Since archival demographic court data for Colorado first became available in 1998-1999 it has been clear that the 4 th Judicial District (El Paso and Teller counties, including Colorado Springs metropolitan area) has two to three times the number of criminal domestic violence cases and civil domestic abuse protection orders as comparable districts. Obviously, 50% to 75% of these cases and protection orders are based on false or superfluous allegations commonly associated with divorce and custody battles.
That abuse of process has severe negative effects on the massive troop concentrations in the Colorado Springs area. Based on the demographic data it is estimated the military is losing approximately 1,000 personnel every year to these false allegations of domestic violence and abuse in the Colorado Springs area. In 2004 a battalion commander at Fort Carson told me that then District Attorney Jeanne Smith was bringing these charges primarily to build her own statistics. Since then Jeanne Smith has moved on to become head of Colorado's Department of Criminal Justice, a frightening thought.
In November 2004 a reform district attorney, John Newsome, was elected in the 4 th Judicial District and he has been quietly working to correct the problems with criminal domestic violence cases. The current DA's reforms are best illustrated by the following plot:
From 2000 through 2003 the number of misdemeanor DV cases handled by the notorious Fast Track program used in the 4 th Judicial District averaged ~3,250 per year. Reforms begun in 2004 lowered the average from 2004 till 2007 to 2,890, an 11% decrease. However, the real changes are in the numbers of cases where the defendants stood up for their rights and demanded a trial. The number who accepted a plea bargain, an extremely bad choice unless the defendant is obviously guilty, declined from nearly 60% in 2000 to just 28% in 2007. Hopefully, some of that decrease is due to efforts by the Equal Justice Foundation to encourage defendants to plead Not Guilty and demand a jury trial, which we've done with flyers (Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders) and web sites. But most of the credit must be given to District Attorney John Newsome and his staff, and the appointment of Magistrate Robert Erler, a retired Air Force officer, who carefully advises defendants in Fast Track DV cases of what a guilty plea means for their future.
As the EJF has long noted, in very few domestic violence cases can mens rea and actus reus be established and guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury. Typically these cases involve "he said/she said" verbal accusations and there isn't any criminal violence (redfems regard a pillow fight as domestic violence). And juries often regard these cases as a waste of their time and tell the court and prosecutor so.
Combine that with overcrowded court dockets and a plea of Not Guilty in a misdemeanor DV case usually means the case will be dismissed or the defendant will be acquitted at trial. Unfortunately, redfem "No Drop" law usually means the defendants case won't be dismissed until the day before or the morning of their trial, wasting everyone's time and money. And sometimes prosecutors have added felony charges to the original case in an attempt to coerce a plea bargain but reforms seem to be reducing that abuse of process as well.
These reforms have certainly not escaped the notice of the very active, aggressive, and well-funded (>$2 million/year) radical feminists (redfems) in the 4 th Judicial District. If one goes to the El Paso County Court division of the 4th JD web site you will note that in the lower right corner for restraining orders you are directed to T*E*S*S*A. On the Teller County court web site you are directed to TESSA's old name, The Center For The Prevention of Domestic Violence but you'll still end up at the same redfem site.
Basically if you want a restraining order in Colorado Springs you have to go through T*E*S*S*A. If one then Googles TESSA and goes to their home page you will find the typical redfem mission statement:
The bar chart above makes it clear that it has become increasingly difficult for redfems to get DV convictions based on specious claims, i.e., false allegations, in the 4 th Judicial District since Newsome became district attorney. Undaunted, and still in control of restraining orders, which don't go through the district attorneys office, TESSA has fought back. The following chart shows their strategy although separate data for domestic abuse protection orders are only available for 2002 and subsequent years.
Note that the difference in DV cases between the first chart and this chart is due to the fact that not all DV cases in the 4 th Judicial District are processed through Fast Track, which operates only in El Paso County. So in 2002 there were 3,364 total DV cases reported by the Colorado State Court Administrator for both El Paso and Teller counties and only 3,116 cases were Fast Tracked.
Because of the increase in restraining orders promoted by TESSA, as evident in the second chart, the combined number of DV criminal cases and restraining orders has increased from 5,097 in 2002 to 5,329 in 2007.
Obviously, as it became more difficult to obtain bogus domestic violence convictions as defendants became more savvy and began pleading Not Guilty, TESSA began encouraging the use of protection orders instead. However, there appears to be a limit of about 2,300 protection order per year beyond which the courts can't, or won't go.
Due to budget restrictions, El Paso County Courts are now open only four days per week, or with holidays about 200 days per year. That works out to roughly 11.5 protection orders per court day. Even though it is known such orders are issued like bumf, and without proper judicial review, a rate of at least one every forty (40) minutes (assuming the court is in session for eight hours per day) is a scary figure. [Note that this figure was corrected after original newsletter was sent.]
This number is even more horrifying when the complete lack of due process associated with such ex parte orders is considered. Restraining orders are issued without a chance for a man to respond or defend himself, and preferably without advance notice. Men, and clearly these orders impact men almost exclusively, are thrown out of their homes, barred from seeing or contacting their children, barred from having a weapon (which is one reason we lose ~1,000 military personnel every year in Colorado Springs), often lose high-level security clearances, may lose their jobs or businesses especially if they work out of their home, often end up living in their cars or with friends or relatives, and on and on as the misery grows.
It is also worth noting that the EJF has not been able to document a single case where a restraining order actually provided protection for a woman. Where real danger of violence is present obtaining a restraining order appears to have much the same effect as waving a red flag in front of a bull. Domestic violence we have documented in association with such orders occurs after a restraining order is obtained, especially When Men Are Driven To Desperation. Several studies support that observation.
Increasing numbers of military families are divorcing after multiple combat tours as well. TESSA's response to everyone who walks through their door is to get a restraining order, if not file DV charges, and promote divorce.
