The following is testimony delivered by Karen Welch at a New Jersey Assembly Judiciary hearing in support of a state civil stalking statute. You can listen to my interview with Karen here.
(Courtesy of Karen Welch)
Thank you for inviting me here today.
Nearly 5 years ago to the day, I testified before the Assembly Law and Public Safety committee in support of bill A1563, legislation that provided for a critical improvement to the NJ Criminal Stalking law. I showed the pictures of the damage to my home and my car. I described the many calls I received from an individual using the voicechanger from the slasher movie Scream to terrorize me. A1563 was written by the detective assigned to my decade-long stalking case, sponsored by Assemblywoman Greenstein along with 38 other legislators and signed into law by Governor Corzine on March 21, 2009. The legislation changed the criteria required to launch an investigation. Instead of requiring a death threat, the crime could be proved through a course of conduct or pattern of behavior, The legislation also raised the severity of the crime. Additionally, the legislation incorporated “stalking through third-parties,” which was the manner in which I have been stalked for over a decade.
Stalking through a third-party is even more insidious. It can be more difficult to prove so it requires zealous prosecution. But instead of receiving that protection, my complaint for stalking itself was used against me in Family Court. A few weeks after I appeared before LPS, my testimony was unlawfully acquired under OPRA. The testimony is still being used against me in court through the false accusations that I am unbalanced and fabricated the stalking allegations. The court actions are ongoing. There have been two appellate cases. Because the “system” makes it so easy for an aggrieved litigant to dig up information to use to retaliate, for the purposes of this hearing, I’m not using my real name. I am Jane Doe.
Although the sponsors of A1563 gave NJ prosecutors an excellent tool to help stop a stalker, the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office inexplicably refuses to enforce the law. I have a letter dated May 2009 from MCPO AP Michael Cunningham that explains to me that my criminal stalking law is not retroactive however, should I continue to suffer through acts of stalking, MCPO will help me. The MPCO has turned a blind eye toward ongoing harassment I’ve suffered after the law was enacted. The MCPO is focused only on those cases where stalking victims have been physically attacked, or worse, murdered. They are completely ignoring stalking cases where victims’ lives are turned upside down by the daily infliction of terror. Several of these cases eventually result in physical violence which could have been prevented with earlier intervention.
I am here today because I and other stalking victims need help. If this could happen to me, it can happen to any woman. We have to make sure that our children, our daughters, can live lives free from harassment.
If the criminal justice system won’t enforce the anti-stalking legislation that this legislative body worked so hard on to put on the books, then we need civil legislation so civil attorneys have the proper tools to combat and deter harassment. We are asking that a civil statute be passed permitting compensation for harm, punitive damages and attorneys fees. Without this protection, it is impossible to find or even afford an attorney to help.
If my stalking complaints can be used against me in court, then surely victims like me are entitled to a law which gives them a chance for justice.
I’d like to tell you a little bit about my story so you can see why such a law is necessary.
In 2007 on weekends, my son was with his Dad, or supposed to be with his Dad, I received calls from men with Spanish accents. The calling escalated into a death threat and a screw in my tire. The police tried to get the Prosecutors office to handle the death threat call as a terroristic threat. MCPO dispatched Lt Coleman to question the resident of the home making the call. The individual claimed he misdialed and meant to call a prostitute. This was not the only call I received. In a short period of time, I received 35 calls. I reverse searched the phone numbers of all of these 35 calls from different numbers that I received and I realize that an entire neighborhood off of Stonehurst Blvd. in Freehold was calling me. MCPO Lt Coleman told me that all of these calls were wrong numbers and these callers all meant to call a prostitute. Instead of the police investigating who was harassing me by publicizing my number for illegal activities, I was forced to hire a PI to check Lt Coleman’s conclusion out. He found out that my number was posted as a prostitute for these men to call me. This information about my case was communicated to the aggrieved litigant who was dragging me to court as, incredibly, he tried to use this information pertaining to my case against me.
In June of 2009 at 2:19 am – 4 hours before I departed Newark on vacation with my son – I began to get harassing calls. 4 hours before my return flight from Miami to Newark, I again received harassing text messages. I filed a police report and I phoned MCPO AP Brennan when I returned from Florida.
