The alleged victim in an ongoing domestic violence case need not submit a list of her past dating partners to Monroe County Judge Peary Fowler.
Such was the Dec. 6 ruling by Circuit Court Judge Tim Koenig after the State Attorney’s Office appealed Fowler’s order requesting the alleged victim’s personal history.
The battery case against Bradley McBride – and Fowler’s request for his alleged victim’s dating history — has drawn county- and statewide attention, specifically from the National Organization of Women and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Representatives from those organizations accused Fowler of revictimizing the victim and, on a broader scale, perhaps discouraging other victims from reporting their attackers, if they fear their past will be relevant to the present case.
The case centers on McBride, 38, who is accused of attacking his ex-girlfriend in January 2018. The alleged victim called police, filed charges and showed them bite marks on her neck where, she said, McBride had bitten her.
McBride’s defense attorney Hal Schuhmacher, during a deposition of the alleged victim, had started asking her about her former dating partners and history with the goal of learning whether she had a history of accusing boyfriends of abuse, or whether she had ever been accused or convicted of perjury.
But before she could answer his questions, Schuhmacher told Keys Weekly on Dec. 10, the victim was “improperly instructed” by Assistant State Attorney Marisa Faraldo Tedesco not to answer Schuhmacher’s questions.
“In a deposition, we’re allowed to ask questions that, even if the answers are inadmissible at trial, if it could lead to discoverable evidence that we could use in our defense, then we’re allowed to ask it during a deposition,” Schuhmacher said. “That’s why it’s so important to understand the context here.”
After the woman was “improperly instructed” not to answer the defense attorney’s questions in the deposition, Schuhmacher said, “we filed a motion for sanctions against the state for instructing her not to answer. Judge Fowler didn’t file sanctions against the state attorney’s office prosecutors, but did rule that the alleged victim either has to redo her deposition with me or give a list of people she’s dated.
“That’s when all hell broke loose, and the state attorney’s office appealed Judge Fowler’s ruling to Judge Koenig, who, with all due respect, got it wrong in this case.”
But Assistant State Attorney Cristy Spottswood applauded Koenig’s ruling, and said in a statement, “It is important to protect all victims of domestic abuse from further victimization during pre-trial proceedings. We do not want to move backwards.”
Schuhmacher said State Attorney Dennis Ward and the organizations attacking Fowler unethically packed Koenig’s courtroom during the appeal hearing.
“I’ve never seen Judge Koenig rule straight from the bench without taking arguments under advisement and then issuing a later order. But he was clearly under political pressure. And we are going to appeal his ruling, which overturned Judge Fowler’s order.
“It upsets me that people are attacking Judge Fowler, who is prohibited from speaking about this,” Schuhmacher said, criticizing Ward and Faraldo Tedesco for posting their opinions about the case on Facebook and speaking about it on the radio hours before Judge Koenig heard the arguments.
Instead of forcing the woman to sit for another, repeat deposition with Schuhmacher, “which most people don’t find enjoyable,” he said, “Judge Fowler gave her an alternative and said, instead of redoing the deposition, she could just submit a list of people she had previously dated.”
The next step, Schuhmacher said, is that Judge Koenig will issue an order stating that the trial must proceed without the defense having access to the alleged victim’s dating history, “and we’ll be forced to appeal that ruling.”
The next hearing in the case, according to the Monroe County Clerk of Court’s website, is scheduled for Jan. 8, but appeals and motions could change that.