The Parole Hearing

The Parole Hearing

After serving only 15 months, my abuser was eligible for parole. I received a letter notifying me of the hearing and inviting me to attend with a statement. I believe without a doubt that he meant to kill me and that he’d finish the job if he had the opportunity, so I flew from Seattle to Boston to make a statement. I wasn’t able to prepare for or even read my victim impact statement when he was sentenced, so this was an opportunity I was not going to miss.

For what I hope was the very last time in my life, I was face to face with my abuser in a small room at the prison. I wasn’t prepared when he sauntered through the door and I was taken aback by his appearance. He was dressed in a khaki-colored jumpsuit and his thin, auburn hair was tied askew in a tiny ponytail with a piece of string. He smirked as he walked to his chair and then sat with his back to me. I was struck by how rough he looked. 

The Parole “Board” sent one member to the hearing, a former criminal defense lawyer named Tonomey Coleman. Mr. Coleman walked in, sat down and started talking to my abuser without acknowledging my presence in the room. As usual, I felt insignificant.

He asked my abuser a series of questions and my abuser showed absolutely no remorse. This surprised me. I expected him to say he never meant to hurt me and that he was sorry. I expected him to beg for leniency so that he’d be released as soon as possible from prison. But I was foolish. Instead, he pitched the same bullshit he’d been telling my family. He stumbled over his words as he attempted to portray himself as the victim of an evil witch. He told Mr. Coleman that I’d come to him with “evil” in my eyes saying I was sending nudes to “other men” and that I was leaving him to be with “other men.” 

I remember thinking “wow, he’s shooting himself in the foot with this bullshit.” He talked about me like I was Melisandre from Game of Thrones, the red priestess who manipulated the man in her life through fire and brimstone. He sounded like he’d gone mad and it was chilling.  

And Mr. Coleman didn’t seem impressed at all. In fact, he cross-examined my abuser on some of his ridiculous comments. He even insinuated that my abuser’s story sounded like bullshit.

Then it was my turn. I was nervous but very prepared to speak this time. But the second I started talking, Mr. Coleman called a prison guard over for a conversation. I hesitated and looked at him as if to say “I’ll wait”, but Mr. Coleman never looked up. It was obvious he wasn’t interested in hearing anything I had to say. 

I continued speaking very slowly and methodically so my abuser could hear every word, all the while thinking to myself “what the fuck?”. I flew all the way across the country because what I had to say was important. And I was being ignored. But maybe he’d already decided my abuser was criminally insane and should stay in prison.

I started by saying that “for the record” my abuser’s story about the night of the fire was entirely untrue and ludicrous. And then I read my statement. I described the events of that night, how my abuser doused my home in gasoline and lit a fire in a room directly under the bed that I was in, how he’d killed my dog and almost succeeded killing me. I described being stalked, manipulated and threatened for months after the fire, all while I was in a perpetual state of shock and fear.

I asked that the two and a half year sentence for arson and animal cruelty be served in full because I lived in fear. I explained that my abuser originally was charged with attempted murder, but that due to my fear and lack of cooperation the charge was dropped. I stated that the judge at sentencing felt that this case was a failed murder-suicide attempt and that I agreed with that assessment.

I explained that as PTSD has no cure, I had no choice but to serve a life sentence of my own and that I’d spend the remainder of my life struggling with debilitating triggers. I said I was certain that releasing my abuser would cause further trauma, as I no longer felt secure after witnessing what he was capable of doing.  

The moment I finished talking, Mr. Coleman stopped his side conversation, turned to my abuser and gave him another opportunity to speak. Then he told my abuser that he would have a decision within 24 hours. He abruptly stood and walked out of the room without even glancing at me. I had been dismissed. The patriarchy was alive and well.

A couple of hours later, I got the call that my abuser’s parole had been approved. I am certain that Mr. Coleman had made his decision well before the hearing and that the hearing itself was just a formality. I had flown 3000 miles because I was the crime victim and I was afraid of the criminal. But I was marginalized and dismissed.

After I flew home, I did some research on Mr. Coleman. He is a former criminal defense attorney hired for the purpose of tackling the Parole Board’s workload. The attached article in Boston Magazine described the current state of parole in Massachusetts when Mr. Coleman was hired as “a public safety issue that the parole release rate in Massachusetts is so low” and it’s obvious that Mr. Coleman’s job was to increase the rate of parole approvals. My testimony meant absolutely nothing.

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