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“Federal Crime”: Judge Mark Fuller, A Man Who Clearly Has No Business Being On The Federal Bench

For the past few weeks, the indispensable investigative journalist Brad Friedman has covered the case of George W. Bush-appointed US District Court Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, who’s notorious for his role in the railroading of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Last month, Fuller was arrested for allegedly attacking his wife in a Georgia hotel in a manner reminiscent of the National Football League’s paragons of family values. However, as Friedman has noted, there’s a creepy possibility that Fuller could avoid any real legal accountability for his alleged behavior.

This horrifying story has, unfortunately, stayed under the radar of the mainstream media, with the recent exception of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Now, in an explosive follow-up, Friedman has revealed new details about a man who clearly has no business being on the federal bench:

…Fuller is not necessarily off the hook for prosecution in a court of law yet. The terms of his plea deal, reportedly, require that, in addition to attending once-a-week domestic abuse counseling for 24 weeks, Judge Fuller must also receive an evaluation concerning drug and alcohol abuse by a court-approved entity.

If he successfully completes those requirements, only then will his arrest record be permanently expunged.

Fuller’s attorney, after the plea deal was approved in state court with the consent of Fuller’s wife Kelli, the victim in this case, stated that the federal judge “doesn’t have a drug or alcohol problem and never has.”

That, like the claim that he is a first time offender in regard to domestic abuse, does not appear to be true, at least according to Fuller’s first wife Lisa who filed a damning Request for Admissions during their 2012 divorce, after Fuller was allegedly discovered to have been having an affair with his court bailiff, Kelli, who he eventually married (and subsequently beat the hell out of last month, after she similarly accused him of having an affair with his law clerk.)

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in 2012, the first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, “submitted an objection to her husband’s motion to seal their divorce file…She agreed to redact certain sensitive information but ‘strenuously object[ed] to sealing the entire file,’ according to her response. Her initial complaint and request for admissions accuse Fuller of extramarital affairs, domestic violence and prescription drug abuse.”

Friedman’s coverage of the Fuller horror has been extraordinary. After reading the gruesome details of this story, how can one not join the growing chorus of those demanding that Fuller resign or be impeached?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 20, 2014

September 21, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Judge Mark Fuller, Judiciary | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Family Values Week Is Over”: A Rough Week In America For Women

Mark Sanford’s heralded engagement to Maria Belen Chapur is apparently over. The rep. from South Carolina released the news to America through a Facebook post. That’s how Chapur found out, too.

Gallantry has been in especially short supply this month. Prominent American men have been roughing up their women in spectacularly public ways — ranging from coldly calculated mind games to a knockout punch.

September opened with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s unsuccessful attempt to swat away felony charges by making his wife take the entire rap for rampant corruption. The governor’s lawyers smeared Maureen as “manipulative,” “unpredictable,” “deceptive” and, most famously, a “nut bag.”

For a taste of the media response, Google “Maureen McDonnell under the bus.”

McDonnell had long touted his traditional values, pasting pictures of his photogenic wife and children on every available surface. His master’s thesis was on family breakdown and contained the line, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”

Guess family values week is over.

To think, many Republicans had put McDonnell on their list of potential presidential candidates.

As for Sanford, an antiseptic breakup note marked the latest in a series of callous behaviors toward women and just plain weirdness. Recall that as South Carolina governor, Sanford sneaked off to Argentina to visit Chapur, a TV journalist there, for nearly a week. He told his staff that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” and could not be reached. Recall that his disgusted wife threw him out of the house and initiated divorce.

To pretty up the adulterous activity for his socially conservative voters, Sanford framed the affair as an unstoppable joining of soulmates. He promised to put aright the perceived wrong by marrying Chapur. And he layered on top of that an inspirational journey of redemption, starring himself.

“I’ve experienced how none of us goes through life without mistakes,” he said in a campaign ad when running for Congress. “But in their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.”

Two years went by, and Chapur eventually demanded an actual wedding date, which he wouldn’t make.

“I think that I was not useful to him anymore,” she told an interviewer. “He made the engagement thing four months before the elections.”

The ex-wife is now trying to restrict Sanford’s visits with their 15-year-old son. She also wants the court to order the congressman to have psychological counseling and take anger management classes.

True to form, Sanford is now blaming his ex-wife’s custody fight for his inability to wed Chapur. Don’t blame the ex-wife, Chapur responded.

To think, many Republicans had put Sanford on their list of potential presidential candidates.

To be clear, narcissistic abuse of women is hardly a Republican monopoly. Consider the Democrats’ 2004 vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards — who declared devotion to his cancer-ridden wife on the campaign trail while fathering a child with a tawdry filmmaker.

Between the McDonnell and Sanford stories emerged the video of football star Ray Rice punching his girlfriend, now wife, cold in an elevator and then dragging her limp body out. The now-former Baltimore Ravens running back saw no need to blame the woman for provoking the attack. She did it for him.

Say this for the Rice assault: It was straightforward brutality. It happened in a moment and without burdening the public with baroque explanations. The victim knew exactly what had happened to her, once she came to.

