Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2011, midnight PDT
Call for help leads to nightmarish trip into world of ‘justice’ Guest viewpoint
By Lori Batterman
Appeared in print: Wednesday, May 18, 2011, page A9
Earlier this year my husband and I got into a heated argument, and it escalated. He had recently started taking anti-depression medication after being laid off for almost a year. I was worried that the medication was having a negative effect, and called 911 in hope of speaking to a deputy I knew. My only intent was to discuss the situation and ask her what she thought I should do. What followed was the most incredible injustice imaginable.
The deputy on duty asked me if he could come out to meet me. I told him that was not necessary. He insisted that all 911 calls had to have a report filed, and he needed to interview me to do that. He led me through a series of questions, using words like “pain” and “injury.” I told him that I was not injured, and had no bruises.
I later saw the police report, which completely misinterpreted the facts. I spoke to the deputy’s supervisor, who explained that deputies are trained to question victims by leading them through the interview. They are trained to infer what they think actually happened, assume the worst, and then put it in the report as if it were fact.
During the next four weeks my husband, who has never been in any kind of legal trouble beyond a speeding ticket, spent two nights in jail before posting an $8,500 bond (10 percent of his $85,000 bail). He was tied to an electronic surveillance program, or ESP, and was unable to leave our friends’ home for five days. He continued under electronic surveillance for another two weeks once he was finally released for work.
Did I mention that the ESP started out at a cost of $43 per day? The only real interview that my husband was given consisted of the question, “How much do you make?” Since we both now have good jobs, we were charged the maximum rate for the ESP. We later appealed, and the daily charge was reduced to $20.
A “no contact” order was issued, which meant that my husband and I were unable to communicate in person, by phone or through a third party. He was staying with my best friend so not only did I temporarily lose my husband, but I was also unable to communicate with my best friend.
All this took place before he went to trial. What happened to being innocent until proven guilty? Why do we need both an $8,500 bond and the ESP?
The victims’ rights advocates thought they knew what was best for me better than I do, without even talking to me or my husband. I’m a second-degree black belt I can defend myself against my husband!
The assistant district attorney insisted that I have no contact with my husband until treatment was mandated. I asked her how she would feel about being kept from her husband of 11 years without any input. She told me that was irrelevant. Should this person really be dealing with domestic violence cases? Not once did she ask me how I felt, and supposedly she was representing me.
We ended up negotiating a guilty plea to a misdemeanor after the district attorney’s office threatened to put our 10-year-old daughter on the stand if we took the case to trial, because she knew she had no evidence to convict my husband. All this under the guise of protecting my family?
We are still not done with the process. My husband is on supervised probation for 36 months. He is a construction lineman and works out of town 99 percent of the time when there is work. He often works five days a week, 10 hours per day. The parole officer wants him to come to Eugene for domestic violence classes every Saturday for 52 weeks. He also wanted him to attend alcohol classes three days a week, even though it was not an alcohol-related crime. The parole officer even admitted he didn’t know how my husband was going to keep his job.
Is this really going to be beneficial to our society? Our judicial system will be adding to our already-high unemployment rate because of what it is doing to my husband. The parole officer said he didn’t care if my husband lost his job, as long as the community was safe. Will the community really be safer with another unemployed Oregonian sitting at home worrying about how he will support his family?
Bottom line: Do not call 911 unless you want someone arrested. The nightmare to follow will be something that your family may never survive!
Lori Batterman lives in Creswell.