according to city police and court documents filed in Cabell County Magistrate Court.

Robert Scott Frazier, 41, was charged with felony first-degree murder in the death of 58-year-old Kathryn Gale Smith. Frazier was detained without bond at the Western Regional Jail.

A criminal complaint charges that Frazier used a shotgun to shoot Smith. Officers found her body Monday night inside a bedroom at 530 Richmond St. in the city’s Guyandotte neighborhood.

Both parties lived at the house, police said. Smith was the tenant, who leased the property from a man in Putnam County.

Dora Wallace, who cosigned the lease for her friend, described Smith as being in a physically and mentally abusive relationship.

“This is a tragedy,” she said. “Kathryn Smith was a wonderful person. She had a heart of gold. Inside and out she was a beautiful lady.”

A search warrant states a witness told police Frazier and Smith were involved in an argument at the house.

Huntington Police Capt. Steve Hall did not know the subject of the argument, but he said the witness described it as a “loud, boisterous argument” that lasted 10 to 20 minutes.

The warrant states the witness saw Frazier enter the bedroom with a shotgun in his hands. One gunshot followed. The witness saw Frazier climb out the bedroom window, as both men left the residence. The witness said Frazier had blood on his arms and clothes.

“(Frazier) yelled at the witness and told him not to tell anyone that he had been at the residence,” the search warrant states.

Hall said investigators recovered Smith’s body and a shotgun from the same bedroom. Hall said the witness gave three statements. He described each as solid.

Police searched for blood-stained clothes with a search warrant for 222 Buffington St. The warrant states Frazier supplied police with a key to that house. Frazier told investigators he went to that residence and changed clothes after leaving the Richmond Street address. Police believed his clothes and sandals were concealed in a plastic bag.

Hall said Frazier’s deceased uncle had lived at the Buffington Street home.

There was no record of Smith seeking a domestic violence petition in court. There also was no record of her seeking assistance from police, according to Hall’s review of the local computer-aided dispatch system.

Social service and law enforcement officials constantly encourage victims of domestic violence to seek help, but many victims are afraid to speak out.

Hall said seeking domestic violence assistance could have provided safe, clean refuge.

“She’s got to seek assistance to get assistance,” he said.

Huntington police responded to the shots-fired call about 6 p.m. Monday, but they had difficulty finding the person who alerted emergency dispatchers. Within two hours officers canvassed the neighborhood, located their complainant and found another person who led them to the suspect.

Officers found Frazier with a small amount of marijuana. They detained him on a misdemeanor drug charge, and that provided safety for the officers to forcibly enter the Richmond Street home.

Beforehand, officers were not sure a homicide had occurred and they worried the gunman had barricaded himself in the residence. The department considered calling in a S.W.A.T. team to assist.

Hall does not believe the two-hour stint affected Smith’s time of death. He believes she died instantly from a single gunshot wound to the head.

“We’re obviously not going to knock on the door with a report book in our hands and get shot,” he said. “If you err, you err on the side of caution and that’s what took place. It wasn’t that we were sitting around having a cup of coffee. We were diligently trying to locate the suspect.”

Smith’s death is the 17th homicide in Cabell County since October 2007, 11 of which occurred in Huntington.

By comparison, there were no homicides in the city of Huntington between October 2005 and October 2007.

Source: Huntington Herald-Dispatch

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Murder victim had been denied protective order

Woman was killed when she went home to get personal belongings

Louisville, KY, August 27, 2008

Slain PRP woman sought help in court, but was denied

By Jessie Halladay

A woman shot by her husband at their Pleasure Ridge Park home Monday had tried to get a domestic violence petition but was turned down by a district court judge last week.

On Aug. 15, Dorene Seidl filed a domestic violence petition with the district court, but in an Aug. 20 hearing, Judge Joseph O’Reilly denied the petition, said Bill Patteson, a spokesman for the county attorney’s office.

Details about Seidl’s allegations against her husband are not public record, Patteson said.

Before the shooting Monday, there had been four previous police runs to the home, said Officer Phil Russell, a police spokesman.

He said that he did not immediately know the nature of those runs.

Yesterday, William G. Seidl, 68, was charged with one count of murder. Dorene Seidl died of multiple gunshot wounds at the couple’s home in the 8200 block of Grandfield Way, said Eddie Robinson, a deputy Jefferson County coroner.