But what are Rice’s prospects of getting a second chance? The practitioner of psychological cruelty tends to be slicker than the man with the fist. And the businessmen running the NFL are a tougher sell than the electorate.

Meanwhile, September isn’t over.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, September 18, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Family Values, Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Show Some Courage”: Survivors Call Out Cowardly GOP On Domestic Violence And Guns

Christy Martin is a legendary boxer. Since she started out at age 21, Martin has won 49 of her 57 total fights, with 31 KOs. She’s also a survivor of domestic abuse who was nearly murdered by her ex-husband four years ago. It’s the latter that brought her to Washington this week. In 2010, Martin was stabbed three times by the man she says had been threatening to kill her for 20 years. After stabbing her repeatedly, her ex-husband James Martin shot her and left her for dead. Martin survived by flagging down a passing car and begging to be taken to the hospital.

“As I lay there, I could hear the gurgling. I knew my lung had been ruptured, but I wasn’t dying fast enough,” Martin told MSNBC on Wednesday. “So he came back 3o minutes later and shot me with my own 9mm.”

Martin is just one of the women in Washington to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a law that would tighten gun restrictions for domestic abusers in dating relationships and stalkers. A bill sponsored by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act — would close existing holes in background check laws that allow domestic abusers and stalkers to own guns.

The data on the correlation between domestic violence and gun deaths makes the gaps in policy frighteningly clear. More than 60 percent of women killed by a firearm in 2010 — the year Martin was shot — were murdered by a current or former intimate partner. The presence of a firearm during a domestic violence incident increases the likelihood of a homicide by 500 percent.

What Congress — particularly Republicans in Congress — has before it right now is an opportunity to enact meaningful gun reform that will save women’s lives. Around 50 women’s lives every month, to be precise. They’ve had and blown this opportunity before, when mass shootings have galvanized public support for common-sense proposals to keep people safe from deadly gun violence. The same support exists for restrictions that limit violent offenders’ ability to access guns. As Laura Bassett and Emily Swanson at the Huffington Post noted this week, Republican voters break with the National Rifle Association when it comes to restrictions on stalkers and domestic abusers:

More than two-thirds of GOP voters (68 percent) said they would support or strongly support a new law stripping guns from convicted stalkers, according to a new poll by The Huffington Post and YouGov. Fifty-nine percent of Republican voters, and two-thirds of voters overall, support expanding gun restrictions for convicted domestic abusers to include non-married dating partners.

The NRA has said it strongly opposes both proposals, which the Senate will consider on Wednesday in its first-ever hearing on gun violence against women. The gun lobby sent a letter to senators last month urging them to vote against Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) legislation to ban convicted stalkers and abusive dating partners from possessing guns. The letter claims that the bill “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.”

It remains to be seen what action Congress will take, and what the GOP will do in the face of strong support for change. They may just do what they’ve done before: ignore the issue. “There are so many people that just don’t realize what’s going on behind closed doors in their neighbor’s home. There are so many people who don’t understand domestic violence,” Martin explained on MSNBC. “It seems like if it’s not happening in our own home, then it’s just not happening.”

“Keeping guns out of the hands of abusers and stalkers will take more than a Senate hearing and carefully worded statements that say all the right things,” former Arizona representative and gun violence survivor Gabby Giffords wrote of the measure. “It will require our leaders to show some courage and stand up for common-sense laws. It will require some hard work. And it will require overcoming the power of those in Washington who continue to fight against these laws.”

 

By: Katie McDonough, Salon, July 30, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

July 31, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fetal Personhood Ploy”: Anti-Choice Lawmakers In South Carolina Want Pregnant Women To Arm Themselves To “Protect The Unborn”

A state Senate panel in South Carolina advanced legislation Thursday that states a pregnant person has a right to use deadly force to protect the “unborn … from conception until birth.” The measure is called  the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act,” and it is model legislation written and disseminated by Americans United for Life.

As usual, the words “pregnancy” and “protection” are red herrings.

First, South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law already allows for the use of deadly force anywhere a person claims to fear for their lives or the life of someone around them. (It is a terrible and dangerous law.) So opponents of the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” have rightly pointed out that this measure is entirely redundant.

But the bill does serve a serious purpose for anti-choice policymakers and activists working to endow fertilized eggs with personhood status and legal rights, a move that would suppress the rights of pregnant people and likely ban abortion and most forms of contraception. The measure tries to accomplish this — or at least open the door to these possibilities — by defining life as beginning at conception.

Here’s the language from the bill:

(1)    ‘Pregnant’ means the female reproductive condition of having an unborn child in the female’s body.

(2)    ‘Unborn child’ means the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.

The measure also pays considerable lip service to the very real threat of violence faced by women and pregnant people, but does nothing to strengthen existing anti-violence laws, create additional funding for domestic violence service providers or increase actual resources to aid people in violent situations.

None of this was lost on the opponents of the measure. “No one disputes that violence against pregnant women is a concern in our state and few would deny the need for swift action to stop any instances of further violence,” Emma Davidson, spokeswoman for South Carolina Coalition for Healthy Families, told the Aiken Standard. “But it is hypocritical to introduce legislation claiming to protect victims of domestic abuse, rape and violence while simultaneously outlawing emergency contraception, a key treatment option for those victims.”

