For Immediate Release

Divorced Father to Serve 6-Month Sentence for Opening Foyer Door to Assist Son Enter Apartment Building

Surrender hearing at Quincy District Court amidst 'Free Harry' courthouse protest set for Tuesday

Harry Stewart's refusal to sign false confession required for entry into batterer's program triggers jail sentence

QUINCY, August 16, 1999—Tuesday morning Harry Stewart will appear at Quincy District Court for his surrender hearing. At his trial on June 21, the day after Father's Day, he was convicted of violating the no-contact conditions of a 209A abuse protection ("restraining") order. Judge Joseph Welch imposed a six-month suspended jail sentence pending completion of a batterer's program (Common Purpose) and two years probation.

Stewart was accused of exiting his car and holding open an apartment complex foyer door to assist his 5-year-old son return to his mother following a scheduled visitation. Judge Welch instructed the jury that even though no abuse had taken place, their task was only to determine if Stewart violated the court order.

Orwellian "batterers program"

Excerpts from eight-page "Guideline and Agreement" document that must be signed by participants entering into Common Purpose batterer's intervention program:
  • "I understand that my acts of physical, emotional, and verbal violence are a means of controlling the victim's actions, thoughts and feelings. I accept responsibility for my violence and for my coercive control without reservation.
  • "I acknowledge the negative effects of my abuse on my relationship, my partner, my children, my friends, myself. I will be accountable for these effects to my partner and others.
  • "I acknowledge the root of my violence and the cultural and social context in which I used violence against my partner."

Stewart is scheduled to be tried in September on three other counts of violations of the many restraining orders his ex-wife has held against him following their family breakup. Stewart has never been accused of domestic violence. None of the alleged violations Stewart is facing are for anything other than violations of the no-contact provisions of the 209A orders.

Orwellian Batterer's Program a Catch-22

Conditions for Stewart's suspended sentence required him to complete a "batterer's intervention program" given by the Common Purpose organization in Quincy. When Stewart refused to sign the incriminating "Guidelines and Agreement for Group Participation" document (see sidebar: "Orwellian batterers program") he was refused entry into the program, triggering his jail sentence. The document is, in effect, a confession of criminal guilt.

Each year approximately 1% of the state's adult population is served with a 209A order; the majority are men. The Fatherhood Coalition asserts that 209A orders are not only routinely abused by women, but that the law itself is unconstitutional. Many of those adversely affected by the law are men like Stewart, whose problems stemmed from a family breakup.

The Stewart case is especially noteworthy because it highlights the panoply of injustices arising from 209A's triumph of hysteria, zealotry and disinformation over truth and justice:

In a prior court hearing to extend Stewart's existing 209A order for another year, Judge Eileen Shaevel repeatedly intoned, "But she's afraid of you," in response to Stewart's protestations that he had never been accused of violence and there had been no significant contact between the parties in four years.

Stewart has never even been accused of domestic violence, yet his wife's mere claim that she is "afraid of him" is sufficient to trigger a 209A order stripping him of his parental rights.

No distinction is made between violations that endanger the "abused" and mere technical violations, such as attempting to speak to one's children on the phone. All of Stewart's alleged violations are for these kinds of violations. There is also no distinction made between intentional, accidental, and contrived violations. Stewart did not intend to violate the 209A order, he merely acted as any responsible parent would. Men are prosecuted for accidental contact, such as in a shopping mall, as well as contact contrived by the "victim."

Domestic violence prevention is a one-size-fits-all black box. In September 1997, Stewart was featured on a Channel 7 News report on battered husbands. For 12 years, Stewart claims he was repeatedly assaulted and terrorized by his ex-wife. Though she once assaulted him with a knife, she is considered the victim.

Rather than receiving treatment for her violent behavior, Stewart's wife has been treated as a victim of domestic violence. She has been given the confusing message that even though she is violent, she is a still a victim.

To avoid jail, Stewart was required to admit to crimes he never committed. In these programs, typical psychobabble jargon is employed to classify innocent men who refuse to admit to their "crimes" as "in denial," or "minimizing" their abuse. Stewart's conscience prevented him from capitulating to this pressure, and now he must pay the price.

From 1692, when jury acquittals eventually ended the Salem witch trials, to a 1972 federal appeals court decision, juries have been empowered to vote their conscience when they believe that adherence to the law will result in an injustice. The jury in Stewart's case should have been instructed not only that Stewart is not accused of abuse, but that they should find him not guilty if they think it would be unjust to convict him.

Fatherhood Coalition to hold 'FREE HARRY' courthouse protest

At the courthouse protest, many sympathizers will be on hand with picket signs and handouts to protest this gross miscarriage of justice. Additionally, the coalition will soon formally request the Judiciary Committee to petition the Supreme Judicial Court for a thorough constitutional review of 209A and a reversal of Stewart's judgment and sentence.



For further information, contact:

Mark Charalambous
CPF Spokesman

Phyllis Field, Esq.
(Stewart's attorney)

John Flaherty
CPF Co-Chairman

Harry Stewart
CPF-South Shore chapter





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