William Seidl barricaded himself in the home, creating a nearly four-hour standoff with police Monday night.

Dorene Seidl was pronounced dead at the scene about 8 p.m., once the standoff ended, Robinson said.

The standoff began after MetroSafe Communications received a call about 4:15 p.m. on a report of a person down at the home on Grandfield Way.

Third Division officers, hostage negotiators and a SWAT team were called to the home, where William Seidl was barricaded inside.

Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said the standoff ended just before 8 p.m., with Seidl surrendering peacefully.

She said that nobody else was in the house at the time of the surrender, but another man had been in the home before police arrived.

That man has not been identified by police.

The citation says that when authorities arrived at Seidl’s residence, he told them that he shot his wife. He also said that they had been having problems and that she came to the house to get personal items when the shooting occurred.

Source: Louisville Courier-Journal

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Backlash against VAWA

Now that Joe Biden, the author of the Violence Against Women Act, is the candidate for Vice President, “father’s rights” organizations, which have spearheaded the backlash against programs for victims of domestic violence, are using the presidential campaign as an excuse to promote their anti-VAWA propaganda.

For example, an article entitled “American dads, think twice before embracing Joe Biden,” would have us go back to the days when victims of domestic violence had less access to the criminal justice system than they do today — the days when beating women wasn’t prosecuted as a crime, but batterers were advised to take a break. The article says,

Biden means well, but he has consistently misunderstood the domestic violence issue. His legislation has harmed many innocent men, particularly those in troubled or disintegrating marriages or relationships. As a result, an Obama-Biden victory could be bad news for American fathers.

Biden says one of his main achievements has been “training police and prosecutors to arrest and convict abusive husbands instead of telling them to take a walk around the block.”

For clarification: VAWA doesn’t promote arresting innocent fathers, and it is disingenuous for these groups to suggest that it does.  (And they know it.)  The “father’s rights” people want police to tell men who are beating (and sometimes later killing their wives) to take a walk around the block? How is that helping?

For more on the backlash, see
http://fcx.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/3/2/121

Patriarchy Reasserted

Fathers’ Rights and Anti-VAWA Activism

Molly Dragiewicz

University of Ontario Institute of Technology

The backlash against gender-sensitive responses to women’s victimization, offending, and imprisonment is inseparable from contemporary reaction against feminism and other progressive movements. The backlash against the American Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides a prime example of this resistance. Despite widespread support for VAWA and other policies designed to address violence against women, some constituencies object to their existence. The author investigates fathers’ rights rhetoric on VAWA as an example of antifeminist backlash.
http://fcx.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/3/2/121

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Sex Offender Case Law Update

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/smart/caselaw.htm
Office of Justice
Sex Offender Monitoring, Apprehending, Registration, and Tracking SMART case law updates August 21, 2008.

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Sexually Assaulted Children: National Estimates and Characteristics

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, announced on August 18, 2008 a report called, Sexually Assaulted Children: National Estimates and Characteristics 

Key Findings:

  • An estimated 285,000 children were victims of a sexual assault and 35,000 were victims of some other type of sex offense in 1999.
  • An estimated 44% of the child vicgtims of sexual assault and other sex offenses experienced an act of sexual penetration.
  • Sexual assault victims were disproportinately female (89%) and ages 12 to 17 (81%).
  • Most (95%) of the sexual assault victims were assauted by a male. Almost three-fourths (71%) were assaulted by someone they were acquainted with or knew by sight; 18% were assaulted by a complete stranger, 10% by a family member.
  • Police were contacted in regard to only 30% of the sexually assaulted children.
  • Older teenagers (ages 15 – 17) were disproportionately represented as they made up 54% of all victims compared with being 17% of the general child population.

Access OJJDP publications online at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ojjdp

Access this report in PDF format http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/214383.pdf

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Alaska Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison on Sex Trafficking and Drug Charges

Source: United States Department of Justice

WASHINGTON – An Alaska man was sentenced today to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking of minors and adults, as well as drug trafficking offenses, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Nelson P. Cohen of the District of Alaska announced.

Don Arthur Webster Jr., 51, also known as “Jerry Starr,” was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland. In addition to his prison sentence, Webster was ordered to serve a lifetime of supervised release following his release from prison.

