Apparently, domestic violence is against the law — unless you’re an immigrant who can claim your culture doesn’t really recognize spousal abuse.
Take the Congolese immigrant who was freed of six domestic violence charges after his attorney convinced a city prosecutor that the guy lacked the proper level of cultural competency to participate in the U.S. justice system.
The decision is one of several questionable actions highlighted late last month by Attorney General Gordon MacDonald in a widespread critique of domestic-violence prosecutions in Manchester. MacDonald’s critique led to the abrupt retirement of veteran City Solicitor Tom Clark and has put Clark’s office under heightened scrutiny.
One questionable decision dealt with the case of Augustin Bahati, 33, who was arrested last August. According to court paperwork, he was accused of striking, pushing, grabbing, kicking and pulling out the hair of a woman who was 27 weeks pregnant at the time.
His case ended when Manchester prosecutor Andrea Muller – the domestic-violence prosecutor singled out by MacDonald – dropped six misdemeanor charges against Bahati in early March.
How Bahati avoided prosecution was spelled out in handwritten notes of District Court Judge William Lyons.
“The parties agree that the expert reports and analysis indicates that the defendant:
. Not competent
. Not restorable
. Not dangerous
Consequently, the court must dismiss the charges,” Lyons wrote on March 2.
New Hampshire law allows for charges to be dismissed when an expert determines that a mental illness or mental disability has rendered a defendant incompetent to understand the charges against him and assist in his defense.
But an associate attorney general wrote on June 12 that the law contains no provisions for findings of “cultural incompetence.”
“This finding simply does not comport with the legal requirements for a finding of incompetency to stand trial and should have been aggressively litigated,” wrote Associate Attorney General Jane Young.
In an interview, Young said her office is not aware of any widespread use of cultural incompetency defenses.
Mayor Ted Gatsas acknowledged that justice may not have been served when Bahati went free.
“Every victim of domestic violence deserves justice. We need to make sure we defend them,” Gatsas said.
Sure, everybody who’s a victim of domestic violence deserves justice — but maybe not so much justice that it harms an immigrant perpetrator, yes? Despicable.
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