This afternoon in West Jordan justice court, Pamela Hennessey and her sister Tricia Potter [her maiden name] finally got to hear Judge Ronald Kunz's thoughts on the handling of Potter's ex-husband's domestic violence case.---
In last week's City Weekly news story, My sister's keeper, Hennessey told of her struggles to establish a measure of accountability for domestic violence victims. In particular, her concerns focused on how Judge Kunz was "coddling" Robert Wiker, the ex-husband of her sister, despite him being convicted of assaulting her in front of their children.
In a courtroom crowded not only with justice court cases but also purple-wearing supporters of Hennessey and Potter, Kunz invited Potter to address the court. She expressed concerns over a variety of issues including Wiker not following his probation requirements and using drugs.
Kunz acknowledged that her court-filed victim impact statement, where she had detailed her ex's drug history, "had not been brought to my attention," even though, he added it contained details that revealed Wiker's "real underlying problem of drug abuse." He promises to take steps to ensure that victim impact statements would not, as Potter put it, "fall through the cracks" again.
He then told Potter he had obtained a copy of her divorce decree, while, he said, immersing himself in every detail of this case. Quite what the divorce decree had to do with the domestic violence conviction wasn't made clear. Kunz wanted to know why a decree stipulation that Wiker have drug counseling with Sandy Counseling Centers, a subject of controversy in Hennessey's letter - had not been passed onto the court by the victim or the perpetrator. Both Potter and Wiker denied any knowledge of such a stipulation.
Kunz was critical of Hennessey, noting she made "false correlations and erroneous interpretations of facts," in the letter she sent to Kunz and copied to legislators, West Jordan officials and media, while also acknowledging she had made some good points. He told Hennessey he would arrange a meeting in two weeks to address some of the concerns she had raised in the letter.
"I want you to know we do take domestic violence seriously in this court," he said. He then reviewed with Wiker his situation with regard to his conviction for heroin possession in St George's Third District Court, which had occured while he was on probation for the domestic violence conviction. Wiker said he was trying to put his life together. He had plans to open a Subway in Springdale but the council pulled his licence. He worked out two hours a day in a gym to improve his attitude, he told the court.
"Did you learn anything while you were in jail [for the heroin charge]?" Kunz asked Wiker.
"It's not the lifestyle I wanted," he replied.
Kunz told Wiker if he didn't become "a good person," which included paying on time every month his fine, then he would be serving the five years suspended he was sentenced to for the heroin possession conviction. He then let him go.
Potter walked out visibly upset with her new husband. An angry Hennessey, vexed at being called "a liar" by the judge, she said, not to mention seeing "the victim being put on trial", said her struggles with the legal system over accountability were clearly just beginning.