Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Three lives could have been spared

Nearly three weeks ago, Jose Antonio Maisonet-Maldonado stabbed Berlitz Alvelo, his girlfriend of five years, ran over her with their SUV and subsequently killed two more women by crashing into their vehicle after leading law enforcement officers on a high speed chase in Orlando.

The Orlando Sentinel reported:

Danielle Tavernier of the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office said Maisonet-Maldonado had been arrested on four domestic-violence charges since 2005, but prosecutors were forced to drop those cases because Alvelo was "not cooperative."

Officials accused Maisonet-Maldonado and Alvelo of throwing beer bottles at each other in an incident in November. Court records show they also bit each other. Maisonet-Maldonado also was arrested in 2007 as a result of a domestic-violence incident, but Alvelo refused to provide a sworn statement and the state dropped the charges.

The suspect's previous arrests on domestic-violence charges included two in 2005, according to the state attorney's office. Alvelo was the victim in both cases. She refused to cooperate with authorities in the first of the 2005 cases and recanted her story in the second arrest.
In an earlier article, the Sentinel reported that in 2009, "witnesses outside a Lil Champ convenience store off North Dean Road watched as Maisonet-Maldonado struck Alvelo on the head twice with the ball of a claw-type hammer after they had a fistfight in their car, according to Sheriff's Office records. She again declined to assist prosecutors."

Is it just me, or does it sound like Ms. Alvelo is somehow being blamed for not "assisting" the prosecutors? Apparently, none of the witnesses outside the Lil Champ convenience store were willing to "assist" prosecutors either.

I've monitored several cases where the State Attorney's Office will, when victims are unwilling / uncooperative / unavailable to participate in a prosecution, proceed IF there is enough other evidence available. This might include the victim's 911 call for help; photos of any injuries; evidence from the crime scene; and last, but not least, other witnesses. Juries will convict if the State is able to prove its case.

If law enforcement failed to document the crimes adequately, shame on them.

If witnesses failed to step up and provide testimony, shame on them.

If the State Attorney's Office had adequate evidence (photos, 911 call, other witnesses) and didn't proceed, shame on them.

Berlitz Alvelo, 35, Amanda Taylor, 28, and Francesca Jeffrey, 22, would probably be alive today if the community and the criminal justice system had done its job after the Lil Champ assault.

Finally, we need to remember that a victim often doesn't "assist" in prosecuting their batterer because it's usually not safe for them to do so. The community needs to hold these perpetrators accountable by being willing to "assist" whether or not the victim chooses to participate.

It is inappropriate and offensive for the media and the rest of us to point the finger at the victim and blame them for "declining to assist prosecutors."

Maisonet-Maldonado is currently being held on NO BOND in the Orange County jail. Let's amend this to say FOUR lives could have been spared.


  1. Clear headed accurate assessment. I wonder what authorities consider proper criterion for intervention in such cases? Police as criminal historians has not ever worked. here crimes were committed and nothing was done...is that unusual?
    Individuals should take their jobs seriously to the end that proper presentation and characterization could have the potential to disarm murderous events. Tough call, can common sense prevail?

  2. See also 2003-CF-013860-B-O, found using myclerk search for Jose Maisonet, same DOB. Charged with Agg Assault and Burglary with Assault or Battery, eventually nolle pros'd by State, which typically means defendant knew the victim, who declined to cooperate in the prosecution.
    Phil Townes