Legislative Gazette: Legislators Want to Come Down Hard on Serial Domestic Abusers

Daniel L. Squadron

June 17, 2011

By Justin McCarthy

The story of an abusive man chasing his girlfriend down the street with a machete clutched in his hand is among the tales of violence lawmakers are pointing to in their attempt to beef up domestic abuse laws before the end of this session.

With the end of the legislative session approaching, Sen. Daniel Squadron, D-Carroll Gardens, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, are stepping up efforts to pass legislation they introduced in January (S.1510/A.1986) that would toughen domestic violence laws by creating a new felony charge of "aggravated domestic violence" for repeat offenders who might only face a low-level misdemeanor charge under the existing statutes.

"Too many women in New York state are repeat victims of domestic violence abusers," said Rosenthal. "The laws we have now on the books are inadequate and allow abusers to go free despite repeated instances of abuse and subsequent convictions. This bill will make sure that if you are an abuser with a history of abuse, you will be charged with a felony and go to prison."

If adopted, the new Class E felony charge could be applied to anyone who has been convicted of one or more specific domestic violence crimes within a five-year period.

Rosenthal said the proposed legislation would prevent "an untold number of needless deaths" and "send a strong message to victims that they are valued members of the community." The bill has dozens of cosponsors and multisponsors in both parties in the Assembly.

According to the legislation's justification, there were 622 individuals convicted of two or more domestic violence offenses in Manhattan from 2004 to 2009. Over a third of the 622 defendants had at least one case with a felony-level assault charge, it says.

The bill justification highlights several cases from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, one in which a defendant with "a long misdemeanor domestic violence history, involving multiple assaults and violations of orders of protection" chased his girlfriend down a street with a machete. The man bit and clawed at the woman in front of her 3-year-old child.

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