Yesterday Mets closer Jeurys Familia pleaded not-guilty to domestic violence charges arising out of an October 31 incident in which his wife, Bianca Rivas, called police and was found to have been scratched and bruised. There is a December hearing scheduled in Familia’s case. It seems, however, that the case may not last even that long. James Wagner in the New York Times:
When the hearing concluded, Familia and Rivas embraced and walked out of the courthouse together before driving away in the same car. Asked if Rivas wished to drop the charge, her lawyer, Cathy Fleming, answered, “She’s dropping it,” and then declined further comment.
Contrary to what TV and movies tell you, a victim of a crime does not have the power to formally “drop charges.” Charges are brought by the government, in this case Fort Lee, New Jersey, and decisions to prosecute or not rest in the government’s hands. However, if a victim in a case where the prosecution hinges almost exclusively that person’s testimony signals their that they will not cooperate and that they desire the case not to proceed, it has basically the same effect. Upshot: figure that the prosecution of Familia will, in fact, progress no further.
There are a lot of reasons why an alleged victim in a domestic violence case may not wish to see the prosecution proceed and such a situation is not necessarily uncommon when the alleged victim is the spouse of the accused and has a child with the accused as Rivas does with Familia. Often, perversely enough, the prosecution of the alleged abuser can work newfound harm on the alleged victim, especially if she depends on him to any extent for financial support. Domestic violence charges, for this reason and a host of others, are often the most difficult cases to prosecute.
If the criminal case does end soon, it will then be Major League Baseball’s turn to determine whether Familia will face suspension under the league’s Domestic Violence Policy. A policy which does not hinge on the successful and completed prosecution of the accused player.