Domestic violence accusations against a suspended district attorney in Somerset show just how complicated these cases can be. One important takeaway is that if a third party alleges abuse, but a purported victim denies being a victim, a prosecutor may still press charges against the accused.
Somerset district attorney Jeff Thomas is on leave following accusations of domestic abuse by an unnamed third party. To complicate matters, the accuser has now obtained a protection from abuse (PFA) order against Thomas' wife, Amy—the person who is alleged to have been Jeff Thomas' abuse victim.
Here's the condensed story: Unnamed accuser says that, while she was on a FaceTime call with Amy Thomas, she witnessed Jeff Thomas striking Amy. Amy Thomas denies this. The unnamed accuser also alleges that Amy Thomas has “entered her residence uninvited,” harassing her because she contacted the police. The unnamed accuser has since obtained a PFA order against Amy Thomas.
In This Case, the District Attorney's Wife Could File Domestic Abuse Charges
Pennsylvania's domestic violence laws apply to this case of Amy and Jeff Thomas, even though Amy choose not to pursue criminal charges. In Pennsylvania, relationships between spouses and ex-spouses fall under domestic violence statutes, even if spouses no longer live under the same roof.
Amy Thomas has admitted to arguing with her husband the night in question and also acknowledges that she had various visible injuries. Only, she claims the injuries are from a car accident, while the unnamed accuser says they're the result of physical violence by Jeff Thomas.
If the allegations levied by the unnamed third party against Jeff Thomas are credible (as the state now claims that they are), then Thomas's actions would fall under the state's legal definition of domestic abuse:
“Causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, rape, sexual assault with or without a weapon, false imprisonment, or child abuse knowingly or intentionally to a family or household member.”
Because the state is pursuing the case against Jeff Thomas, he may face fines, jail time, probation, community service, or other legal consequences of a domestic violence conviction.
Meanwhile, the unnamed accuser was well within her rights to obtain a PFA order against Amy Thomas, who admits being angry about the criminal complaint filed against her husband.
A Situation Becomes Complicated When a Purported Victim Denies Domestic Abuse—Regardless, a Prosecutor Can Still Pursue a Conviction
If Amy Thomas had reported that her husband abused her, and the witness on the FaceTime call corroborated her story, then Thomas would have a clear-cut case for filing a protection from abuse (PFA) order and further criminal action. The situation becomes more complex, though, because Amy Thomas continues to deny that her husband caused her physical harm.
When a witness denies being a victim or refuses to cooperate with law enforcement or a prosecutor for other reasons, then the prosecution's case will undoubtedly weaken. However, the prosecutor has ultimate discretion whether to file criminal charges against the accused.
In this case, Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office did ultimately choose to file charges against Jeff Thomas, claiming that there is no evidence that a car crash caused Amy Thomas' injuries. It goes to show that even those with a victim's word on their side can face criminal charges for domestic violence.
Call the Lento Law Firm for Help With a Domestic Violence Case
If you or a loved one are facing allegations of domestic violence, a strong defense is absolutely essential. Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online for a strong legal defense.