And for those looking for further proof that the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” is just a fetal personhood ploy, the committee also debated a fetal personhood measure during the same session.

The “Personhood Act” would outlaw abortion outright by granting legal rights to fertilized eggs and fetuses.

By defining life as starting at conception, Davidson explained, the measure could also outlaw birth control and emergency contraception. And as University of South Carolina family law professor Marcia Zug told the Aiken Standard, the bill could ban abortions without exception. “A fetal personhood bill which would outlaw abortions in even the most life-threatening of circumstances has never been an option with the Supreme Court. It is clearly unconstitutional,” Zug said.

And if lawmakers are really interested in reducing rates of domestic violence in the state, they may instead want to focus their efforts on funding domestic violence service providers who have had to reduce services in the face of budget cuts. According to a nationwide survey on domestic violence service providers, in a single day in South Carolina, 16 requests from domestic violence victims were turned down because programs did not have the resources to provide them emergency shelter, housing, transportation, childcare or legal representation

More women are killed by men in South Carolina than any other state in the nation; the rate of women killed by men in South Carolina is more than double the national average.

 

By: Katie McDonough, Salon, April 11, 2014

April 12, 2014 Posted by | Anti-Choice, Personhood | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Change That Can’t Come Soon Enough”: The Poor Deserve Equal Protection By The Law

If you’ve been a tourist or business traveler recently in Kenya, India, Guatemala or any other developing country, you probably saw uniformed guards in the stores and offices you visited or hotels where you slept. The sight of these guards is so common that their presence most likely faded into the background. But they are emblematic of a massive social transformation that is passing unnoticed: Throughout the developing world, public justice systems are being replaced with private systems of security and dispute resolution. The implications for the world’s poorest people are devastating.

Businesses and economic elites in developing countries left frustrated by incompetent police, clogged courts and hopelessly overburdened judges and prosecutors are increasingly circumventing these systems and buying their own protection. In India in late 2010 the private security industry already employed more than 5.5 million people — roughly four times the size of the entire Indian police force. A 2009 World Bank report showed roughly the same ratio in Kenya. The largest employer in all of Africa is a private security firm, Group4Securicor, and in Guatemala, private security forces outnumber public police 7 to 1.

The repercussions extend far beyond the elites and businesses that buy safety: When protection must be purchased, the poorest are left with nothing to shield them from violence. In many developing countries, if you want to be safe, you pay to be safe. And if you can’t pay to be safe — you aren’t.

As elites abandon the public security system, their impoverished neighbors, especially women and girls, are left relying on underpaid, under-trained, undisciplined and frequently corrupt police forces for protection and all-but-paralyzed courts for justice.

This is not a small problem isolated to a single context. It is the terrifying truth of everyday life for billions of our poorest neighbors. As a U.N. commission found in 2008, a stunning 4 billion poor people live outside the protection of law.

When a justice system descends into utter dysfunction, those who exploit and abuse vulnerable people may do so without fear of apprehension or prosecution. As a result, violence is an everyday threat, as much a part of what it means to be poor as being hungry, sick, homeless or jobless. World Bank data suggest that, globally, women and girls ages 15 to 44 are at greater risk of being killed or disabled by gender-based violence than by cancer, traffic accidents, malaria and war combined — with poor women and girls absorbing the vast majority of the abuse. Appallingly, for many girls in the developing world, school is the most common place where sexual violence occurs.

This result cannot be attributed solely, or even primarily, to the elites’ abandonment of the public justice system. For one thing, the colonial-era justice systems that linger in most of the developing world were never designed to protect the poor from common crime, nor were they meaningfully re-engineered to do so after independence. For another, trillions in aid have been provided to the developing world, but virtually nothing has been spent on improving criminal justice systems to meet the basic needs of poor people.

It is perfectly rational for wealthy citizens and businesses to protect themselves and their property. But when elites, including government officials, have no stake in professional and reliable public security, it deteriorates, just like libraries and schools do when affluent families opt out of public facilities and pay for such services in the private sector.

In the midst of great and worthy efforts to help the global poor build better lives, donors and development institutions have paid little attention to the painstaking work required to ensure the things that are indispensable to stopping violence: professional and accountable police; and functioning prosecutors, courts and child welfare agencies.

Even with the widespread recognition that everyday violence undermines health, education and opportunity, it has been assumed that poor communities can move forward without basic law enforcement systems — a notion none of us has been willing to bet on for our own communities.

The United Nations is in the process of revising the 2000 Millennium Development Goals. Although the original eight goals inspired enormous progress toward addressing poverty, the issue of violence against the poor wasn’t even mentioned. It’s time to add a target for providing the poor basic law enforcement protections from everyday violence.

Identifying the right to safety and justice as a crucial development goal is a first step toward including those marginalized by violence and exploitation in the world’s drive to end extreme poverty. For children, women and men plagued by violence as they try to climb out of poverty, it’s a change that can’t come soon enough.

 

By: Gary A. Haugen, The Washington Post, Opinions, January 26, 2014

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Poverty | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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