R.K.D. was arrested on September 28, 2008, on charges of “simple” domestic violence (“DV”) and DV battery by strangulation. The first charge was a misdemeanor. The second charge was a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Following his arrest, R.K.D. retained Jeffrey H. Garland. Garland was also retained to represent the Defendant in a related DV injunction case.
This case, like so many others, featured a couple in a long-term relationship with two young children. Whatever really happened on the night in question, and whatever the status of their personal relationship, this couple would still be bound by their two children.
With the welfare of the children in mind, Garland recommended that R.K.D. consent to the injunction without evidentiary findings. In return, he was able to retrieve most of his personal property and, more importantly, he received supervised visitation with his children.
In this case, the supervised visitation had to be scheduled through the Valued Visits Program conducted by The Castle. Garland emphasized to the client the need to faithfully attend the visitations. The client did exercise his visitation on every available opportunity. Ultimately, the Defendant’s genuine attention and care for his children was the primary motivational fact for resolving the criminal case without jail or a trial.
As with so many cases, there were no independent witnesses to what transpired between the couple. The girlfriend called the police and made a report that she had been hit and strangled. Three Port St. Lucie Police Officers responded and carefully investigated the case. The Police Officers observed no evidence of injury or strangulation. Photographs of the girlfriend were taken inside the house with a flash and outside the house in sunlight in order to fully document the areas of claimed injury. These digital photographs were carefully examined by the defense and revealed no evidence of injury.
When the Police Officers arrived at the residence, the Defendant had already left. A Police Officer called the Defendant on his cell phone and requested that he return to the scene. The Defendant returned to the scene within ten minutes. The Defendant claimed that the couple had an argument, and he had “taken a walk” as DV counselors recommend. He denied battering or choking his girlfriend.
Later on, during depositions, each of the Police Officers was asked whether they were familiar with the procedure recommended by DV counselors for individuals to “take a walk” when confronted with a stressful situation. Each of the Officers was familiar with such recommendations. They had no opinion whether the Defendant had left the home as part of this recommended procedure to “take a walk”, or whether he left the home in order to avoid the police. Each of the Officers agreed that the Defendant readily and immediately returned to the scene. The Officers observed that he was not upset or intoxicated. The Officers agreed that the Defendant was cooperative.
Attorney Garland secured from 911 a digital copy of the original call. The girlfriend was carefully questioned by the 911 operator about physical injury and the possible need for an ambulance. The girlfriend repeatedly denied physical injury. Although her voice was emotion-tinged, there was no indication that the girlfriend was disoriented during the 911 call for any reason, including physical injury.
Later on, during a deposition, the girlfriend maintained that she had been seriously injured during the incident. She asserted that she had received a concussion to the back of her head. She said she had been choked to the point of nearly blacking out. Although she had advised the police officers that she had been choked, she never mentioned a concussion or injury to the head.
The defense investigation obtained medical records concerning an on-the-job injury received by the Defendant to his right hand. While working with a concrete saw, the Defendant received a serious cut to his right wrist. As the result of prompt medical treatment, the injury was sutured and the hand immobilized in a cast.
The Defendant was wearing this cast at the time of the alleged incident. He advised the police officers that the presence of the cast would have made it nearly impossible to have held the girlfriend in the way that was being alleged. He pointed out that there was no blood or tearing to the injury. The police officers confirmed that the injury appeared to be intact, and that the Defendant was wearing the cast at the time he returned to the scene of the incident.
No one can be sure what happens behind closed doors. Accusations are made, sometimes in anger and sometimes not completely true. In this case, Defendant and his girlfriend had many months to work through these problems via counseling and child visitation. The girlfriend later agreed to the dropping of the felony charge in return for a plea to probation on the separate misdemeanor battery charge. The case was resolved in this way before Circuit Judge Marc Cianca on June 8, 2009.