Yolo County To Open Family Justice Center Amid Confounding and Appalling Cases

reisig-2009Last week, Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza, DA Jeff Reisig, and Sheriff Ed Prieto announced the beginning of a Family Justice Center.

According to the county’s press release, “The Center would house core services so that family violence victims can go to one place — instead of the multiple locations they must navigate now — to seek assistance.”

They argue, “Victims of child abuse, domestic violence or elder abuse who will be served by the County’s planned Family Justice Center know such collaboration is desperately needed.”

They cite the case of Lorena Aramburo, mother of two and victim of domestic violence in Yolo County, who sees relief for many families. “All I can say is what took so long?  I was emotionally and physically traumatized by my abuser.  Trying to find the services and traveling from place to place with my children only made things worse.  I’m thrilled victims won’t have to endure this added pain and suffering because of the new Family Justice Center.”

While this sounds like a good thing, beneath the surface, we have to question the commitment of key county agencies to go beyond rhetoric to protect victims of family violence.

We have received potentially disturbing reports in the last week about local practices.

In addition, we are now following a domestic violence case involving a Woodland family.  The husband has a history of violence andthey are now divorced.

However, shortly before Christmas he came over to her home drunk and began attacking her.

In the course of her defending herself from her husband, he ended up in the hospital.

The police, according to her statements, did not even want to take her into custody, but since the husband had filed the complaint they were legally bound to do so.

However, the DA’s Office has not hesitated to press charges in this case – serious charges including assault with bodily injury and corporal injury.  In both charges there are enhancements for GBI meaning that this woman is now facing very serious prison time.

To matters perhaps more ironic, she is an executive at a Christian women’s drug/ rehabilitation center for women and children.

Meanwhile, the County is moving forward with plans for the Family Justice Center, which would be one of only 60 centers that operate nationally, each run differently based on the needs of the community it serves.

“This is phenomenal news,” domestic violence advocate Laura Valdes said of the planned facility. Currently, survivors “can literally spend all day running from place to place just to access critical services.” Valdes said. “It can be discouraging to a victim and can prevent follow-through and successful results.

“We’re looking forward to what Yolo County can come up with,” said Gael Strack, Chief Executive Officer of the National Family Justice Center Alliance.

Depending on which agencies are housed there, a battered woman at a single visit might be able to file a restraining order against her abuser, talk to police, get counseling, access childcare, and start developing a safety plan to escape the abuse and protect her family.

Supervisor Jim Provenza explains that, “In these tough budget times, we are working together in unprecedented ways to coordinate resources to better serve victims of family violence and protect our community.” 

District Attorney  Jeff Reisig agreed, “We can’t settle for business as usual, and so we’re finding more effective ways to ensure justice is served for our families here in Yolo County.”

Sheriff Ed Prieto has been supportive of the project from the start.  “This project will serve our community in a new and different way.  Families who are experiencing violence have many needs, and for the first time in Yolo County we will have a one-stop shop where families can receive services”.

The implementation of such a plan will determine whether this is simply more propaganda or whether they are truly interested in working to help families and victims of violence in the home.

In the meantime the Vanguard will be looking into accusations that a local family court judge allowed unsupervised visits for a child with a registered sex offender.

And we will be looking into whether financially better off family members have been given custody of their children, despite accusations and evidence of abuse at their hands.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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18 Comments

  1. Mr.Toad

    Here is the problem with this sort of attack, you just don’t have all the facts or at least you are not reporting them. You have not reported the details of the complaint. Maybe she followed him outside and attacked him. Maybe she used more than justifiable force. Without knowing all the facts it is difficult to ascertain if the DA is making the right choice or not. further why is it the DA’s fault if the courts take an incorrect action?

    Once again you diminish your credibility by being critical of the DA even when he tries to do something that helps the community.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Interesting that you write, “Without knowing all the facts it is difficult to ascertain if the DA is making the right choice or not.”

    I agree. However, I know enough of the facts to at least question the choice. But at least up until this point in your statement, your criticism makes sense.

    Next you write: “further why is it the DA’s fault if the courts take an incorrect action?”

    Where did I say it was. You will note, I mention the DA exactly once here when I write: “However, the DA’s office has not hesitated to press charges in this case”

    I was critical, but not just of the DA, “While this sounds like a good thing, beneath the surface, we have to question the commitment of key county agencies to go beyond rhetoric to protect victims of family violence.” Indeed, the DA was not singled out here and nowhere did I fault the DA for the courts taking an incorrect action.

    “Once again you diminish your credibility by being critical of the DA even when he tries to do something that helps the community.”

