Abuse victim, children to return home after appeal

October 24, 2008|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,jennifer.mcmenamin@baltsun.com

Parbadee Ann Bisnath is finally going home.

For 24 days - since a judge ruled that her ex-husband had threatened to kill her with a knife in front of their children but declined to order the man to leave the house they share - the Owings Mills woman, her son, two daughters and their Jack Russell terrier have been living with her attorney.

They left their own home in late September after Baltimore County District Judge Bruce S. Lamdin refused to order Gordan Bisnath to stay away from his ex-wife and their house, even though the judge found that the man had previously abused Ann Bisnath and vowed on Sept. 23 to kill her.

Hearing the case on appeal yesterday, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert N. Dugan signed a consent order that required Gordan Bisnath, 48, to move out of their house yesterday and not return until Jan. 1. He is also prohibited from contacting his ex-wife or going to the places she works as a housekeeper.

"I wanted him out of the house because he was abusive," Ann Bisnath, 47, said after yesterday's brief court hearing. "He didn't seem to understand that. But now, he is not allowed to call or come by, so I feel very safe. That's all I wanted."

Advocates for victims of domestic violence expressed concern and surprise at the previous judge's handling of the case, explaining that provisions to remove abusers from the home where they have abused their partners or children are routinely granted in such cases.

That Lamdin, the judge who heard the case initially, served a 30-day suspension this summer for making profane and uncivil comments in court, worried the victim's lawyer even more.

Attorney Barbara Solomon Brown said Lamdin expressed concern in court for where Gordan Bisnath would live if he could not return home. Now that her client will be allowed to live at home while making other long-term living arrangements, Brown said she intends to file a complaint about the judge with the Maryland commission that investigated Lamdin's prior conduct and recommended his suspension to the state's highest court.

"They're always looking over their shoulders," she said of the effect of the case on her client and the Bisnath children. "Starting this afternoon, I think they're going to be able to breathe and be kids again."

Britta Hugoson-Burnet, an attorney who represented Gordan Bisnath at yesterday's hearing, said he agreed to move out of his house for his kids.

"He loves his children and doesn't want to see his children displaced anymore," she said. She said she directed her client, who also faces criminal charges for the Sept. 23 incident, not to speak to reporters.

At the same time that the Bisnaths' lawyers were working on the protective order that the judge would sign, Gov. Martin O'Malley stood on the steps of the Old Courthouse Building in Towson to announce a $1.8 million federal grant to organizations that help domestic violence victims in Maryland.

Asked about the Bisnath case, O'Malley remarked on its "notoriety" and said that judges usually take into account imminent danger to a victim in an abuse case. "In the majority of the cases, the judge will order the abuser out of the house," he said. Generally, he added, judges should "err on the side of leaving the moms and the children in the home," which "just makes practical and public-safety sense."

According to Ann Bisnath and court documents, on Sept. 23, Gordan Bisnath threatened to throw a glass coffee table at his ex-wife, tried to throw an ottoman at her, threatened her with a kitchen knife and hit her repeatedly with the door as he forced her from their home.

Huddled yesterday in the courthouse hallway with her three children, Ann Bisnath said she was looking forward to moving on with her life.

"You can see the smile on my face," she said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Nick Madigan contributed to this article.

consent order

Under the terms of the consent order signed yesterday, Gordan Bisnath must:

* Vacate the family's home until Jan. 1.

* Pay his ex-wife $200 a week for food and pay all expenses associated with the home - including the mortgage, utilities, property taxes and insurance - through December.

* Pay $890 a month in child support, beginning Jan. 1.

* Complete a 26-week domestic violence program.

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