Domestic abuse victims unprotected after city repeals law

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 12, 2011 3:58 PM
Domestic abuse victims unprotected after city repeals law

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Kan (Reuters) - Some victims of domestic abuse in the capital city of Kansas were left without protection on Wednesday after the city of Topeka repealed its domestic battery ordinance because it does not have the staff and money to enforce it.

In an example of how financial woes are leading to extraordinary steps across the country, the Topeka city council on Tuesday night voted to abolish its domestic battery law.

The decision by the city council was the latest step in a dispute between the city and District Attorney Chad Taylor, who stopped prosecuting misdemeanor battery cases because of county budget cuts. He dumped those cases on the city.

Since September 8, Taylor has stopped prosecuting 30 pending domestic abuse cases including some where charges had been filed, city spokesman David Bevens said. Another 23 people jailed for domestic battery have been released without being charged, he said.

"You have a group of victims in the capital city of Kansas who are unprotected at this moment," said Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence. "This is an unprecedented step backwards."

City and county officials planned to meet Thursday in hopes of resolving the deadlock.

Taylor stopped handling misdemeanor cases because he said the county planned to cut his office budget by $350,000. That would require eliminating employee positions, he said.

"A reduction in staff necessitates a reduction in services," Taylor said in a letter to county residents posted Tuesday on the district attorney's web page. The cuts forced his office to focus on "statutorily mandated services and prosecutions," he wrote. District attorneys are required to pursue felony cases.

Taylor dumped the cases on the city of Topeka, noting that it has a municipal court and prosecutors who can handle misdemeanors, including domestic battery cases. City officials have said Topeka does not have the prosecutors, court staff or jail space to pursue such cases.

Taylor's spokesman could not be reached for comment.

(Editing by Greg McCune)