    You would be correct if that is what I did. But instead, I was critical of everyone because on the one hand they come out with this highly publicized effort, while at the same time serious questions exist about how the system is working. The DA was not singled out other than for the choice to prosecute the case I used as an example.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “While this sounds like a good thing, beneath the surface, we have to question the commitment of key county agencies to go beyond rhetoric to protect victims of family violence.”

    What key county agencies are you referring to? And what makes you believe that these unspecified “key county agencies” are not committed to protect victims of family violence? And what does that have to do with the formation of a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence?

    We have received potentially disturbing reports in the last week about local practices.

    And precisely what “potentially disturbing reports in the last week” have you received about what specific “local practices” that would make you believe formation of the one-stop shop domestic violence is mere window dressing, rather than real reform?

    dmg: “In addition, we are now following a domestic violence case involving a Woodland family. The husband has a history of violence and they are now divorced.”

    What kind of “history of violence”? Does he have an arrest and conviction record for domestic violence? If yes, how many times?

    dmg: “The police, according to her statements, did not even want to take her into custody, but since the husband had filed the complaint they were legally bound to do so.”

    And why were the police “legally bound” to take the woman into custody? The police have wide discretion in these matters to arrest/not arrest. What specifically were the husband’s injuries? What were the circumstances surrounding the assault? Was a weapon involved, if you know?

    What does this case have to do with the advantage to opening a one-stop shop for domestic violence victims?

    dmg: “Meanwhile, the County is moving forward with plans for the Family Justice Center, which would be one of only 60 centers that operate nationally, each run differently based on the needs of the community it serves.”

    This sounds like a county project, and cutting edge. I am assuming grant money for it was received by the National Family Justice Center Alliance or some other such national organization. I don’t see the problem here of setting up a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence irrespective of any problems that may or may no be occuring with respect to our county’s criminal justice system…

  4. JustSaying

    [quote]“The police, according to her statements, did not even want to take her into custody, but since the husband had filed the complaint they were legally bound to do so. However, the DA’s Office has not hesitated to press charges in this case….” [/quote]Wouldn’t you have to question the accuracy of her self-serving report? Domestic abuse incidents–in this case, resulting in great bodily injury–require specific police actions. While they no doubt tell the accused that the law requires taking them into custody, her conclusion that police “did not even want to (do it)” is suspect. To offer it as the principle evidence that the DA is wrong again just isn’t reasonable.

    I don’t see any support for your claim that this positive county action took place “amid confounding and appalling cases.” You offer only one serious assault case, one which you’ve decided the DA shouldn’t pursue because of some vague self-defense notion. [quote] “While this sounds like a good thing, beneath the surface, we have to question the commitment of key county agencies to go beyond rhetoric to protect victims of family violence. We have received potentially disturbing reports in the last week about local practices.”[/quote] And what might these matters be? What could they have to do with opening a family justice center?

    If you don’t see how Mr. Toad concludes you’ve used yet another story to attack DA Reisig–this time with no apparent justification–you’re just not looking at your own work. Are we to assume “sounds good, but question commitment” and “simply more propaganda or really interested” does not include the DA’s office just because you named him only once in the article? [quote]“Once again you diminish your credibility by being critical of the DA even when he tries to do something that helps the community.”[/quote] To quibble with Mr. Toad about whether you “singled out” the DA purposely misses his point. Reporting positively on events that you agree are improvements would increase the [u]Vanguard[/u]’s credibility. Pursuing a predictable practice of stretching facts to use them as vehicles to criticize those responsible for good acts diminishes it.

  5. JustSaying

    [quote]“And why were the police “legally bound” to take the woman into custody? The police have wide discretion in these matters to arrest/not arrest.”[/quote] Elaine, I thought domestic violence complaints required hauling away the accused. No? Maybe I’m picking up too much of my law from CSI.

  6. Roger Rabbit

    How ironic that the DA and Sheriff wants to appear to care about victims, yet when an unarmed person is shot and killed, they only say he must have been a gang member and deserved it and it was justified, and he is not a victim since we say so.

    So if you can get grant money for being a victim then we care about you, but if we make you the victim, you have no rights.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine:

    “What key county agencies are you referring to?”

    I listed them in this article.

    “And what makes you believe that these unspecified “key county agencies” are not committed to protect victims of family violence?”

    Because they are inconsistent at doing so.

    “And what does that have to do with the formation of a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence?”

    Because I am questioning their commitment to actually protect victims of violence even as they open this in a very public manner.

