Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Courthouse Beating
Did the legal system fail a young mother who was brutally beaten in a Broward County courtroom? Five months before the attack, she had asked for protection from her former husband, the man who is now accused in the attack. 7 News has uncovered some disturbing information. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- You're looking at the face of domestic violence.
Catherine Scott, Catie, was attacked inside the Broward County Courthouse during a divorce hearing last month.
Catie Scott, Beating Victim: "The first blow to my face knocked me out, so I don't really remember anything."
Her ex-husband, Paul Gonzalez, is charged with the assault.
At the time, Judge Ronald Rothschild was asked if the attack could have been prevented.
Judge Ronald Rothschild: "The only way I saw that it could have been prevented is if there was disclosures in advance to indicate that there may have been some violent propensities regarding Mr. Gonzalez."
Yet 7 News has learned Judge Rothschild had been told Paul Gonzalez had violent propensities.
Court records show he denied a request by Catie for a restraining order last November.
In her petition, she listed incidents dating back to 2005.
She wrote that her husband "physically dragged me through the living room and threw me out the front door with extreme force (police were called)."
She also wrote she was six months pregnant when her husband "shoved me into drywall causing large hole."
She also told the court he threatened "to break everything" she owned, used "sexually vulgar words" in front of their children.
Catie told the court she was "afraid due to his violent capabilities."
Catie Scott: "And I'm really obviously wishing that he had given me my restraining order so I wouldn't look like this and I wouldn't have had to go through this."
Carmel Cafiero: "In retrospect, do you wish that you had ruled differently?"
Judge Ronald Rothschild, Broward Circuit Court: "No, because in good faith, and I'm not saying this and I hope it doesn't sound in any way arrogantly, my responsibility is to entertain the evidence that is presented."
We asked Nova Southeastern Law Professor Mike Dale to review Catie's petition without knowing who had filed it.
Professor Mike Dale, Nova Southeastern University: "All of that put together in my judgment meets the test of imminent risk."
He thinks a restraining order should have been granted.
Professor Mike Dale: "In my professional judgment, that is both as a law school teacher in this area and as a practicing lawyer in this state, the answer is yes."
When a written request for a restraining order is denied, the law requires a hearing with both parties present.
That hearing was also in front of Judge Rothschild, and again, he denied Catie's request.
Catie Scott: "The judge told myself and Mr. Gonzalez that we needed to put our differences aside and the children first, and we needed to grow up."
Judge Ronald Rothschild: "I won't refute that, frankly. I'm not going to agree with it, but I'm not going to refute it, because again, I don't remember what I may have said."
After he witnessed the brutal attack that left Catie unconscious on the floor of the courtroom, Judge Rothschild signed the divorce papers.
He gave Paul Gonzalez shared parenting of their two young children finding "that it is in the best interest of the parties' minor children."
Bailiff: "Court is in session. Please be seated."
Since then, another judge granted temporary restraining orders against Paul Gonzalez to protect Catie and their children.
He can't go anywhere near them, despite the divorce decree.
At a hearing to make the orders permanent, a wall of BSO deputies stood between Paul Gonzalez and his ex-wife.
But when she learned there would be a delay and that she would have to come back to court, Catie broke down.
Catie Scott: "I can't handle this again. I really don't know what I'm going to do. This is way too hard for me."
Paul Gonzalez remains jailed on a $1 million bond.
Catie Scott has had surgery to repair her broken jaw and is healing. But invisible injuries may never heal.
Catie Scott: "I'm really going through hell. I'm struggling with nightmares every single night."
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