Sunday, November 22, 2009

One Down, One to Go - The Shannon Burke Saga

Shannon Burke's plea deal in Seminole County on November 20th doesn't surprise me in the least. In the nearly three years I've been courtwatching, I've seen hundreds of cases either dropped or have minimal sentences when the victim does not want to help prosecutors hold their batterers accountable for breaking the law.

Believe it or not, his sentence is more severe than most. And it focuses on his assault to the dog (breed is pictured here), not on his treatment of his wife. Click here to review the evidence photos.

Catherine Burke was initially gung-ho about prosecuting her husband. But as is often the case, he is working very hard to redeem himself in her (as well as the public's) eyes, and she has decided to give him a second chance. It is a terribly difficult thing for those who've never walked in the shoes of a victim of domestic violence to comprehend - particularly when she almost lost her life. But as a survivor myself, I understand the numerous factors that go into influencing victims to give their partner another chance.

To recap, Burke pled to one count of Using a Firearm While Under the Influence of Alcohol and one count of Animal Cruelty. The charge of violating the conditions of pretrial release on the domestic violence case was dropped. He will be required to serve 6 months in jail (he must turn himself in by December 31st to begin serving), 3 years probation, and 100 hours of community service at an animal shelter. In addition to continuing his current counseling, Burke must attend one AA meeting each week and complete a firearm safety class.

All in all, it's a good sentence for a first-time offense (though there was another similar offense of discharging a firearm with a different woman for which he was never arrested). It's much tougher than most I see (which is a sad testament about our criminal justice system). Most first-timers have adjudication withheld, which means that if they successfully complete their probation, they are not considered a convicted felon.

I am disappointed, however, that the State did not require him to complete the 26 week Batterer's Intervention Program. The counseling he is currently doing will hopefully deal with the issues of power & control.

I am also disappointed that Judge Marlene Alva will permit Burke to participate in the Work Release Program if he qualifies. I hope his new radio gig, where he has bought his own air time, does not qualify as a "job" for Work Release purposes.

One down.

One to go.

Burke is scheduled for his Violation of Probation hearing on a 2007 DUI charge in Orange County next month. There are two hearing dates set - 12/4 and 12/14 - and we're not certain yet exactly when it'll happen. But we'll be keeping a watchful eye on it.

By the way, once it was all over in court on Friday, did anyone notice the Sentinel mention that Shannon asked his wife to fix him meatloaf for dinner Friday night? Seems to me he's the one that ought to be fixing dinner for her after all that he put her through.

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