As the law is written in Massachusetts, General Law 209A relates to the prevention of abuse, which is desribed as physical violence in section 1 of the law. Somewhere along the way, however, judges, attornies and police officers started to enforce the law as if any contact, no matter how slight or unintentional, were physical and started treating those committing such slight contact the same as they would someone who had slashed a woman's throat.
My own case arose after my ex-wife decided to try and stop me from enforcing our divorce agreement. We had agreeed to move to Mattapoisett and stay there for the benefit of our kids. However, my ex-wife moved out of Mattapoisett and moved to Sandwich after only nine months to live with her fiancee, who she had left me for five years earlier. Her restraining order affifavit doesn't allege any violence on my part or even any threat of violence but it does say that I was annoying her and growing increasingly irritable.
That was enough for the judge and I was served with a restraining order when I went to visit my boys in early July. I had never been in trouble with the law and I was flabbergasted, to say the least. I decided that the restraining order constituted an illegal violation of my 1st Amendment rights and decided to send an email to my kids telling them not to worry about the restraining order and that I would get it straightened out.
I was sure that I would never get arrested for sending an email, even though I realized that a pedant could make the technical argument that an email could be deemed to be contact.
Naturally, I was wrong and my ex-wife had me locked up for a "violation" of the restraining order. The Mattapoisett police came in the middle of the night and got me out of my bed after the Sandwich police improperly issued a warrant for my arrest. The Mattapoisett Police were nice enough but spending a night in jail and being taken in shackles and chains to the Courthouse was quite an experience.
Last week, my trial finally took place. Barnstable County District Attorney Michael O'Keefe's office wanted to lock me up but unfortunately for them, the Judge didn't view sending an email the same as he would actually attacking a woman or threatening to attack her. Barnstable County District Attorney Michael O'Keefe's assistant ignored the Judge's announcement that he would probably find me "Not Guilty" and blundered ahead.
I decided to request a jury trial even though the Judge seemed sympathetic because I had always thought that a jury of my peers could never send me to jail for trying to be a good father, and I could not afford to take the chance that the Judge would be bound by precendent to find me guilty.
We were nearly ready to impanel a jury when the District Attorney finally said "uncle". I think that O'Keefe finally realized that trying me three weeks before the election was not likely to enhance his reelection prospects.
So now that the restraining order has been lifted and the cases have been dropped, I am free to see my children again. Free to email them, hug them, hold them, take them for ice cream, you know-- the stuff that fathers normally do. As the saying goes, "It's all good."
Still, the cost to the Commonwealth of this fiasco, which I estimate to be at least $50,000, can never be recovered. (The police called in dogs and helicopters when I made the mistake of saying "I love you. Let's talk." in alleged violation of another restraining order taken out by my girlfriend, who freaked out after my ex-wife took her restraining order out. That case is still pending.)
Too bad O'Keefe's office didn't use the money to go after real criminals instead of going after fathers who just want to be part of their children's lives.
Why does Michael O'Keefe go after emails in the same way he goes after murder? If we want to control the ever-rising costs of government, don't we need someone with a little common sense? Isn't it time Barnstable County had a DA who understands the difference between jaywalking and mass murder?
I sure think it is. That's why I urge you to write in the name of my attorney, James P. Dillon, Jr. for the office of District Attorney on election day. I met Dillon the day that O'Keefe had me brought in chains and shackels into the Barnstable Court. I listened to Jim talk with other prisoners. The man listens. He knows the difference between murder and mischief. He knows what needs to be done. He has been practicing in Barnstable and Plymouth Counties for 20 years and lives in Sandwich with his wife and children. He is an old-fashioned small town lawyer and does everything by himself. He doesn't even have a secretary.
While he was skilled in representing me, a defendant, I'm sure that he would be just as skilled in prosecuting lawbreakers. He has sympathy for the victims of crime. He knows what needs to be done.
Give Jim Dillon a chance. I can't imagine how much good he could do if he actually had a staff of legal eagles working for him. While he may not win, you could at the very least send a message to O'Keefe to take a pill and learn how to tell the difference between the pen and the sword.