PAPER PROTECTION: Persistent violations, bungled case shred faith in system

2013-03-03T00:00:00Z 2013-03-08T13:06:17Z PAPER PROTECTION: Persistent violations, bungled case shred faith in systemMonte Martin monte.martin@nwi.com, (219) 852-4318 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Phyllis Roy believes her domestic battery case involved two assailants — her husband, who was convicted of the crime, and the legal system she says failed to protect her after the conviction.

Her husband pleaded guilty three years ago to felony strangulation following the bloody battering of Roy over the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday.

But the case did not end there.

She said she lost her opportunity to make a clean break with the defendant, Jerry Victor Gidrewicz, through harassing phone calls that violated a court order of protection she had against her husband.

Gidrewicz did not respond to two phone messages and a written request for comment left at his residence.

A Crown Point police report filed in 2010 by Officer David Wilkins details the original incident:

“Jerry began to strike her with a closed fist during the argument. Phyllis also stated that Jerry began to choke her and that made it difficult for her to (breathe). At that time, Phyllis attempted to leave the residence through a window, but Jerry was able to pull her back inside causing cuts and scrapes to Phyllis' legs and arms, which I was able to observe. Phyllis was eventually able to escape through the rear window."

Escape, that is, by being pushed through it, Roy said.

Days after the attack, Roy's daughter Ona drove her to the Lake County clerk's office, where she met Geneva Brown, a Valparaiso University Law School professor who runs a domestic violence clinic out of the county building. Brown and her students helped Roy obtain a court order of protection, barring Gidrewicz from coming into contact with Roy.

But eight Crown Point police reports dealing with their relationship indicate she has dealt with repeated violations of the order. They also show incidents on June 12 and Aug. 12, 2012, that prompted Gidrewicz to seek an order of protection against her. In one, Gidrewicz claims to have suffered bodily injuries. In the other, he claims Roy threatened his girlfriend.

“I'm going to counseling so I can better myself so I can overcome this, where he (Gidrewicz) just takes a back seat and thinks, 'This is another ride I'm on' … and it's a free ride,” Roy said.

Roy wrote to a deputy prosecutor on Oct. 31, explaining why she wanted Gidrewicz jailed for violating his probation by disregarding her order of protection through harassing phone calls.

“I am terrified for my safety and deathly afraid that if Mr. Gidrewicz is released from jail he will attempt to kill me ...," Roy wrote in the letter. "I fear for my safety, so much so that I am willing to move and keep my whereabouts unknown to Mr. Gidrewicz. However, I am currently unable to do so. I plan to move within the next six months. If Mr. Gidrewicz remains in jail for the duration of his probation sentence, I would be able to work and earn money. … It would give me the peace of mind and the opportunity I need to move forward with my life.”

Two days before her Dec. 6 court date on the matter, Roy offered her phone records to a deputy prosecutor who was scheduled to handle the hearing, but her offer was rejected.

During the hearing, Gidrewicz's public defender suggested that the only way Crown Point Officer Don Wasserman, who was on the witness stand, knew the phone number that appeared on Roy's cellphone was Gidrewicz's was because Roy had told him it was.

The attorney argued there was no real evidence tying the number in Roy's phone records to Gidrewicz.

Absent any records to prove otherwise, Judge Julie Cantrell rejected Roy's request to suspend Gidrewicz's probation.

But Judge Cantrell told Gidrewicz: "They (prosecutors) didn't do their homework. Doesn't mean I don't think you did it." 

A distraught Roy pleaded with Cantrell to allow her to submit the phone records then, but it was too late.

Prosecutor Bernard Carter agreed there were avenues by which the evidence tying Gidrewicz to the harassing phone calls could have been introduced, but Cantrell did not allow it. He said the deputy prosecutors thought they could win the case with the preponderance of evidence and didn't need to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Contacted later, Cantrell said even if the court had found Gidrewicz in violation of his probation, he already had been in custody for the maximum suspended sentence under his agreement with the state.

Had he been the deputy on the case, Carter said he would have taken the records Roy had offered.

“That's a lesson they learned,” Carter said, “and hopefully it will follow them through their legal careers.”

Roy still has another case in Crown Point City Court against Gidrewicz, which the prosecutor says his office is mindful of.

“I don't need to express how frustrated she (Roy) is,” said Brown, the law professor. “If it weren't for the sheer willpower of Phyllis, we would have lost her along the way. Because you lose clients based on frustration. … She is vigorous in her pursuit of trying to get justice in Lake County, and she has been frustrated at almost every turn.”

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