24 hours before and 36 hours after an August 2009 court hearing meant to resolve all issues, I began to receive more harassing calls from the same number that was calling me around my June flight. The messages increased in severity. The caller blocked their number when he left me these two messages. (Play messages) MCPO AP Brennan instructed the police to do nothing to help me other than take a police report because in all the years of being stalked I was never physically harmed. I will never forget the look on the faces of these officers when they arrived at my home at 6 am on the morning of August 15 and heard those calls and then they had to tell me that MCPO Brennan prevented them from investigating the calls. The County Prosecutor was waiting for me to be a homicide victim or the victim of attempted murder to do anything to help me. Prosecuting my homicide would be a slam dunk but investigating my stalking would, apparently, take entirely too many resources to save a life.
Sandy Clark, the Ex Dir at the NJCBW intervened and called Deputy Ag Vicki Kristiannson to get help for me and Vikki called MCPOAP Brennan to tell him, “you told this woman you would help her if she changed the law and she changed the law, so now the AG’s office wants you to do something.” Sgt Yenisey received a call at home to moved the case forward.
With little progress in 2 weeks, Sgt Yensiey advised me to keep applying pressure and so I made a copy of the threatening messages and I dropped the CD that contained the threats off at the Red Bank office of the FBI for SA Gallagher to listen to. As the FBI file reflects, after I dropped off the CD, it took SA Gallagher less than 24 hours to send an email to Newark to request to open a new case for interstate threatening messages. The FBI file also reflects the prior stalking case SA Gallagher handled for me in 1999 after I was stalked to Disney World and received calls to my hotel on my birthday from an individual using the voicechanger from the movie Scream to sing Happy Birthday to me.
Sgt Yenisey and SA Gallagher worked together to identify the threatening caller. The suspect admitted to stalking and threatening to kill me and then he lawyered up. Through his attorney, the suspect was trying to plead down to a lesser charge but Assistant US attorney McKenna was not permitting him to do so. An arrest warrant was issued and on Jan 4 2010 the suspect committed suicide by duct taping himself into the shed behind his home and lighting a fire. Assistant US Attorney McKenna was appointed to the position of Director of Homeland Security by Governor Christie. Unfortunately, that move dumped my stalking case into the inept and bungling hands of MCPO to investigate the suicide. MCPO told me that the suspect in my stalking was Joe Pate. Joe Pate was no stranger as he was depicted in the Investigation Discovery Channel documentary that was filmed on my stalking and is available on Itunes. Eleven months before he committed suicide, Joe Pate and 3 other leaders of my son’s activity interrogated my 16 year old son at his Award Review Board asking my son if this was a vendetta and quizzing my minor child about family court hearings that were being attended by a few of the adult leaders. Instead of trying to link Pate to the individual responsible for these criminal threats, and putting an end to the harassment, MCPO advised me to keep my son out of his activity.
Instead of protecting the victim, MCPO Brennan refused to answer any questions I asked about the suicide. 16 months later in the Spring of 2011, I finally got answers. I stopped at Nordstrom in advance of a trip to purchase a new handbag. The lovely sales assistant found the perfect Tory Burch handbag and when I was giving her the spelling of my name, the next sentence out of her mouth was, “Joe Pate stalked you.” I asked her if she saw the ID documentary that aired in February 2011 on my stalking and she told me no she had not, but she is an EMT who was a first responder to the suicide of Joe Pate. The Nordstrom sales associate told me that Joe left a suicide note with a childhood friend who was a police officer and whom he called just prior to committing suicide. I was told that Joe was not mentally well and if you wanted someone harassed Joe would be the guy to do it, as I learned Joe harassed the President of the First Aid squad. The President of the First Aid Squad urged the EMT’s to watch my documentary. I hired a private detective who confirmed the second suicide note to Joe’s friend the police officer with another EMT. I made an OPRA request for the police report and the sales associate was correct about Joe calling his friend before he lit the fire as the friend was first on the scene. When I tried to file a complaint for obstruction of justice to urge the police to locate the missing suicide note, the police told me MCPO told them to close the case. MCPO is obstructing justice.
