Judge would turn battered girlfriend into battered bride


It's the old story. Boy meets girl. Boy makes girl pregnant. Boy punches girl in the mouth.

And when the cops haul the guy into court, the judge sentences him . . . to marriage.

This is completely true.

Last week in Cincinnati, Judge Albert Mestemaker gave Scott Hancock an interesting choice. He would suspend a four-month jail sentence, but only if Hancock marries the women he loves/batters within nine months.

This is the judge-turned-matchmaker (I'm guessing his favorite movie is "Fiddler on the Roof") who apparently believes that if love doesn't conquer all, maybe marriage will. Boxing gloves optional.

So, the guy's a romantic. It's too bad he didn't live in the 19th century, or at least in the 1950s, when this particular kind of romantic was more in style.

Mestemaker would have us return to that hallowed time in American history before long hair and rock and roll when, if a girl got pregnant, her dad wielded a shotgun. And when people got married, they stayed married, no matter how much they hated each other.

Or whether or not they resolved those little marital difficulties with an uppercut to the jaw. I'm surprised the judge didn't recommend Mike Tyson as a marriage counselor.

In any case, Mestemaker used his gavel like a shotgun.

"Maybe somebody needs to nudge them along to get married," Mestemaker said, pointing out that he believes in "traditional American values."

This particular America value must be that marriage is at least slightly better than jail.

So, Mestemaker nudges Hancock. But Hancock did more than nudge Yvonne Sevier, his live-in girlfriend. He punched her in front of a bait shop near their house. That's what the cops said. Hancock said he just pushed her. Whatever, Hancock pleaded no contest to domestic violence.

This wasn't the first time the cops had seen these two, either. When they argued, which was often, she often ended up hurt.

That's another all-too-true version of the old story. Boy meets girl. Boy punches girl. Girl goes goes to court and says she still loves the guy. Judge, possibly on way to golf course, lets the guy off with an order to get counseling or treatment for an alcohol problem.

There was a certain O. J. Simpson who once passed that way through the legal system.

It's almost funny, if you can see past the body count. The hot legal topic is the fallibility of juries. It seems when they're not awarding $2 million for spilled coffee, as in the McDonald's case, they're imploding in public, as in the O. J. case.

Many people feel that in today's technologically speeded-up world, juries -- which are basically composed of people too dumb to escape jury duty -- are no longer capable of rendering justice.

Of course, the other option would be to leave justice to judges.

Like our own Judge Bollinger, who, in the infamous rape case, said that an unconscious woman in your bed was every man's fantasy. And like our own Judge Cahill, who, in the infamous wife-killing case, said that it was perfectly reasonable to shoot your wife if she cheated on you.

Like Judge Mestemaker.

These gray eminences are from a different time. They either missed the women's movement altogether or just decided to ignore it, except the part about going bra-less. I've heard more forward thinking in country-western lyrics.

Women's groups are predictably outraged. In the 1990s, God help us, many finally realize you don't tell battered women to stay with the guy who's slugging them. You tell them to leave. You tell them to call the cops. You tell them the legal system will protect them.

But, in Cincinnati, the legal system wants to force the batterer and the batteree, who have a 17-month-old child, to get married.

For the benefit of the kid, you know, and maybe the medical industry.

Of course, the ruling is almost certainly illegal. Even Scott Hancock, as benighted as he might be, understands the issues better than the judge. In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Hancock said he'd get married when he was ready, not when a judge ordered.

"I don't live in Russia," he explained.

And, besides, he asked: "If somebody hits you, would you turn around and marry him?"

Tell it to the judge.

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