Colum­bus ends fees for peo­ple who drop abuse al­le­ga­tions

Rome News-Tribune - - EDITORIALS AND OPINION - By Kate Brum­back As­so­ci­ated Press

AT­LANTA — A Ge­or­gia city has agreed to stop mak­ing al­leged vic­tims in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases pay fees when they de­cline to par­tic­i­pate in pros­e­cu­tions.

The city of Colum­bus also agreed to re­pay $41,844 in fees and dam­ages for the 101 peo­ple it charged when they de­cided not to press charges against their al­leged abusers.

Fed­eral Judge Clay Land ap­proved th­ese terms in a class ac­tion set­tle­ment of a law­suit filed by the South­ern Cen­ter for Hu­man Rights in Oc­to­ber 2016 against the city of Colum­bus, a lo­cal judge and sev­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

The suit was filed on be­half of Cleopa­tra Har­ri­son, who was 22 in June 2016 when she called 911 to re­port abuse. Of­fi­cers took her state­ment, ob­served her in­juries, ar­rested her boyfriend and told her to ap­pear in court, the law­suit says.

In court, Har­ri­son con­firmed an of­fi­cer’s ac­count of what had hap­pened, but told Colum­bus Recorder’s Court Chief Judge Michael Cielin­ski she didn’t want to press charges.

Cielin­ski then told her she owed a $150 “vic­tim as­sess­ment” fee for the time city po­lice spent on her case. She was warned that a war­rant for her ar­rest would be is­sued if she failed to pay within a week.

The South­ern Cen­ter said Thurs­day that Har­ri­son is one of many women who ap­peared in the court as the vic­tim of a crime, only to leave ow­ing money.

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