She was waiting on a March parole hearing for her chance to make the case that her former boyfriend -- the man convicted of trying to kill her four years ago in front of their two children -- should not be released from prison.
She didn't know there was any other way for Kevin Derrick Adams to win an early release.
But a friend called the former Janine Williams on Wednesday morning, telling her that she had read in the newspaper that Adams had been set free a day earlier.
His lawyer had persuaded a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge that the 40-year-old Baltimore man had turned his life around in prison and shouldn't have to wait for his first parole hearing to be released.
"I was in total disbelief that he was actually out, just like that," said Janine, 40, who married a month ago and asked that her new last name and where she lives not be published for her safety and the safety of her children.
"I don't think at this moment that he'd do anything, but I didn't think he'd do anything the last time," the Baltimore County woman said yesterday.
She suffered life-threatening wounds when Adams repeatedly stabbed her in the back with a butcher knife in September 2000 at a Parkville house where she had met him to pick up their two children, court records show.
Two months before the knife attack, in July 2000, Janine obtained a protective order against Adams, a high school boyfriend whom she had been dating for seven years as an adult, telling police that he had punched her and told her that he "could have her killed," court records show.
Janine said she wishes she had had a chance to tell Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl why she thought Adams' nine-year prison sentence should not have been reduced to the four years he had served.
"It was kind of hard to read the judge say he had never seen someone become such a model prisoner so quickly when I never got to share my side," she said.
Late last month, the state's attorney's office mailed a letter to the last address they had on file for Janine, informing her of the sentence-modification hearing, said Stephen Bailey, the prosecutor who handled Adams' attempted-murder case and argued at Tuesday's hearing against the defendant's request for a lesser sentence.
'The undoing of justice'
Bailey, who characterized the judge's decision as "the undoing of justice," said that letter never came back as undeliverable.
When Bailey attempted to telephone Janine before this week's hearing, he could not reach her. He said he called the last home and work numbers that his office had for her, and that he went through his case file in search of old phone messages that might have included a different phone number. His office also checked Motor Vehicle Administration records for a newer address, he said.
Bailey came up empty.
The reason was that Janine moved about seven months ago. Although she updated her contact information with Maryland's Division of Parole and Probation -- the state agency that would inform her of Adams' scheduled parole hearings -- she incorrectly assumed that the information would be shared with the rest of the criminal justice system.
James F. "Frank" Wiley, Janine's stepfather, who lives in upstate New York, said the family's absence from this week's hearing might have been a result of Janine's oversight.
But he said that doesn't make Adams' release from prison more palatable.
"We certainly feel that the judge's actions in this case were outrageous and inappropriate," Wiley said. "We thought the initial sentence was absolutely unfair. It seems this judge ... puts the rights of the defendant far above the rights of the victim, and I think that's an absolutely unconscionable position to take."
Wiley, a career law enforcement officer who is police chief at the University at Albany, said he is considering enrolling his daughter in self-defense classes or hiring a security guard for her.
Judge defends decision
Kahl, the judge who sentenced Adams in July 2001 and granted his request for a lesser prison term this week, defended his decision.
"I'm sorry that she's upset, but the man was going to be paroled in the next three to six months," the judge said in an interview yesterday. "I don't believe he's any danger to her or to anyone else. She has a new name and a new identification, and I doubt if he would even know how to contact her."
Kahl said that if Adams does attempt to contact Janine, he could be forced to serve the rest of the 15-year sentence that the judge imposed when he suspended all but nine years of the prison term.
Jack B. Rubin, Adams' attorney, said his client is well aware of the order prohibiting him from contacting his former girlfriend.
"Any attempt to reach out to this young lady would result in an immediate warrant and he would be picked up, held, I am sure, without bail and ... charged with a violation of probation," he said. "If it's proven, he would be on his way back to the Division of Correction, which is where he doesn't want to be."