Williams accused of neglecting abuse cases

July 23, 1994|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Sun Staff Writer

The Senate Judiciary Committee has asked Alexander Williams Jr., who is being considered for a federal judgeship, to respond to allegations that he has neglected spouse abuse cases as Prince George's County state's attorney.

The concerns were first raised with the committee last year by Joan S. Meier, director of George Washington University's Domestic Violence Advocacy Project. She claims that the case of one of her clients, a battered Prince George's County woman, was mishandled by Mr. Williams' office.

In letters this week to Judiciary Committee members, Ms. Meier urged them to vote against confirming Mr. Williams. She claims the prosecutor's office gave insufficient attention to a number of cases and "displayed an appalling hostility and abusive attitude toward battered women."

"I do not believe that a candidate should be confirmed for a lifetime judicial appointment without a full and serious consideration of his attitude towards women's issue," she wrote.

Julia Jones, a board member for the county's Family Crisis Center, said she, too, is writing the committee about those concerns.

A spokesman for Mr. Williams said a written response will be submitted to the Judiciary Committee next week.

Jack Johnson, the county's deputy state's attorney, said he was unfamiliar with the case Ms. Meier handled. The office prosecutes about 300 domestic violence cases a month and has a 90 percent conviction rate, he said. "We have one of the best domestic violence units in the state," Mr. Johnson said. "Our policy is that no domestic violence case is dropped."

Ms. Meier, an associate professor of clinical law, said the case that captured her attention involved a woman whose male companion broke into her apartment and stabbed her.

She said the prosecutor's office originally charged the assailant with a misdemeanor. The charge later was upgraded and the man pleaded guilty to a felony of maiming. The assailant had remained free on bond despite flagrant violation of the conditions of his release, but prosecutors did nothing to revoke his bond, Ms. Meier said.

When her client reported a second attack by another man, prosecutors renounced her as not credible, even though police found her covered with blood both times, Ms. Meier said.

Ms. Jones of the crisis center said that in 1990, after three years of beatings by a male companion, she pressed charges. The man entered an Alford plea, maintaining his innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.

But the attorney from Mr. Williams' office who handled her case seemed to regard it as "just one of those family things," she said. "There is a pattern by that office, and it is a complete lack of sensitivity, lack of urgency and priority."

Mr. Williams, who has been rated unqualified for the U.S. District Court seat by the American Bar Association, recently defended his record before committee members.

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