    “And precisely what “potentially disturbing reports in the last week” have you received about what specific “local practices” that would make you believe formation of the one-stop shop domestic violence is mere window dressing, rather than real reform? “

    I listed those as well.

    “What kind of “history of violence”? Does he have an arrest and conviction record for domestic violence? If yes, how many times? “

    Yes and don’t know.

    “And why were the police “legally bound” to take the woman into custody?”

    The same reason they would be legally bound to take in a man accused of domestic violence.

    “What does this case have to do with the advantage to opening a one-stop shop for domestic violence victims? “

    Nothing.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    JustSaying:

    “Wouldn’t you have to question the accuracy of her self-serving report? “

    What makes you think I didn’t? Based on what we have been told, this will be a highly unusual case.

    “You offer only one serious assault case, one which you’ve decided the DA shouldn’t pursue because of some vague self-defense notion. “

    You too are only focused on the DA rather than the family courts, which are a greater concern here based on the information we have and are exploring.

    “And what might these matters be? What could they have to do with opening a family justice center? “

    Because the family justice center is being used as a political prop to signal commitment to these issues however evidence exists and will be fleshed out further in coming weeks and months that the overall commitment is lacking.

    “Are we to assume “sounds good, but question commitment” and “simply more propaganda or really interested” does not include the DA’s office just because you named him only once in the article? “

    What you are missing is the large piece that is the family court system here.

  9. Mr.Toad

    “How ironic that the DA and Sheriff wants to appear to care about victims, yet when an unarmed person is shot and killed, they only say he must have been a gang member and deserved it and it was justified, and he is not a victim since we say so.

    So if you can get grant money for being a victim then we care about you, but if we make you the victim, you have no rights.”

    Good point Rabbit but you are still generalizing a little too much. It looks as if law enforcement circled the wagons to protect their own. Its hard to convict cops when someone gets killed by them anyway. Look at Oakland where Oscar Grant, handcuffed, gets shot in the back and the cop only gets involuntary manslaughter. My guess is there will be a big civil settlement and it won’t ever get to court.

    Anyway, victims of domestic violence need help to break the cycle of violence. If law enforcement and other parts of local government wants to help them and can find grant money to facilitate that help its a good thing, their failures and inconsistencies notwithstanding, they deserve praise for trying to do the right thing for domestic violence victims.

  10. JustSaying

    [quote]“Because the family justice center is being used as a political prop to signal commitment to these issues however evidence exists and will be fleshed out further in coming weeks and months that the overall commitment is lacking.”[/quote]What is lacking is the tiniest bit of support for your claim that “Yolo County To Open Family Justice Center Amid Confounding and Appalling Cases.”

    So, now you’re asking that we accept your suggestions that the “two potentially disturbing reports (that you received) in the last week about local practices (and that you ‘will be looking into’ in the future)” somehow raise the specter of hypocrisy from the DA and one or two family court judges. It is just an absurd connection to make, then try to support with only half-truths and rumors that you have yet to “look into” and “flesh out.”

    [quote][u]JS comment[/u]: “You offer only one serious assault case, one which you’ve decided the DA shouldn’t pursue because of some vague self-defense notion. ”
    [u]DMG response[/u]: You too are only focused on the DA rather than the family courts, which are a greater concern here based on the information we have and are exploring.[/quote] My concern is your entire article, and it would be nice if you’d deal with the issues your readers advance instead of kissing them off with inaccurate charges of inappropriate focus.

    Elaine wonders to what “key county agencies” you refer, and you send her to your article where “they are listed.” Although only the DA’s office is the only key county agency listed, I see you’ve now added “the large piece that is the family court system” and proposed that your readers failed by not focusing on two allegations you haven’t even looked into.

    Are you serious that we should question the Family Court’s commitment to families and to “to go beyond rhetoric to protect victims of family violence” based on two rumors you toss into the mix? Are you serious that we should question the DA’s sincerity supporting the new Family Justice Center because you don’t think he should be charging a woman involved in a domestic violence? [quote]“Because the family justice center is being used as a political prop to signal commitment to these issues however evidence exists and will be fleshed out further in coming weeks and months that the overall commitment is lacking.”[/quote] I’m at a loss why the two fallacies you’ve connected her don’t just jump out at you. First, you haven’t even tried to explain why opening a new facility is a political prop, rhetoric and propaganda. (Sometimes a new center is just a center.) Second, you claim that “evidence exists” when there is none offered or, worse yet, when none could exist since you haven’t even looked into the two family court speculations you’ve been fed to focus on.

