Recently, the former mayor of White Plains, New York, was acquitted by a jury of domestic violence charges after a re-trial of the original case. The mayor previously had been convicted of harassment and attempted assault of his ex-wife, who alleged that he threw hot tea at her and intentionally slammed a door on her fingers. The domestic abuse allegations led to his resignation as mayor, ending a once-promising political career. His convictions later were overturned by an appeals court, which held that he had been wrongfully denied the opportunity to call witnesses in his defense against the accusations, leading to the need for a retrial. At the retrial, a witness for the husband alleged that the wife stated that the door-slamming incident might have been an accident, casting doubt on her allegations of domestic violence.

A domestic violence accusation is likely to be a death sentence for the political career of a politician such as the mayor in this case. Being accused of such a horrible crime can cause a permanent loss in public esteem and reputation that even the most gifted and charismatic politician would be unable to overcome. Defendants such as the mayor in this case may never be able to recover from the loss of their reputation from allegations such as this.

In many domestic assault cases, the weight that the court should give to the allegations is unclear. In this particular case, there is the possibility that one of the incidences of domestic violence was in fact an accident. This is dangerous for a defendant, because it is possible for him or her to be falsely convicted based on a mistake of fact.

Anyone accused of domestic assault is entitled to an aggressive criminal defense and a presumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant may question witnesses, challenge the admissibility of evidence, and dispute the truthfulness of the allegations. On the other hand, any victim of domestic violence has the option of obtaining a temporary restraining order to protect herself or her children from her attacker. Both parties have the legal right to defend themselves and ensure that their rights are respected under the law.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “NY ex-mayor acquitted of domestic violence charges,” June 21, 2013