Sleeping With the Enemy? An Interesting Stalking Argument
I just finished a Civil Protection Order (CPO) trial in D.C., in which the petitioner’s lawyer (provided by the District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office) argued that my client had been stalking the petitioner. For a little background, the parties were in an on-again, off-again relationship for about 7 months. They would break up, get back together, break up, get back together. The relationship was described in court as “volatile,” “dysfunctional,” and “tumultuous.” After one particularly unpleasant break-up, the petitioner filed for a CPO. Among her claims was that on three separate occasions, my client showed up to her apartment unannounced, and that she found this “upsetting.” In closing, the government attorney representing her claimed that these visits constituted stalking. As I argued, this argument ignored both the law and common sense.
Admittedly, D.C.’s stalking statute is breathtakingly vague. It defines stalking as “a course of conduct directed at a specific individual” that causes that individual to: “fear for his or her safety; feel seriously alarmed, disturbed, or frightened; or suffer emotional distress.”
The petitioner only testified that she was “upset” by these unannounced visits, not that she was in fear, or in emotional distress. But more importantly, she also admitted on cross-examination that on each occasion that my client showed up at her apartment, they got back together, and resumed their romantic relationship. Subsequent to those “unannounced visits” that petitioner claimed constitute stalking, the parties vacationed together and essentially lived together. So what the D.C Assistant Attorney General essentially argued was that the petitioner was dating, vacationing with, and cohabitating with her stalker. Would she argue that when Lloyd Dobbler showed up unannounced with his Peter Gabriel-blaring boombox in “Say Anything,” that he was stalking the object of his affection? Perhaps. It would be no more absurd that the argument she actually made.
So what did the judge think about her laughable reasoning? Not much, apparently. Correctly pointing out that this was a relationship that suffered almost weekly break-ups, he found that my client neither intended, nor should have expected that the petitioner would feel afraid, alarmed, disturbed, or frightened, at these attempts to resume the courtship. On the contrary, by resuming the relationship with my client after these supposed stalking incidents, the petitioner showed that she welcomed these visits. The judge found the petitioner’s testimony was not credible, and he denied the requested CPO.
The lesson to be taken from all of this is that the Attorney General’s Office vigorously pursues CPOs, and will apparently make any argument, no matter how ridiculous, on a petitioner’s behalf. Having an experienced D.C. domestic violence or CPO lawyer on your side may help level the playing field.
Contact Jay Mykytiuk at JPMLegal for a free consultation.