More Justice

Checking back for updates from New Hampshire, on the Ruggeiro case, that I posted about last week, I found this: “Bogus Evidence? There’s an app for that” February 28, 2011

Catchy title for a story of a woman named Samantha Morrison arrested in February for false reports to law enforcement and falsifying evidence to get her (ex) boyfriend arrested.

Wow, I love it because I personally know dozens of men who have been the victim of false allegations and not in one single case was the woman, ever, prosecuted. I know a couple of men who have filed civil actions after repeatedly being subject to arrest on false reports, but none, zero, who have ever had the police or prosecutors enforce current and existing law to hold the women who filed false criminal complaints accountable for their crimes.

Granted, I get around more than most of you, as someone involved in family law reform I get calls and emails from men all over the country. However, this problem has become so widespread I bet that the majority of you know someone who knows of someone that it has happened to. I am not the only woman working to stem the tide of false allegations in family court and criminal prosecutions. There are many mothers, whose sons have been victimized by this, women whose brother’s, friends, boyfriends or spouses have been victimized by misuse of domestic violence laws who advocate for reform.

Last year I looked into the possibility of sending such phony text messages, in an effort to defend someone against false allegations and despite consultation with IT experts in several police departments I could not find such an application that could be used in the types of cell phones in question. The accused in that case had cheap, basic, pay as you go mobile phone with no browser or special features or capability to have software, which Ms. Morrison used, added to it. With a preponderance of evidence I was able to disprove that the accused had sent text because there was no way that they could have had the information supposedly contained in the text messages and no one ever saw the messages that were supposedly sent. Electronics and software are evolving all the time and last months, let alone last year’s devices or application can now be obsolete. The fact that this can be done means that text messages will not be able to be used as evidence of either guilt or innocence anymore.

In Delaware, a state that I am very familiar with, evidence is not needed. She said, he said, is enough for a civil protection order and it’s enough for an arrest warrant for criminal contempt of a civil protection order. That does not stop some women from falsifying physical evidence. Maybe they don’t realize that the bar is set so low, in domestic violence cases or maybe they are not satisfied with civil protection orders and criminal contempt arrests and are endeavoring to secure a criminal conviction. No evidence, other than words spewing like sewage from the mouth of an alleged domestic violence victim, will get an arrest warrant, in Delaware, but to go before a jury with only lies and tears might not be enough to get their desired retribution.

Last year, a close personal friend of mine was accused of calling his ex-wife, in violation of an ex-parte protection order, that order was based on a plethora of lies. He had no knowledge of the ex-wife filing or being granted a protection order. His ex-wife alleged that he called her at 10:50AM the morning after she got her ex-parte order and left a voice mail message that said ‘you are a liar’. The ex-wife called the Delaware State Police and showed the responding officer her cell phone that showed the message had been received from a restricted phone number and she played the insulting but nonthreatening message. The Delaware State Police officer did not know this man and had no way of knowing if, in fact, that was his voice on the voice mail. Delaware State Police did not contact him to ask for his phone records. Phone records will show if a call came from your phone regardless if you dialed *67 or not to show ‘restricted’ on a caller id. No such call was placed from his phone or any phone in his house. Delaware State Police did not contact him to ask if he had an alibi for the time the call was placed. The man DID have an alibi for the time of that call. What the Delaware State Police did was get an arrest warrant, on the man, for criminal contempt of a protection order. He had not even been served the protection order. He was subsequently arrested and incarcerated in a Delaware State Prison.

Ex-parte orders, where only the accusing party is present must be heard with both parties present within ten days and the following Tuesday, the same man was at family court for the hearing on the protection order. He had subpoenaed a number of witnesses hoping to defeat the order. He arrived at 8:55 A.M. to meet his witnesses. The hearing was set for 10 or 10:30. His ex-wife arrived around ten A.M. and shortly thereafter her Community Legal Aid Attorney (benefit of filing for a PFA) came to talk to him and they worked out an agreement to dismiss the Petition for the PFA (protection from abuse). As we were leaving, a Capitol Police officer approached him and arrested him again for criminal contempt of the protection order. The ex-wife had alleged, that morning, before the agreement was reached to dismiss the PFA that he had again called from a restricted phone number at 9:21 A.M. and left a message saying ‘hello’ to his sons. The ex had no way of knowing that her ex-husband had been in the waiting room at the family court from 9 A.M. on that he had arrived so early. In the waiting room at the court you are on video surveillance and no cell phones are allowed other than in the custody of the police officers. He was in a room full of people, with three or four officers present as well as a two or three court employees, on video camera at the time of the alleged phone call to the ex-wife. Despite these facts he was arrested. Did the Delaware State Police or the Capitol Police ever investigate the false reports to their respective agencies? NO.

The charges from the arrest when he had not been served the PFA were dismissed and the record expunged with apologies from Kent County Family Court for wrongfully entering him into the system as having been served when he was not. The charges from the arrest at family court were dismissed when the ex-wife did not appear to testify against him.

It was inevitable that sooner or later, with the proliferation of false police reports involving domestic violence that some prosecutor somewhere would get tired of it and take the long overdue action to punish the offenders.

It should never be easy to get an innocent person arrested on false charges and/or using trumped up evidence. Allegations of a crime should always be investigated even if it is the sacred cow of domestic violence. No one and no group of individuals should have a license to break the law and making a false report or falsifying evidence is breaking the law. The arrests and prosecution of Ruggiero and her mother and Morrison show that at least in these two separate jurisdictions police and prosecutors are now taking false police reports of domestic violence seriously. It is long overdue.

In Florida one Sheriff’s Department now routinely investigates all reports of domestic violence and alleged violations of protection orders. In the law enforcement industry police agencies are acknowledging there is a problem.

When are the Delaware State Police going to investigate the case I’ve written about? When is the DE DOJ going to afford equal protection to men accused of domestic violence? Not until the citizens of Delaware demand that they do.

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