Domestic violence advocates are outraged that Salt Lake County prosecutors had a domestic violence victim arrested and jailed in order to get her to testify against her alleged abuser.
It was a role reversal of sorts Thursday in 3rd District Court when a domestic violence suspect walked into court as a free man and his alleged victim was led into the room in chains.
"It goes against everything we know about the treatment of victims of domestic violence," said Utah Domestic Violence Council executive director Judy Kasten Bell, who added the case shows a serious lack of understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse.
Lonial Milline Jr. is charged with felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief and damaging a communication device. His alleged victim was led into the courtroom in a jail jumpsuit and chains after prosecutors say she refused to respond to a subpoena to testify at the hearing.
Court records show the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office sought a material witness warrant for her arrest on July 1. Records show the woman was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Monday and held for three days until Thursday's hearing.
Prosecutors say they had little choice because the woman had previously failed to show up to testify in a prior domestic violence case against Milline and that they had reason to believe she was not going to show up to testify again.
According to charges, Milline, 30, and his girlfriend got into an argument on April 12 in Salt Lake City. The woman suffered cuts to her face and a broken fingernail. Milline was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.
District attorney spokeswoman Alicia Cook said there has been no change in District Attorney Lohra Miller's policy toward domestic violence victims and the ability to seek a material witness warrant has been available to prosecutors for a long time.
"It looks like this was a case where the prosecutor had information where they knew the victim was going to refuse to appear on the subpoena and took the steps to ensure that she did show up on the case," Cook said.
Stuart Ralphs, executive director of Legal Aid Society, which provides legal services for victims of domestic violence, said the district attorney's actions in jailing the woman sends the wrong message to victims. Ralphs said it will be hard for him to tell his clients to cooperate with police if victims of crime think they may be jailed for not testifying.
"Revictimizing victims when they're not ready to testify is just bad policy," he told the Deseret News.
Despite the efforts by prosecutors to get the woman into court to testify, a plea deal was struck before the preliminary hearing in which prosecutors offered to drop charges against Milline if he pleaded guilty to one count of domestic violence assault, a class A misdemeanor.
After conferring with his attorney, Milline accepted the offer. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 5.Judge Tyrone Medley ordered that a no-contact order between Milline and the victim be lifted and that the witness warrant be dropped and the woman released.
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