Detail of a court document in Alison’s domestic violence case
Detail of a court document in Alison’s domestic violence case
It was my daughter’s 2nd birthday party.

Steve came in, very unapproachable. In my mind I was like, “I’m sitting here smiling after what you did to me last night. Pull it together for her.”

He peeled off in his truck and then whipped back into the driveway. [A co-worker’s husband] was nervous about leaving me and the kids alone with him and called the cops.

Police report 9/22/19

[7-year-old] told me that yesterday she saw daddy grab mommy by the neck. She showed me using her own throat the area in which she saw daddy grab mommy. This was consistent with what Alison told me and injuries I saw on Alison’s throat and chest.

Charge: Domestic Aggravated Assault (strangulation) Class B. $2,500 bail.


The cops said, “Are you ready to tell the truth or are you going to call your daughter a liar?” I started crying. I took a deep breath and I wrote my first ever [police] statement against Steve. I told them it had been going on for years.

A police officer phoned me and said, “Did he cut off your air supply? If he did that, it makes it a felony charge.” I said, “Yes.”

What he liked to do was choke. That was his thing. I can’t even count the times he has picked me up by my throat. The night before my daughter’s birthday party he put his metal, black, bulletproof belt, that I bought for him actually, around my neck and just cinched it right up.

Just when I am thinking, “My kids are going to watch me die,” he stops. And then he cries. Always.

***

Sometimes it was good for a few weeks. A couple of times it was good for a few months. The good time in-between became much shorter, and the incidents got much worse.

This past June after my dad died is when it got insanely bad. Steve was in the backyard waving an AK-47 around, saying he wanted to kill himself.

When Steve was going to be violent or on an edge when there was nothing anyone could say or do until it ran its course, his eyes would turn black.

When Steve was Steve, he cared about what we thought and acknowledged that he needed help. He would always say to our daughter, “When I start to raise my voice, just say, ‘Daddy, stop.’” But then she would be yelling, “Daddy, stop!” and he just wouldn’t.

I always felt Steve was two people. I loved the good Steve. Everybody loved the good Steve. But not many people saw the other Steve.

***

Court document 10/30/19

Motion to amend bail to allow defendant to have contact with minor children.

It was going good, until it wasn’t.

My 7-year-old was always asking to see him so two weeks before Christmas I arranged for him to be able to keep the girls for the night at his uncle’s house.

After work, my friend and I went for a drink at Cuzzy’s. It was nice to do something like that with a girlfriend and not feel like I was going to be in trouble afterward. I stayed the night at her house.

He showed up at the house with the kids the next day and instantly started in with, “Where were you?”

Police report 12/12/19

Alison stated that Steven slammed her into her car and pinned her on the center console of the vehicle.… he grabbed a gun that was inside a drawer next to the stove and held it up to his head … when he left he took her cell phone so she could not report the incident.

Charged with 2 counts of violating condition of release, domestic violence assault, obstructing report of a crime.

I’ve been through a lot with Steve but he crossed the line that day worse than he ever had. It was all in front of our girls. He choked me. Then he stripped my clothes off and dragged me by my leg upstairs. When I was telling the police what happened they said, “And then, what?” And I said “That was it.” There was more, but I was embarrassed to say it.

I put my bathrobe on and went into my older daughter’s room. She was doing what she always did when he freaked out: Sitting with her knees up, arms across her knees, and crying.

When he was sitting in the rocking chair, crying, I negotiated my kids.

He let me put our youngest in the car. He had our other daughter on his lap and was telling her, “You can’t trust anything your mom says.” I drove with the kids to Nina June. Sara [Jenkins, restaurant owner] fed me and the girls and put us up in an airbnb for the night.

December I was scrambling, trying to work, and also take care of the kids. A friend I work with pushed me to call New Hope [for Women]. As soon as I talked to them, I felt supported. They sat with me and filled out my protection-from-abuse order, my divorce papers; they are paying for half the cost of my divorce lawyer.

They don’t push, and that’s what I like. They gave me tons of different books. Just reading bits and pieces helped me to gather the inner strength I knew I had, to be stronger than Steve.

The people at New Hope understand. People in my life just don’t get it, and I don’t even understand a lot of what happened. My favorite word for him is “mind-fuck.” I was in a trance. The more time I have away from him the more my mind gets clearer and clearer and clearer.

In January, Stephanie Laite [Knox County district attorney’s victim/witness advocate] called me and told me the next day Steve would be in court for a dispositional conference (I Googled that to find out what it was), but there was nothing I needed to be there for.

I was getting my hair done, actually. when I got another call from her.

She said the offer on the table was two years with all but nine months suspended and a felony of violating bail instead of the felony being for domestic assault, and every [other charge] was dropped to misdemeanor.

I was caught off guard. She asked if I agreed with that deal and I told her no.

