Complex domestic violence law left victim exposed
NASHUA — Last Friday, Kaylee Solano drove to Derry District Court to seek a restraining order because she believed her former boyfriend was capable of violence. The request was denied. Three days later, she found herself at gunpoint in a Nashua motel room — a horrific validation of mounting fear.
The administrative judge for the New Hampshire Circuit Courts admits that it is difficult trying to decide whether to authorize a domestic violence petition, but maintains that judges are trained to decipher the documents and make the best decisions possible.
“I have been a judge since 1985, and my experience is that domestic violence issues, stalking issues and matters involving children are all taken seriously, and that judges are trained to make sure they sit down and read through the petitions carefully,” said Judge Edwin Kelly.
Kelly would not comment specifically on the case involving Solano, 21, of Windham, whose restraining order request was denied by Judge Lucinda Sadler on Friday, the same day it was filed.
On Monday, Solano was allegedly abducted at gunpoint by her ex-boyfriend, Stanislav Osherov, 22, of Massachusetts, and taken to a Nashua motel, where she was allegedly tied up and sexually assaulted.
Sadler is not commenting on why she made her ruling in the case, but Kelly did answer some general questions about how domestic violence petitions are considered by courts.
“On a personal note, I think judges — none of them — ever want to see anything happen to someone,” said Kelly. “Each of us has a job to do, and we have to look at what the law says.”
Kelly stressed that he would not second guess Sadler’s decision, adding he was not at the Derry courthouse the day Sadler made her ruling.
Kelly acknowledges that domestic violence petitions are sometimes difficult to understand, and that he often retrieves a copy of the state statutes to review when making decisions on specific requests.
“I think that is standard in the state,” said Kelly. “These are all incredibly dangerous situations, potentially.”
“There are some statutes that tend to create confusion,” he said, stressing the domestic violence and stalking petitions are very similar.
There is a state coalition with local crisis centers around New Hampshire that have representatives available to help individuals at various courthouses when they are completing these forms, Kelly said.
Court clerks are also trained to point someone in the right direction and suggest which petition may be appropriate for different cases, he said.
Although Solano’s domestic violence petition was denied, she admits that a court clerk in Derry offered her a stalking petition to fill out as well. After the first restraining order was rejected, however, Solano said she already felt defeated and didn’t see a reason to fill out the similar paperwork.
Solano specifically mentioned in her petition that Osherov allegedly called her phone about 120 times in a three-day period, while also sending her more than 70 texts. She also mentioned a threat that Osherov allegedly made about posting derogatory comments onto her Facebook page, according to court documents.
Her petition that was denied last Friday and Judge Sadler stated in the ruling that the request “does not rise to level required by statute as to imminent threat,” according to court documents.
Kelly emphasized on Thursday that the domestic violence statutes are highly specific and that a credible threat must be made in order to grant a restraining order.
If a judge is not clear about something written in a petition, he or she is able to contact the petitioner and seek additional information that may not have been articulated in the written request, said Kelly.
“These cases, no matter when they come in, are handled immediately,” said Kelly. “It takes a priority in the court.”
Solano told the New Hampshire Union Leader this week that she knew her former boyfriend was going to hurt her eventually, and that her instincts prompted her to seek a restraining order last week. Solano says she is frustrated that the court system failed her after she tried to prevent her horrific experience earlier this week at Motel 6 in Nashua where Osherov engaged in a standoff with police for about 10 hours.
He is facing charges of kidnapping and felonious sexual assault for the incident.