    I’ve seen nothing that shows the main tone of this article is not aimed at raising more questions and attacks against DA Reisig in spite of your protestations. Otherwise, why would you start trying this case in this article, since it has “nothing” to do with opening the center? It’s less clear why you incorporate the questionable allegations you’ve just heard since you haven’t tried to investigate them yet.

    It’s getting more difficult lately, David, to carry on a conversation with you about any of these important issues. I’d like to see you return to investigating before you report conclusions and avoiding sweeping, unsubstantiated generalities and misdirected finger-pointing. Most of all, I hope you’ll stop the practice of pushing back at readers by claiming some superior, secret trove that (for unknown reasons) you choose not to share with us. As has been said before, it goes to the credibility of the [u]Vanguard[/u] and I’m sure that means something to you.

  11. David M. Greenwald

    JustSaying:

    It seems like we are talking past each other. I did include a brief description of a prosecution that we believe to be flawed and questionable. Nevertheless the focus of this article is a new concern which is with the family court system, to the point where we are considering diverting some resources and people to monitoring that as well.

    “Are you serious that we should question the Family Court’s commitment to families and to “to go beyond rhetoric to protect victims of family violence” based on two rumors you toss into the mix?”

    The problem here is that you are concluding that we are making a statement based on rumors, rather than making a statement based on a reasonable amount of information.

    At this point we are concerned enough to question Yolo County’s commitment to protecting women and children on these types of issues, but we do not have enough to report in concrete terms.

    However, last week, every local and regional paper covered the DA/ Sheriff/ BOS release on the Justice Center. They had a two day program on the matter. And stories ran on the front pages.

    It sounds like a good program, but if the courts are simply going to allow children into unsupervised custody of problematic parents, how much is it helping them? If women who are being tormented by their spouses are forced to fight back and face prosecution, how much commitment do we have to their safety?

    I have to question their commitment right now.

  12. E Roberts Musser

    There is so much I want to say here, but if I said all I am thinking, I would literally explode across the page and probably use language I should not use in polite company. I am very, very familiar w the family law arena (I was the victim of it and have practiced in it). Clearly, dmg, from the following statement you made above, you are ignorant of a lot of what goes on generally in family law courts as a matter of course:

    “It sounds like a good program, but if the courts are simply going to allow children into unsupervised custody of problematic parents, how much is it helping them? If women who are being tormented by their spouses are forced to fight back and face prosecution, how much commitment do we have to their safety?”

    Secondly, you admit that the opening of the center has nothing whatever to do with your vague unsubstantiated charges against “key county agencies”, whatever the “charges” and “agencies” may be. So this piece was never about the opening of the “one stop shop” Domestic Violence Center. It is nothing but a vague hit piece on “key county agencies”, whatever the h_ll that means – using an entirely innocent endeavor of a Domestic Violence Center for improper purposes.

    JustSaying has also hit on the main problem w this entire article:
    “Most of all, I hope you’ll stop the practice of pushing back at readers by claiming some superior, secret trove that (for unknown reasons) you choose not to share with us.” Perusers of your articles cannot read your mind, but only comment on what you choose to tell us. You have used this unfortunate technique before, and I have found it very disheartening for commenters to be blindsided by added information after the fact to discredit readers’ opinions. You need to allow your readers to comment and you need to answer based on what you have written. It is not fair for you to answer on what you think you know that the reader doesn’t necessarily know in such a manner that there can be no possible way for the reader to respond appropriately.

    I applaud your efforts to open up discussion as to what goes on in our local courts, and raise issues about our legal system in general. However, generating hit pieces on our local legal system should not be the purpose of Yolo Judicial Watch – IMHO. We may have to agree to disagree on this one 🙂

  13. kathryndruliner

    ERM: for an expert in this are it surprises me that you ask the question where is the authority that one must be taken into custody/ arrested when a claim of domestic violence is alleged. That is in the statute.

  14. E Roberts Musser

    kd: “ERM: for an expert in this are it surprises me that you ask the question where is the authority that one must be taken into custody/ arrested when a claim of domestic violence is alleged. That is in the statute.”

    This is what I said: “And why were the police “legally bound” to take the woman into custody? The police have wide discretion in these matters to arrest/not arrest. What specifically were the husband’s injuries? What were the circumstances surrounding the assault? Was a weapon involved, if you know?”

