Dustin Dopirak of The Bloomington Herald-Times
(subscription required) reports that a Monroe County judge granted a request for a protective order against Indiana running back Darius Willis arising out of allegations of domestic violence. Here is a link to a short excerpt
from the article on the H-T's Hoosier Scoop blog. I want to tread carefully here and be respectful of the H-T's pay wall and of the H-T's work on this matter. If you want all of the details, go to the H-T website and pay your $5.95. All that said, it strikes me as a fairly unusual situation. The allegation is that this incident happened in December, that the request for a protective order was filed about a month later, and that the order was entered recently. The underlying allegations, as the excerpt on Hoosier Scoop and from additional detail in the story make clear, are disturbing.
I have very little background in criminal law, but based on my experience several years ago as an intern at a county prosecutor's office, I have trouble making sense of what is going on. Apparently, the alleged victim did not want to press charges. In my experience, the wishes of a victim do not necessarily carry the day in domestic violence prosecutions. Often, the victims of domestic violence are married to or otherwise attached to the perpetrators and do not want to prosecute despite multiple instances of abuse. If the victim’s report is the only evidence that domestic violence occurred, then the victim’s failure to cooperate with the prosecution obviously can be fatal to the case. On the other hand, in cases in which other evidence is available, such as physical evidence of injuries or the testimony of witnesses, often the prosecutor will move forward, often to the consternation of the person who reported the abuse in the first place. Again, I don’t want to give away the H-T’s premium content, but suffice it to say that the evidence against Willis goes beyond the report of the alleged victim.
I’m sure it’s not unprecedented, but it is surprising to me that in a case in which the judge has found sufficient cause for a protective order to issue, there have not been criminal charges filed. Getting a protective order is much easier than convicting a criminal defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. There may be reasons why the Monroe County Prosecutor wouldn’t have filed charges, deficiencies in the evidence that aren’t apparent right now. Also, I have to make clear that my limited prosecutorial experience was over a decade ago. At that time, the prevailing school of thought was that for the good of victims and of the community, and because of the tendency of abused spouses to reconcile with their abusers, it often was necessary to prosecute even against the wishes of the alleged victim. Perhaps, in Monroe County in 2011, the wishes of the alleged victim are given more weight. I really don’t know.
In short, this is an emerging story. The allegations as reported in the H-T are disturbing, but we do not know what other explanations there might be. At this point, I will withhold judgment, but it’s a disturbing situation, and if Willis is charged and ultimately convicted, I would have to think that he will face a severe sanction from IU.