No Justice in Battering
to our last newsletter, hundreds of you sent postcards to the
California Highway Patrol and public officials demanding they
reopen the internal investigation into domestic violence allegations
against CHP Officer Curt Lubiszewski. Lubiszewski was acquitted
of those charges after a highly irregular, nightmare criminal
trial that effectively prosecuted victim Mitzie Grabner and the
Purple Berets rather than Lubiszewski. (For a full report of the
trial, see the Violence Against
Women Section of our website.)
was explicit evidence of domestic violence against two different
women over a 14-year period, a threatened restraining order by
a third, as well as testimony to Lubiszewski's threats to "eat
his gun." Surely that's enough to allow the CHP to take disciplinary
action (preferably firing) to rein in their woman-hating officer.
also the CHP internal "investigation" conducted by Lubiszewski's
sergeant and longtime friend, Scott Bertelson. It was an investigation
littered with halfhearted interviews, witness intimidation, and
vows by his commander that Lubiszewski wouldn't be disciplined
unless convicted in criminal court. (Neither CHP policy, nor any
other police policy would agree.) Not surprisingly, the "investigation"
concluded that the domestic violence allegations were "not
CHP's internal affairs (IA) policy provides for a higher level
review when the complainants feel the investigation's findings
were bogus, Mitzie Grabner, Bonnie Garrett (Lubiszewski's ex-wife
for 9 years) and Purple Berets filed separate requests for such
a review in May. The Berets request outlined six areas of biased
or insufficient investigation (including a number of complaints
that were never investigated), and detailed at least seven violations
of the CHP's own Internal Affairs policies in the conduct of the
complaints had hardly had time to reach Sacramento when we all
received form letters saying the prior investigation was just
fine and there would be no review. Shortly afterwards, letters
followed from Attorney General Bill Locker and Gov. Arnold ("The
Groper") Schwarzenegger putting their official stamp of approval
on the CHP's whitewash. At this point, all efforts to get the
CHP to clean out the batterers in their midst have stalled.
CHP Case Went Nowhere
In the days and weeks following the trial and the CHP's refusal
to review the case, a number of striking facts surfaced that just
might shed some light on why things came down the way they did.
Nearly every officer or command staff-person who reviewed the
case has himself been implicated in some type of scandal or misconduct.
was commander of the Rohnert Park CHP office when the original
complaints were filed. He had ultimate responsibility for the
investigation, and it was he who had Curt's buddy head it up,
despite our protests. Early on, both the victims and Purple Berets
had meetings with O'Shea. Immediately thereafter, the captain
was put "on leave" and unavailable for comment.
Not long after
the trial, Purple Berets received the following e-mail, quoting
a source inside the CHP:
O'Shea got caught with his pants down. The CHP did their usual
run around ... going to fire him but then let him off and retire
early kind of crap! I wonder who else in that RP office knew
of this stuff and who was covering for whom??? What is up with
that particular office??
CHP Commissioner D.O. "Spike" Helmick, who headed
up the Sacramento commission that made the final decision not
to sustain any of the domestic violence complaints against Lubiszewski.
Imagine our surprise when we turned on TV news one night to see
Helmick blubbering tearfully on camera and announcing he would
be "retiring" and replaced as head of the commission.
We've never learned why he was removed . . . only that, in his
own words, "(Sniffle) I don't want to go!" (A purple
beret to anyone with information on what led to Helmick's dismissal!)
Then on July
9th, news hit that CHP Assistant Chief Art Acevedo, a prominent
candidate to replace Helmick, was in trouble. According to the
Press Democrat, Acevedo "has been the subject of a recent
state sexual harassment investigation and a $5 million civil claim
for allegedly showing nude photographs of a subordinate officer
to high-ranking officials while on duty . . . Acevedo kept sexually
explicit photographs of the woman in the glove compartment of
his state-issued car and displayed them to various supervisors
between 1995 when his brief affair with the officer ended
and 2002, according to claims filed with three state agencies
. . ."
When he took
the photos, Acevedo was a sergeant guess where!
in the agency's internal affairs bureau! At the time the lawsuit
was filed, the CHP had taken no disciplinary action against Acevedo.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could, with a stroke of a pen,
re-open the Lubiszewski investigation or, better yet, initiate
a statewide investigation into the Highway Patrol. But the governor
has his own problems with sexual harassment and assault, and is
un-likely to do the right thing to protect women from male violence.
Nor is Attorney General Bill Locker, who has refused to investigate
both the governor and Lubiszewski.
to the Core
So frankly, we're stumped as to where to turn for justice.
Clearly the Highway Patrol is incapable of investigating its own
officers for domestic violence or sexual harassment/assault.
We're currently looking into possible action by the California
Assembly and others.
In the meantime,
one thing is clear: any woman who gets involved with a CHP officer
does so at her own risk.
Good News: the District Attorney
But there is one ray of hope for victims of police domestic violence.
After the CHP verdict came down, Purple Berets met with D.A. Stephan
Passalacqua to discuss how his office could ensure that future
cases have at least a chance for justice.
agreed to have a deputy D.A. respond to the scene of police-involved
domestic violence cases, just as they do in homicides. He also
agreed to have either his investigator or one of the specialized
police domestic violence teams do the investigation under the
D.A.'s direction. At the very least, a deputy D.A. will be present
in all police interviews with the victim.
He also agreed
to statistically track these cases, and investigate other necessary
changes to insure that other women being beaten by cops won't
have their cases destroyed like Mitzie Grabner's. It's a start.