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In early March, Mitzie Grabner called a friend for help. She had recently ended her two-year relationship with Curt Lubiszewski - two years that, according to Mitzie, were filled with violence, obsessive control, and verbal abuse. Lubiszewski had angrily told her she could get her things from his house, but only if she came alone. Mitzie was terrified.

She had good reason to be scared. Curt Lubiszewski carries a gun 24 hours a day, is trained in violence, and knows how to manipulate the legal system. Curt Lubiszewski is a police officer with the California Highway Patrol.

That phone call kicked off a series of events that boggle the mind. The friend called CHP Capt. Larry O'Shea, ranking officer in the Rohnert Park Highway Patrol office. When O'Shea later asked Mitzie if Curt had ever hurt her, she reported the violence she had endured. Rohnert Park police were called in to do a civil stand-by while Mitzie moved out, and a criminal investigation was launched.

One month later when Mitzie called the Purple Berets for help, the criminal investigation was over; the district attorney had refused to file charges, citing lack of evidence. Two requests for restraining orders had been denied solely because the no-gun provision, put into domestic violence restraining orders to protect the victim, would jeopardize Lubiszewski's job. And Curt Lubiszewski was still a gun-toting CHP officer.

With your support, we hope all that is fixin' to change.

Fighting Back
On May 28th, the conference room at Rohnert Park Public Safety was packed with eight high-level law enforcement officials, including Rohnert Park police Chief Tom Bullard, CHP Lt. Dan Moore, and Assistant District Attorney Larry Scoufos. The men (yes, all eight were men) had been brought to the table by our letter to Chief Bullard and Capt. O'Shea calling for a meeting to detail the evidence of domestic violence against Curt Lubiszewski. Also on the agenda were the botched investigation and cover-up.

For the next two hours, the men got an earful from the women in the room: Mitzie Grabner; Bonnie Garrett, who was married to Lubiszewski previously and has three children with him; Bonnie Leslie, who witnessed Lubiszewski's abusive, enraged behavior on numerous occasions; and Purple Berets advocate/investigator, Tanya Brannan.

By the end of the meeting, there could be little doubt that Lubiszewski is a batterer, that he's done it before and will do it again, and that any attempt to keep him on the force would be a blatant whitewash.

Mitzie GrabnerCourage Under Fire
Mitzie Grabner painted a picture of Curt Lubiszewski as a violent, jealous, obsessively controlling man who screened her phone calls, banned her friends from the house, and constantly checked on her whereabouts. The slightest deviation from his imposed routine ignited utter rage, tirades peppered with "you fucking cunt" or "fucking whore," and ultimately, violence.

According to Mitzie's sworn declaration, "The violence was ongoing, and included grabbing me by the arms and shaking me, pushing me, sitting on my chest and yelling, throwing me down stairs, taking my purse or keys to keep me from leaving, and breaking my phone so I couldn't call for help." The most frightening incidents occurred whenever she talked about leaving.

Mitzie then outlined six specific incidents that could be corroborated by witnesses and tied to dates. (In one of the incidents, Rohnert Park police were called, but never showed up.) While for the most part there were no witnesses to the violence itself (the norm in domestic violence situations), in every case someone noted her bruises in the subsequent days. In one incident Curt's terrified and tearful son witnessed the violence and inserted himself between his raging father and Mitzie to protect her.

Bonnie Leslie is a tough, gutsy woman who breaks quarter horses for a living. She was the only one of Mitzie's friends Curt allowed in the house, and she witnessed a number of Lubiszewski's rages - arguments that would erupt without provocation. She graphically described a man totally out of control, red-faced with saliva flying from his mouth as he spat the most denigrating, woman-hating names he could think of. "Mitzie was scared; the kids were scared — it scared me," she declared.

Leslie also witnessed the results of Curt's violence. She described dark, angry bruises on Mitzie's arms - deep impressions of thumbs and fingertips where he had picked Mitzie up by the arms. Bonnie respected her friend's terrified pleas not to get involved ... a decision she came to regret. "I feel like I let her down," Leslie told police,"... that I kept sending my friend back into the lion's den."

Curt Lubiszewski in uniform"He's Not Going to Stop"
Bonnie Garrett is slight and soft-spoken. She told police that her nine-year marriage to Curt Lubiszewski had turned violent almost immediately, when Curt picked her up and threw her across the room, injuring her tail bone. Pregnant with her first child, Bonnie was lucky she didn't miscarry.

Like Mitzie (and like most police officers' partners) Bonnie Garrett had never before reported Curt's violence to police. "He said they would never believe me; I mean, he's a cop ... he is the police." So that day, for the first time she reported to the police and the district attorney the same soul-killing verbal attacks, the same pattern of violence exploding when she threatened to leave, the same grabbing her keys so she couldn't, picking her up by her arms, sitting on her chest and yelling in her face, his obsessive control, his stalking when she finally got out - nine years of it.

"He's not going to stop," she told the assembled law enforcement officers. "He's ignored restraining orders, direct orders from his captain, court orders ... he's not going to stop." Unsaid, but laying over the room like a blanket was "... unless you stop him."

The Criminal Investigation
But up until now, there's clearly been no serious intent to stop him.

When Mitzie Grabner arrived at Rohnert Park Public Safety on February 28th to give her original statement in the criminal investigation, she was met by Detective Jeff Nicks. Nicks immediately refused her request to have a friend and witness with her in the interview, despite California law giving her that right.