    From American Assn of Behavioral and SS Journal 2010, Vol 14: “…Police, however, exercise a great deal of discretion [whether to arrest someone for domestic violence]; whether the law implicitly or explicitly gives police officers the discretion of what laws to enforce when, police quickly learn which cases prosecutors will charge or which judges will convict and impose a meaningful sentence…”

  15. JustSaying

    [quote]“It seems like we are talking past each other. I did include a brief description of a prosecution that we believe to be flawed and questionable.”[/quote]I concur with the first. But, what you call “brief” is the second-wordiest topic* and has the substantial weight that its lead position, specificity and dramatic presentation give it. Furthermore, the DA’s office is the only listed “key county (agency)” for which you “have to question the commitment to go beyond rhetoric to protect victims of family violence.”

    When we question your reporting about this case and ask how it could raise questions about the DA’s commitment to family violence victims, you claim plenty of knowledge (but provide none) to compel you write up the DA’s office as a significant part of this story.

    Then, you decide to minimize significance of your inclusion of this case (finally, to respond that it has “nothing” to do with the opening of the new center) and to say the problem lies with us for commenting on the case you emphasized and used to justify your “concern.”

    [quote]“Nevertheless the focus of this article is a new concern which is with the family court system, to the point where we are considering diverting some resources and people to monitoring that as well.” [/quote] Now you state the Family Court system is the article’s focus–an agency not named and barely mentioned (and, at the bottom of the story) in the least-wordy* topic you’ve included.

    What’s more, the emphasis you now are suggesting is based on “potentially disturbing reports in the last week…accusations…the Vanguard will be looking into (while watching to) “determine whether this (new Family Center) is simply more propaganda.”[quote]“It sounds like a good program, but if the courts are simply going to allow children into unsupervised custody of problematic parents, how much is it helping them? If women who are being tormented by their spouses are forced to fight back and face prosecution, how much commitment do we have to their safety?[/quote] If…If…If. Okay, [u]if[/u] your “accusations”–I’d still call it “rumor” until you do some fact-finding, but I guess it depends on the objectivity of your source this week–about these two family decisions turn out to be accurate, how does that get you even close to slapping an “We Don’t Care About Protecting Victims of Family Violence” label on “key county agencies”?

    How would you turn a judge’s decision with which you don’t agree into a “local practice”? How do you turn on its head our DA aggressively pursuing domestic violence charges against the unnamed Christian center executive for putting her spouse in the hospital even if you’re positive that police told her they “did not even want to take her into custody”? (I’m still doubtful in spite of your assurances on this claim.) [quote] “At this point we are concerned enough to question Yolo County’s commitment to protecting women and children on these types of issues, but we do not have enough to report in concrete terms….I have to question their commitment right now.”[/quote] Why do you have to right now? Why not wait until you can provide some basis for any concern whatsoever? The fact that you’re constantly driven by free-floating anxiety about the county’s law enforcement and justice operations shouldn’t force you into premature publication about non-existent “Confounding and Appalling Cases.”[quote]“However, last week, every local and regional paper covered the DA/Sheriff/BOS release on the Justice Center. They had a two day program on the matter. And stories ran on the front pages.”[/quote] With respect, let me suggest that this might be your hidden demon, overwhelming positive reports by the other media. The worst thing to deal with is the project that was the real main focus* of this write-up is a project and program of which you know you approve.

    What to do? Drop in a few unsubstantiated charges, a back-handed compliment or two, some serious inneundo, a dose of fearful but nonspecific concerns, a cup of highly-charged nouns. Stir a minute. And a positive report is transformed into yet another anti-DA, anti-judge from the [u]Vanguard[/u]. Maybe you “have to do it now,” but it devalues your work. Can’t you just hear them disregard the [u]Vanguard[/u]:[quote]“Oh, don’t pay attention to that article. He never has anything _______(decent, fair, positive, etc.) to write about the _________(DA, courts, county, etc.)”[/quote] Your 50 minutes are up; See you next week.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    [u]Word counts[/u]: “Yolo County To Open Family Justice Center Amid Confounding and Appalling Cases”

    New Center Coverage–430 words
    Domestic Violence Case–149 words
    Two Children’s Cases–55 words

  16. JustSaying

    [quote]“Police, however, exercise a great deal of discretion [whether to arrest someone for domestic violence]; whether the law implicitly or explicitly gives police officers the discretion of what laws to enforce.”[/quote] I don’t think this answers the question. Police are exercising discretion that they don’t have if they’re required by law to take into custody certain parties in domestic violence situations and choose not to do it.

    Whether police are “legally bound” is a question of law, not of social science research. What is the law in these cases? Your citation makes me wonder and worry: “whether the law implicitly or explicitly gives police officers the discretion of what laws to enforce….” What if the law explicitly gives police officers no discretion? We aren’t suggesting police still exercise “wide discretion,” are we?

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