Webster was convicted on Feb. 5, 2008, of 28 counts in the first sex trafficking trial in the District of Alaska. After 11 days of testimony, the jury found Webster guilty on two counts of sex trafficking of a minor; nine counts of sex trafficking of adults by force, fraud or coercion; two counts of distributing crack cocaine to a pregnant woman; four counts of distributing crack cocaine to individuals under the age of 21; and eight counts of distributing crack cocaine. Webster was also convicted of one count of maintaining a premises for the purpose of manufacturing and distributing crack cocaine, and one count of manufacturing crack cocaine.

“This defendant preyed on the most vulnerable among us to make a fast buck. Using fear, violence and intimidation, he forced women and children into the tragic world of prostitution and drugs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich. “The prison sentence handed down today denies Webster the freedom he denied his victims, and those who commit similar crimes should expect to be prosecuted.”

“Evil takes many forms. Don Webster, a/k/a Jerry Starr, embodies several of them,” said U.S. Attorney Nelson P. Cohen. “He is a drug pusher-who used both cocaine and crack to enslave his victims. He is a disgusting bully who manipulated women and children. He is a physical abuser who forced his will upon weaker people with threats of burning them with boiling water; confining them to a closet; beating and raping them; and even choking a woman to the point of unconsciousness in the presence of two other women and a child. He is a thief who stole their dignity and hope. He is a violent predator who deserves the sentence imposed today. There are people in our world who need to be locked up and put away for a long time. Jerry Starr is one of them.”

The case against Webster revealed that he operated sham escort businesses that were fronts for prostitution in the Anchorage area of Alaska. The evidence presented at trial established that Webster would target children and women who were homeless, in low-paying jobs or runaways, and invite them to work for his purported “escort services” – Foxy Roxies, Sunshine Girls, American Beauties, Kotton Kandy, Tiffani’s, Tickle Your Fancy and Lickety Split – businesses where an individual would supposedly pay for another person’s “time and company.”

Evidence at trial further proved that in exchange for money from clients who called the escort services’ phone lines, Webster would provide adult women and underage girls to engage in sex acts. According to testimony, the prostitution business operated on an “out call” basis, meaning that the females would meet the caller at his residence or at a hotel paid for by the caller. The caller would agree in advance to pay a fixed hourly rate plus a transportation fee in order to meet with a woman, and then would pay additional money in exchange for sex acts or drugs which Webster provided.

The youngest victim testified that she was 13 when she began engaging in commercial sex acts for Webster and that she continued to do so for two years. The other minor who was similarly victimized was 17 years old.

The evidence also established that the women were required to give Webster all of the money they earned. When they returned from a “date,” they would receive an “issue,” which was approximately one gram of crack cocaine. In their testimony, the victims described going on up to ten dates per day, every day, with no days off. Victims testified they would work up to five days in a row without sleeping. All of the victims testified that they were addicted to crack cocaine when they were involved with the prostitution business. The women all lived in houses in the Anchorage area that Webster paid for and he imposed rules on them during their residence. They could not have any visitors, nor talk to anyone outside of the “family.” According to testimony, they could not purchase anything without Webster’s knowledge, and had to provide receipts if they did. They also could not talk to men unless they were being paid, and they could not obtain drugs from anyone other than Webster. The women were given an alias to use in connection with the so-called escort services. Victims testified that they called the defendant “Daddy” or “Jerry,” and many of them never knew his real name.

According to witnesses’ trial testimony, Webster would physically assault and abuse the women in various ways. For example, the victims testified that Webster would often assault one woman in front of the others to make an example of her. Victims described being repeatedly choked, punched, slapped, bound and strip-searched by Webster or someone acting at his direction. He also threatened to pour boiling water on one victim while another was in the room. In another incident, when one victim left the house, Webster found her and dragged her back by her hair. In addition, two victims described being locked in “the box,” a small crawl space or closet, as punishment for disrespecting him. Furthermore, several victims described a “family” meeting where Webster dragged one young woman into a room, out of the other victims’ sight. The witnesses said they could hear the sounds of the resulting beating, and described how that woman emerged bruised and bloody, with chunks of her hair missing. One victim also described Webster raping her, and several others testified that Webster insisted on having sex with them.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey Renschen and Kim Sayers-Fay of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage and Trial Attorney Alexandra Gelber of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Vice Unit of the Anchorage Police Department, in conjunction with the Alaska Human Trafficking Task Force.

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