On November 14, 2021, a Pennsylvania woman petitioned the court for an emergency PFA against her husband, ex-cop Robert Vicosa, claiming he had falsely imprisoned her, sexually assaulted her, then released her while keeping their two daughters. She told the court she feared for her daughters' safety and said Vicosa had threatened to kill her and the kids if the police showed up at the house.
The court granted the emergency PFA Sunday night at 8:56 p.m. In the 18-plus hours between when the PFA was approved and when police attempted to serve it, Vicosa disappeared with his daughters and firearms. A few days later, they were discovered shot to death in a car, along with Vicosa's girlfriend Tia Bynum—apparent victims of a murder/suicide.
While the father and children were still missing, the victimized wife and mother filed a private criminal complaint against Chief Timothy Damon of the York Regional Police of Pennsylvania, claiming that two police officers had informed her that Daman had “put a stop” to the order. In a recent development, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office said in a statement that the criminal case against Chief Damon has been withdrawn and that a letter had been sent to the District Attorney's office citing “major concerns with certain lapses and decisions leading up to this tragic situation.” The reason for the withdrawal of the complaint was not disclosed.
A Preventable Tragedy
The big takeaway from this troubling story—and indeed the reason why a complaint was filed in the first place—is that a Protection from Abuse Order is only as strong as its enforcement. The department's failure to serve an emergency PFA for more than 18 hours may very well have cost the two children their lives. Although PFAs are fairly easily obtained (and frequently abused due to false accusations), this tragic event is a sobering reminder that in the right circumstances, PFAs are an important tool for victims of domestic violence and that timely enforcement is critical to ensuring their safety.
PFAs Protect the Defendant as Well as the Victim
It's also worth noting that PFAs are not one-sided. While they offer vital protection to victims, they also afford some measure of protection to the accused because they can potentially stop them from making irreversibly bad decisions in the heat of passion. This is why it's so important for police officers to serve PFAs properly and in a timely manner—to ensure that neither party can take unilateral action with potentially deadly consequences, as in the case of Robert Vicosa, Tia Bynum, and the two daughters.
Compassionate Legal Help for the Accused
When issued unfairly, a PFA can have highly disruptive and long-lasting consequences for the person accused of domestic violence--but as we see in this story, a PFA can also be potentially lifesaving while preventing the accused from making a bad situation worse. Either way, if a Protection from Abuse Order is threatening to fragment your family—or if you have violated a PFA and are now facing more serious charges—you need compassionate legal counsel in your corner. Call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm right away at 888-535-3686 to get the help you need.
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