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Is There Racial Bias in Domestic Violence Cases in Westchester County?

Last year we wrote an editorial titled – Domestic Violence- A Growing issue in the Black Community and reposted it in October in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic violence, once considered one of the most under-reported crimes, became more widely recognized during the 1980’s and 1990’s, but all too often still goes widely unreported. While Black Westchester generally covers issues that affect the Black Community and in 2002, the number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 was homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner, domestic violence is a crime that doesn’t discriminate.

Domestic Violence, simply defined is violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner. It’s a pattern of abusive behavior that is often used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.

DV has received more and more national headlines even in professional sports when the NFL was accused not taking it seriously enough, in recent cases like the Ray Rice incident. Not to single the New Rochelle native out, but he quickly became the poster child for DV, whether you believe it was deserved or not. DV Awareness even often gets overshadowed every October by the more popular, Breast Cancer Awareness, which shares the same month. As with many other crimes, it’s believed that black men receive stiffer sentences than their white counterparts. What makes this believable is the fact that forty percent of the nation’s prison population is black, as compared to only 12 percent of the population as a whole.

A recent study suggests that, if you are white, and you are presented with evidence that our criminal justice system disproportionately targets black people, then you are more likely to support harsh criminal justice policies than if you were unaware of this evidence, ThinkProgress.org reported. Many dismiss this when blacks are the ones making these claims. But what about when a white woman in Westchester County, who was a victim of Domestic Violence, who spend over two years in court fighting for justice, makes the claim that she witnessed black men get hit with much stiffer sentences than her white husband, for doing much less than he put her through.

Recently during an appearance, on the Lisa Wexler Show on News Talk 1230 WFAS, Damon and I were invited to discuss the police officers in Yonkers who were indicted for falsifying search warrant affidavits, a story we were actively reporting, one of the regular listener of the show called up. A white women named, Debra M. Scheurich, who lives in Eastchester, called and talked about being stalked by her ex-husband who had physically abused her and even a court order of protection as part of his sentence wasn’t enough to stop him from constantly staking her. When she felt she had exhausted every avenue available legally, she reached out to us to her bring some light to her story, because she greatly fears for her life and believes he will kill her and nothing will done.

“The majority of the case where the abuser was white, like my ex-husband were adjourned,” Scheurich tells BW. But in the cases that came before Judge Capechi [who ruled on her case] and other judges, where the abusers were men of color Black or Hispanic they received much stiffer sentences than my ex-husband did for doing far less than what my husband put me through.”

Many white people in Westchester do not believe racial bias still exist in our justice system. But we must realize that eliminating the racial disparities inherent to our nation’s criminal-justice policies and practices must be at the heart of a renewed, refocused, and re-energized movement for racial justice in America, including domestic violence cases in counties like Westchester.

Debra who has been divorced since January 2014, was verbally, emotionally and physically abused by her then husband, Michael Carlo. Carlo even once ran her over with his car and beat up her grown son, who was coming to the defense of his mother. She is in constant pain from the car incident and suffered many severe injuries.

“I received a temporary order of protection on May 12, 2014, he violated it two days later and the police didn’t even arrest him,” Debra says just barely fighting back her tears and she rehashes the tragic memories.

After finally being convicted of harassment in the first and second degree, he was sentenced to only one year probation in January of 2015 (Docket No 0-00087-131). He has continually violated the terms of his probation, by stalking her, showing up at her cleaners, the local supermarket when she is there and even pulling up to her and staring her down at a stop light near her home. Despite numerous calls to the Eastchester Police, according to Scheurich, he has yet to be arrested.

The most egregious part of her story is the advise she says she received from Michelle James and other domestic violence counselors, that her only recourse she has left was to leave the state, and change her name, and not contact her family like if she was in witness protection. She was abused and she should leave everything she knows to be safe because the justice system has failed her? Something is wrong with that picture. She feel the justice system has failed her and now the police won’t properly protect her. She even explained she fears it will come down a his life or hers situation one day soon.

He has tormented her every way imaginable including getting into and taking money out of her bank account online and hacking her email accounts and changing her passwords so she could gain access to them. I met Ms. Scheurich for lunch recently to hear her story get a better idea of what she has been dealing with. While doing some research, and following up on her allegations, attempting to contact all involved, the judge, the DV counselors, the Eastchester Police Department and even foiling for information on the disparity or racial bias in Westchester County in cases of domestic violence, we received several calls from Ms. Scheurich who strongly believes her life is in danger. We heard the voice of a woman, who greatly fears for her life and is almost ready to give up on life, because she believes there is nothing else she can do and she has nothing left in her to continuing fighting. For that reason I am sharing portions of her story to shed some light on her situation, despite the facts that I haven’t yet been able to substantiate all of her claims.

“The police refuse to arrest him despite the fact that he is stalking me and continually violating the order of protection which is a term of his probation,” Scheurich shares with BW.

What further drove me as this editor to write this initial editorial was the fact that a young lady who works for BW, who is black, and has also suffered from domestic violence at the hand of her white husband, had a similar experience. As we were reviewing Debra’s story the young lady identified Capechi as the judge who gave her husband a slap on the wrist as well. She then shared how she too witnessed the racial bias in how the Westchester DA’s office and the courts handle domestic violence cases. Is there a problem in Westchester County of racial bias in the handling of DV cases? It’s something that many don’t want to talk about and feel doesn’t exist here.

We will be following up with everyone involved over the next few months, gathering and reporting whatever we find, especially looking into cases involving Judge Capechi. Anyone who has shared a similar experience, contact us at BlackWestchester@gmail.com. I want to be careful to state, while Debra Scheurich has the documentation and court papers to prove what happened in her case, we are still looking into the racial bias angle. We invite any other women who’ve had same experience to contact us. Again I repeat we felt it was important enough to start the ball rolling by writing this letter from the editor, because of Debra’s situation. We did not want something to happen to her while we were still investigating this story.

Stay Tuned to BW as we investigate the handling of DV cases when it comes to men of color as supposed to their white counterparts!

Debra Scheurich goes back to court on Monday, May 18 to get the money, Mr. Carlo was ordered to pay in their divorce settlement and has yet to so.

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About BWEditorInChief (33 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Author, Writer, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others. You can also hear AJ every Tuesday morning on The Bob Marrone show on WVOX 1460 AM
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