As the elevator door closed leaving Mitzie and Nicks alone inside, Det. Nicks said, "You know, Curt has a lot of friends around here."

Mitzie was soon to see the full import of that statement. As she walked into the interview room, there, sitting at the table, tape recorder in hand, was CHP Sgt. Scott Bertelsen. Assigned to head up the Highway Patrol's internal investigation, Bertelsen, Lubiszewski's sergeant and his personal friend for some ten years, is far from an independent investigator.

The interview took a predictable course from there. Mitzie, by now extremely intimidated, was pressured to drop her complaint, discouraged from getting a restraining order, and cut off and shut down when she tried to report the multiple incidents of violence. Still, she was able to get a skeletal outline of the abuse on the record, replete with witnesses. Unfortunately, Nicks didn't bother to mention most of those witnesses in his report, or to contact them for their statements.

Based on Nicks's incomplete police report, lacking proper investigation and witness corroboration, the district attorney's office failed to file criminal charges, citing insufficient evidence.

The CHP's Internal "Investigation"
In most law enforcement agencies, where there are serious allegations of misconduct such as domestic violence, standard procedure is to put an officer on suspension, or at least on desk duty, while the charges against him are investigated. Not so with Curt Lubiszewski. Though taken off the street for a short time late in the process, he was returned to duty when criminal charges weren't filed and the permanent restraining orders denied, despite the ongoing the internal investigation.

Again, in most departments where there are allegations such as domesticviolence, the internal investigation would be conducted, not by the officer's supervisor, but by a separate entity within the department - internal affairs or the administrative section. Again, not so with Lubiszewski, who's being investigated by a man who is not only his sergeant, but his buddy.

CHP logoAnd in every law enforcement agency we've contacted, even if criminal charges weren't filed, the agency would likely take action if the allegations of domestic violence were substantiated. Yet when we asked Capt. O'Shea under what circumstances Lubiszewski would be disciplined or fired, he said only if he were convicted of domestic violence in criminal court.

In criminal cases, because the penalty is so harsh (incarceration), the case must be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt." By contrast, the standard of proof in a police deparment's internal investigation is "preponderance of the evidence" or, in some agencies, "clear and convincing evidence," both significantly lower standards.

So we asked O'Shea, "What if the district attorney told you he absolutely believed the evidence showed the charges against Lubiszewski were true?" The captain hemmed and hawed, then reiterated that unless convicted in criminal court, there will be no finding that Lubiszewski violated CHP policy, and no disciplinary action will be taken. "Is beating your wife not against CHP policy?" we asked incredulously. The answer: "No."

Lubiszewski Retaliates
With both criminal and internal investigations in process, Lubiszewski began to retaliate. Though ordered by his captain and temporary restraining orders not to have any contact with the two victims, directly or indirectly, Lubiszewski repeatedly tried to contact Bonnie Leslie, who had filed a sworn statement corroborating the violence.

He then entered an allegedly perjured declaration into the hearing for the permanent restraining order, filed for sole custody of Bonnie Garrett's three children, and contacted Bonnie Leslie's ex-employer, against whom she has a Workers Compensation claim, offering to testify against her.

These charges were added into the CHP internal investigation, along with repeated incidents of his driving with his kids in the patrol car despite a court order mandating that he stop. New criminal investigations were launched into these allegations yet, unbelievably, Lubiszewski is still not suspended; still on patrol; still carrying a gun.

Will Law Enforcement Act?
By the end of our May 28th meeting, both Rohnert Park police and the district attorney had agreed to reopen their criminal investigation into the domestic violence.

CHP Lt. Moore was looking relieved. As the meeting had focused specifically on the criminal case and not the CHP investigation, Moore was sure he'd dodged the bullet.

Just then, Deputy District Attorney Bill Brockley leaned across the conference table and spoke earnestly to Mitzie. "I want you to know, Mitzie, that I absolutely believe you ... believe that these things happened. My job is to decide whether I can prove that beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury," he continued, "but I want you to know that I believe you."

There it was: exactly the statement we had challenged Capt. O'Shea with! In the view of the county's highest law enforcement agency there is "clear and convincing evidence" that Ofcr. Lubiszewski committed domestic violence.

"Lt. Moore, if, after everything you've heard in this room," we warned, "a violent batterer is allowed to remain a CHP officer, we promise you this isn't over."

And we should be prepared for exactly that. Far from enlightened, Lt. Moore's parting words to Bonnie Garrett were these: "I'll be glad when this is over and we can get back to handling real emergencies." Some agencies just have to learn the hard way.

Annie Sounds Off!
Get Rid of
Battering Cops!"

If you think, as we do, that police should be held to a higher standard in domestic violence cases, not protected so they can keep on carrying a gun:

  • Tell Capt. O'Shea battering cops have got to go!
    • Phone: (707) 588-1400
    • FAX: (707) 588-1404

  • Mail a postcard to the State CHP office requesting an independent investigation of the domestic violence allegations against Curt Lubiszewski. Mail to:
    • Capt. William Leist
      Commander of Internal Affairs
      2555 1st Ave
      Sacramento, CA 95818

  • Picket the Rohnert Park Highway Patrol Office. Ongoing pickets will be scheduled until these demands are met. Go to Breaking News for dates.

For more information on domestic violence in police families, click here.

For a recent media report on domestic violence by police, click here.

June 2003


© Tanya Brannan, Purple Berets
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