OAKLAND, Calif. (BCN) - A group of domestic violence victims held a rally in front of an Oakland courthouse today to say they are concerned by reports that misdemeanor domestic violence cases would no longer be prosecuted if Pamela Price is elected as Alameda County District Attorney.
Price, an Oakland civil rights lawyer, is challenging longtime incumbent Nancy O'Malley in the June 5 election.
The victims said at the rally in front of the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse that the criminal justice system does not take domestic violence as seriously as it should.
Tami, a domestic violence victim who didn't want to disclose her last name, said, "Not prosecuting these misdemeanors would be a tragedy and could result in more being injured, maimed or even killed."
Tami said, "We simply cannot go back to the days when domestic violence cases were not prosecuted or seen as serious crimes."
She said the District Attorney's Office, under O'Malley, filed charges in more than 1,600 domestic violence cases last year and 75 percent of those were misdemeanor cases.
Tina Robinson, another domestic violence survivor, said, "We need to have our abusers prosecuted by any means necessary. All the abusers need to be held accountable for their actions."
Missy, another survivor, said not prosecuting misdemeanor domestic violence cases "is unacceptable to me."
Missy said she was abused when she lived in another county and because the charges were dropped against the man who had abused her he was able to get out of custody, lock her in a room for two days, burn her with hot oil, choke her, stab her and beat her up so badly that she was blinded in one eye.
Price watched the rally and said afterward that her position on prosecuting misdemeanor domestic violence has been misunderstood and that she would continue to prosecute all domestic-violence cases, including misdemeanor cases.
However, Price said there are many other types of misdemeanor cases that might be more appropriately handled by alternatives to criminal courts such as diversion programs or what she described as "collaborative courts and neighborhood courts."
Price said the current criminal justice system is particularly hard on black and brown youths, who she said are 20 times more likely to be incarcerated than are other youths.
She said, "We need to get rid of racial disparities."
Price said she's sympathetic to the women who spoke at the rally because she also was a victim of domestic violence.
She said, "I was prosecuted by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office even though I was the victim" and had to go through a trial, at which she was acquitted.
Price described the case against her many years ago as "an overzealous prosecution by the District Attorney."
In a statement she issued before the rally, Price said, "As a candidate for District Attorney of Alameda County, I want to once and for all unequivocally state for the record that I will use my personal experience as a survivor and my lifetime of legal experience to hold accountable and prosecute any adult man or woman who commits an act of violence against their partner."
Price said, "I will use the full force of the law and the DA's office to protect everyone subjected to intimate partner violence and hold those who engage in unlawful acts of violence and intimidation accountable to their loved ones and the community."
O'Malley didn't participate in the rally, even though it was held in front of the courthouse where her office is located.