In January 2008, Judge Michael Gudadgno resolved the first motion that was filed against me and all the wild allegations entirely in my favor in a 32 page decision and his decision on the illegal subpoena of 99 pages of police reports that I filed to document my stalking became a published opinion. The police reports were retained by opposing counsel who continued to use them to file motions against me after Judge Guadagno was transferred to another county. The illegally obtained police reports were used by the aggrieved litigant to send out emails to stalking support groups to try to paint me as a lunatic. I learned this when some of the emails were forwarded back to me. Motions filed against me were timed for maximum stress effect as I received court papers on my birthday and Christmas Eve. These incessant motions were meant to bankrupt me so I complained to Geraldine Washington at the Admin Office of the Courts about being dragged (stalked) through the court and Ms Washington told me there are women living out of their cars after being dragged through the family court. If Ms Washington is aware of this injustice, why isn’t the admin office of the courts doing something to stop the abuse?
I missed a morning of court so opposing counsel submitted a request to the judge for me to pay $56,000 in legal fees. The judge ordered me to pay $26,000 so I filed an appeal. The matter was resolved in my favor and the NJ Law Journal headline read “$25,000 Too Much for One Missed Morning of Court.” The case was remanded back to the trial court judge to correct the order. In addition to correcting the order the Judge violated court rules by urging the aggrieved litigant to appeal the case again and the aggrieved litigant took the judges advice. Because of his interest in domestic violence that does not involve a black eye or a broken arm, Presiding Appellate Judge Robert Fall picked my appellate case for a CASP mediation. Judge Fall told me that he was trained by Sandy Clark of the NJCBW. Judge Fall urged me to make my story of criminal stalking and stalking through the family court public. In an August 2011 motion, the aggrieved litigant falsely quoted Presiding Appellate Judge Robert Fall stating; “ Jane Doe is a narcissist with borderline personality disorder and the worst case of a parental alienator the state of NJ has ever seen.” I sent the certification to Judge Fall to correct and Judge Fall replied to me and told me to give his letter to the trial court judge. The trial court judge did nothing about the perjury that according to Harry Cassidy at the Admin Office for the Courts required sanctions.
Acting Prosecutor Grammiccioni put out a press release last week stating that he is looking for corruption in Monmouth County. Prosecutor Grammiccioni doesn’t have to go far to find it all he has to do is open his office door and take a walk through the halls of the Monmouth County Courthouse. The Monmouth County Prosecutors office is not upholding the laws for the state of NJ. If the State is not going to use a law that was tailored to my stalking case to help me, the state will not be using the legislation to help anyone else. The Monmouth County Prosecutor fails to investigate stalking cases, while family court judges hold the litigant hostage to appear at the whim of judges who don’t spend the time, pay attention or reign in the abusive behavior. Trial court judges are not doing their jobs and no one is supervising them.
A civil stalking statute is critical to ensure justice for stalking victims. In addition to civil and punitive damages and attorneys fees, the legislation needs to contain the right to injunctive relief so that Judges hearing these cases have many options to provide immediate relief to a stalking victim who has been persecuted for years. Also, the statute of limitations should be extended to five years. This gives victims the time to handle the matter through other means before being forced to file a civil suit or otherwise see the statute expire. An extended statute of limitations would allow for handling the matter through law enforcement, family court (if applicable), or through mediation. my case of stalking and stalking through the family court is not a one time phenomenon. There are women in Monmouth County and other NJ counties who are regularly harassed, their property is damaged and their lives are threatened while law enforcement and often the family court as well fail to intervene to defend them. They are mothers and daughters and they deserve better.
In addition to providing strong legislation providing for the right to seek relief in Civil Courts, those in charge of criminal prosecutions should be called to task to enforce the law that is on the books so that harassment stops before someone gets physically hurt or killed. These prosecutors and law enforcement officials should explain there processes and procedures for handling stalking cases, and what measures they are taking to prevent these cases from escalating to serious physical violence.
I would urge you and the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring MCPO Acting Prosecutor Grammiccioni and Assignment Judge Lawrence Lawson down to the State House to answer some tough questions on why exactly is my well documented case of criminal stalking and stalking through the family court not brought to an immediate conclusion. What sort of controls are they going to put into place to insure that other women and children who are being harmed by the family court while also suffering through criminal stalking don’t endure a lifetime of abuse. I would recommend that if they don’t’ answer the questions appropriately, you find someone else to do their job. Prosecutors and Judges have discretion but the constitution guarantees me rights as well. All I can do is do my best to enforce those rights. I have to do it not only for my son, but for all of the women out there who have the right to live their life in peace, without fear that they or their children will be hurt. I ask that you join me and do your best to protect their rights and their safety.