Restraining orders are referred to as a "silver bullet" for solving a woman's divorce and custody problems. But what TESSA and other redfems don't tell these women is that their husbands or lovers are likely to lose their jobs, will certainly be kicked out of the service, that child protective services (CPS) will become involved, that the chances of collecting the child support the court awards are iffy, that they will have problems renting an apartment because Colorado law doesn't allow a landlord to hold a tenant to a lease if DV is involved, and a host of other problems that devolve on anyone who files DV charges or obtains a restraining order.
As the number of soldiers returning to Fort Carson with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and other disorders after multiple combat tours continues to increase, this has had a very deleterious effect on military men and families. Many of them live off base and when problems with flashbacks, startle response, nightmares, erratic behavior, and other symptoms of these disorders occur and civilian police are called, these veterans are arrested for domestic violence. Granted that these effects can be frightening to someone unaccustomed to them but the women we've heard from want help with their loved ones, not an arrest.
There have also been problems with violent and suicidal behavior due to the anti-malarial drug Lariam. And if combat and drugs aren't enough to cause PTSD, putting someone through the nightmare of false allegations of domestic violence and abuse almost certainly will, particularly if these allegations are a result of adultery by a man's wife.
Of course all of these problems occur with families living in base housing as well. From what the EJF has seen, the military has been more effective in dealing with these problems, especially when men are being abused.
Magnifying the problems, 4 th JD judges have been refusing to give military men and women personal recognizance (PR) bonds and keeping them in jail, often without required medications. To his credit, District Attorney John Newsome has been very open in trying to find better ways of dealing with these increasing problems in his district. But TESSA's promotion of more and more restraining orders is certainly counterproductive.
Military personnel convicted of domestic violence or under a permanent restraining order (Colorado forbids any modification for at least four years and the order is for life) are usually flushed quickly out of the Armed Forces. They are also often given a less than honorable discharge that denies them veteran's benefits, including medical care for their injuries and mental problems. That is a shameful way to treat men and women who have given so much for their country.
Once a man's, or woman's career is destroyed by allegations of domestic violence, or a permanent restraining order, we constantly hear of the difficulties encountered in trying to rebuild their lives. These problems are compounded if children are present. Child support arrears mount due to unemployment and the man is jailed. With little income the mother's living conditions deteriorate and child protective services (CPS) becomes involved because of the DV allegations. All too often the children end up in foster homes or up for adoption as a result.
Any rational analysis of terrorist threats inevitably concludes that the greatest danger our country faces is from home-grown terrorists, not Islamofascists or other bogeymen neo-cons are so enamored with to try and scare the populace.
The first war with Iraq produced Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols whose bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was the largest domestic terrorist event prior to 9/11. Gulf I was a modest war of limited duration with relatively minor numbers of psychological problems encountered by returning veterans.
In stark contrast the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have dragged on for more than five years with tens of thousands of combat veterans having served two, three, or more tours. It is also evident that as the number of combat tours an individual soldier or Marine endures, the probability of PTSD, TBI, or other neurological damage increases, as do their combat skills.
It seems a very dangerous practice to falsely accuse such veterans, take away their rights and their children, and deny them medical care as we are commonly doing today under the umbrella of ideologically-motivated domestic violence laws.
First, is the obvious loss of trained military personnel. With some 5,300 DV cases and restraining orders annually the estimate that more than 1,000 of these involve military personnel in the Colorado Springs area seems conservative, although only recently has the district attorney begun collecting statistics on military cases. Obviously, the five bases in the Colorado Springs area, Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, NORAD-Cheyenne Mountain, Schreiver Air Force Base, and the Air Force Academy, are an important part of the nation's defense and the loss of the equivalent of a battalion of troops in this area every year must have a significant impact on morale and combat readiness. At Fort Carson every platoon size unit we've spoken with has had one or more soldiers involved in these cases and we've posted a number of stories from local military personnel.
Second, another, more hidden impact occurs in a modern form of a "honey trap," probably one of the oldest tricks in gathering intelligence against an enemy or in espionage. In popular fiction a "honey trap" usually implies a woman entrapping businessmen, military men, and officials in sexual liaisons to retrieve intelligence. But in a broader sense a "honey trap" is slang for use of men or women in sexual situations to intimidate or snare others.
Particularly in wartime it is as useful to simply prevent the target of the "honey trap" from accomplishing their mission as it is to garner intelligence from them. That can be done in a variety of ways, one of which is to compromise their security clearance by covert acts, or otherwise force them out of their position. Under current laws allegations of domestic violence or abuse can do that quite effectively and I've outlined how it can be easily done based on a number of incidents reported to me.
Third, any military personnel who want to avoid deployment on yet another combat tour can easily avoid it by arranging with a girlfriend or wife to file DV charges against him or get a restraining order. Of course TESSA is always happy to oblige and help the woman fill out the paperwork and coach her on what to say in court. Note that subornation of perjury is not a crime in Colorado.
I have no idea how commonly this is occurring but it is such an obvious method given the extended tours imposed on troops and the hidden draft of "stop loss" that it must be happening. It is certainly less damaging than deserting and fleeing to Canada.
Drawn-out wars with multiple combat tours for tens of thousands of military personnel have created an increasingly dangerous situation as neurological problems increase in number and intensity among returning troops.
Army and Veteran Administration attempts at dealing with neurological problems like PTSD and TBI with Wounded Warrior programs and Warrior in Transition units are often short-circuited by civilian authorities and groups like TESSA dogmatically applying domestic violence policies and laws.
Attempts at reform within Colorado's 4 th Judicial District have been defeated by publicly-funded and ideologically-driven groups to the grave detriment of individuals, society, and national defense and security.