The prosecutor came on the line. He said he usually doesn’t talk with victims. They said that nine months is a lot for someone who has never done jail time, and “a felony is a felony” so it didn’t matter if the felony was for violating the bail or for the domestic assault [with the consequence of the felony domestic violence strangulation charge being reduced to misdemeanor domestic assault].

There are three types of aggravated assault under Maine law that make the crime a felony. Maine added strangulation in 2014, in a huge victory for domestic abuse victims — Maine law now recognizing strangulation as a leading indicator that domestic abuse will lead to murder.

Aggravated assault (strangulation) is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The maximum sentence for domestic violence assault is 364 days in county jail.

Stephanie told me the judge decided to reschedule the sentencing for when I could be there. She told me to remember that if I wanted to speak at this hearing, Steve would be in the courtroom and he would be angry, and that if I said I didn’t agree with the deal, I was going against the prosecutor.

When I got to court, Stephanie said that the offer to Steve was three months less jail time than it had been when I last talked with her. Six months and he will get time served. So, out in two months. She said they were unsure they had enough evidence to get felony strangulation. I said, “But I’m here, willing to say, ‘Yes, he did do this to me.’”

Nicole from New Hope and my friend were with me in the courtroom. It seemed like Stephanie was giving me every excuse to not have to address the judge, telling me she could speak for me and the prosecutor could speak for me, so in the end I was just like, “Okay, Stephanie, you can tell the judge what I think.”

It was almost like the judge was thanking Steve for accepting the plea deal and not taking it to trial. The charges were read, and to every charge, Steve said, “No contest.” And every time I heard that my blood was just boiling. I looked at Stephanie and said, “How does he not have to say, ‘Guilty’?” Somebody said, ‘The court recognizes a no contest plea the same as a guilty plea.” That’s when I was really like, “This is not okay,” and I decided to speak.

I told the judge I didn’t think it was fair that his felony was not for domestic violence, and that he got to plead no contest. I said I needed him in jail longer than two more months with all I have to do to get my kids safe for when he gets out — sell my house, find another place to live, pack, move, plus now [with schools closed due to COVID-19] I have to homeschool them.

After I spoke, the judge said he understood the severity of the crimes that Mr. [R.] committed but he felt that he would be best rehabilitated outside of jail. He said he has never signed off on a plea deal with so many conditions, so Mr. [R.] has no choice but to succeed.

Judgment 3/12/20

Dismissed: Aggravated Assault, Class B [felony]

Convicted: Violation of Condition of Release: Class C [felony]; Violation of Condition of Release: Class E, Domestic Violence Assault, Class D; Obstructing Report of a Crime D [all misdemeanors]

2-1⁄2 years, all but 6 months suspended to be served at county jail. “Consecutively” crossed out, and “concurrently” written in its place. Two years probation.


And that was it. Stephanie was like, “Okay, we can go.”

I walked into the hallway and said to her and [the prosecutor], “And you wonder why [victims of domestic abuse] don’t say anything.”

I will never understand why they thought they could not get a guilty out of what he’s done to me. It doesn’t feel good to be a victim and he still does not have to admit he did it. He gets out of jail and nobody will ever know what he did to me. He got away with it, once again.

I’ll never understand why someone can try to kill their wife numerous times and get six months in jail, and not even in prison. It blows my mind.

Justice system? There isn’t one.

Stephanie told me Steve is on-track to get “good time” and could get out on May 21.

I don’t know what his mindset is going to be: I hope it is focused on doing what’s right to someday see his kids, but everyone who knows Steve the way I do knows it takes one thing to trigger him.

It would have been easier for me to get primary custody of the kids if he had pled guilty instead of no contest to a domestic violence charge. Now I’m the one scrambling to pay lawyers to keep custody of our kids. I’ve just been trying to undo all this damage he did to them, and I’ll be damned if he gets out and starts to damage them all over again.

We can be sitting in the car and I will see [my eldest] crying and I’ll say, “What’s wrong, honey?” and she won’t even say it out loud. She just air-spells “Dad.”

The judge ruled that he can have written contact with her, and she just wrote her first letter to him. Really colorful pictures of her and Steve and her little sister, and all under a big rainbow. She just had one question for him: “How are you?”

Writer’s note:

I reached out to District Attorney Natasha Irving about Alison’s experience. She responded: “He will never be able to possess a gun again legally. With all of the early release due to COVID-19, we have objected, and will continue to strenuously object to, his early release. Under the circumstances, this result, though I wish we could have gotten more jail time, was a significant sanction. [Mr. R.] had never done jail time, and he had never been convicted of a felony, and unfortunately, the courts are very reluctant to sentence someone who has never done jail time to prison due to sentencing guidelines. What I would like to see change is that guideline, especially in the light of DV offenses and the fact that they are often not reported until the perpetrator has committed many, many dangerous offenses. It should be treated as the serious danger it is.”