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Woman jailed in Kentucky after recanting abuse claims

June 16, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Jasmine Stone entered a Kentucky courtroom as the prosecution’s named victim in a domestic violence case. She left in handcuffs under arrest after recanting her assault claims against her boyfriend.

Jefferson County District Judge Sheila Collins ordered the 21-year-old woman jailed last week on a charge of filing a false report. The charge didn’t stick for long — another judge dismissed and expunged it the next day, calling it “outrageous.”

Collins’ actions drew complaints Tuesday from advocates for domestic violence victims. They said it isn’t uncommon for abuse victims to backtrack on allegations, and said one judge’s harsh treatment of a woman who recants could have a chilling effect on other women pressing allegations in court.

“I worry about the effect this could have on other victims who have been told ‘don’t make this public. Because if you make it public, you’re the one that’s going to be suffering.’ This case is kind of a living example of what can happen,” said Marcia Roth, executive director of the Mary Byron Project in Louisville, which promotes efforts to end domestic violence.

Stone was brought forward during a hearing for Lomac Jeter, who is charged with fourth-degree assault. Standing near Jeter in the courtroom, Stone backtracked from the account she had given Louisville police.

“I made up all that stuff,” Stone said during her videotaped back-and-forth with the judge. Stone didn’t have an attorney with her.

Finally, when Stone denied her earlier statement that she was pregnant, Collins replied: “Is that the sworn affidavit? Sheriff, take her into custody.”

Stone was released about six hours later when another judge, McKay Chauvin, set aside her $10,000 bond.

Prosecutors and her public defender cooperated in winning her release, and a third judge, Erica Williams, dismissed and expunged the charge the next day. Williams was unusually blunt in her criticism of Stone’s jailing. She apologized to her on behalf of “everyone who wears a robe.”

“What happened to you should never, ever, ever happen to a victim,” the judge said.

Stone, who grew emotional and wiped her eyes during the hearing before Williams, has since declined to comment on the case, said Ashley Edwards, a public defender who represented her at the second hearing.

“We felt that what happened to her was unjustifiable,” Edwards said Tuesday. “We think ultimately the right results came from it. But, unfortunately, she had to spend some time in jail before that could be remedied.”

Collins did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment and did not respond to earlier messages from other media.

Kim Susser, director of the New York Legal Assistance Group’s Matrimonial & Family Law Unit, said she was unaware of another case in which a domestic violence victim had been jailed for recanting allegations. Stone was revictimized in a way that could have a chilling effect, she said.

“What this case illustrates is another example of blaming the victim,” Susser said.

Advocates noted that prosecutors uncovered a series of calls Jeter made to Stone leading up to the hearing in which she recanted her claims.

Joan Meier, legal director of the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project and a law professor at George Washington University, said abuse victims often recant “under pressure, threats or sweet-talking by their abuser.”

“For a court to respond by jailing the person is an unusually vicious response to what is a recognized problem in the ‘cycle of violence,” Meier said. “I believe most courts understand that victims are not entirely free agents — and face risks to their lives, their children’s and families’ safety and other conflicting forces — when they go to court against their abusers.”

Roth said it’s important for authorities to dig deeper after an alleged victim recants, “because we should all understand the pressure a victim is under.”

Jeter’s attorney, Logan Sims, declined to comment on his client’s case Tuesday.