Jeff Thomas, Somerset County's suspended district attorney, is facing assault charges for allegedly repeatedly punching his wife, Amy Thomas, last May. On May 20, 2022, the Court of Common Pleas decided at a preliminary hearing that there was enough evidence to proceed with domestic violence charges against him, although both he and his wife deny any abuse occurred.
According to police, on May 15, 2021, while Amy Thomas's sister was on a FaceTime video call with Ms. Thomas, she witnessed Thomas hitting Ms. Thomas several times with a closed fist. Thomas was said to be driving during the alleged incident while his wife was a passenger. The witness later drove to Thomas's parents' home and observed her sister crying on the bathroom floor with bruises on her face and her clothing ripped. The witness took photos of the injuries and asked to take her sister to the hospital for medical attention, but Ms. Thomas refused.
Nearly one year later, on April 9, 2022, Amy Thomas' sister called the police to report a domestic disturbance occurring at the Thomas residence. As the investigation unfolded, the sister told officials about the incident that allegedly took place in May the previous year. Commonwealth officials promptly filed assault charges against Thomas in Cambria County. Thomas is now set to go to trial on charges of simple assault, harassment, and reckless endangerment. His wife continues to deny the allegations and says that she received last year's injuries from a car accident.
Who Brings Domestic Violence Charges?
Many people don't realize that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania brings domestic violence charges against a person, not the alleged victim of abuse. Even if the alleged victim denies being abused or the incident, a County District Attorney may bring charges if they believe there is sufficient evidence. The victim may voice their objections, but they have no say over whether the state will press charges.
Under Pennsylvania law, a police officer doesn't have to witness an act of abuse to arrest a person for suspected domestic violence. If a law enforcement official has probable cause to believe that a person has committed abuse or assault, they have the power to arrest them. Probable cause may consist of observing injuries consistent with assault on the alleged victim or having the testimony of a person who witnessed the assault.
In domestic violence cases, the alleged victim or a family member usually calls the police for help when they are being abused or threatened. However, once the police arrive, it's not unusual for the alleged victim to deny the incident or ask the police not to arrest the alleged abuser. However, the decision remains with the officers.
What happens if the alleged victim doesn't cooperate after the arrest?
An alleged victim of domestic violence may refuse to testify against a defendant accused of abuse. However, if the prosecutor has sufficient additional evidence of abuse, they may proceed with the case nonetheless. In the Thomas case, the prosecutor has Amy Thomas's sister's eyewitness testimony as evidence, the pictures her sister took of her injuries, and several text messages between Ms. Thomas and her friends about the beating. The prosecutor has likely decided that they do not need Ms. Thomas's testimony to successfully prosecute Thomas.
Hire a Strong Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in Pennsylvania
If you are involved in a domestic violence case, you will need fierce legal representation, whether the case involves assault, a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA), harassment, or stalking. Fight for your rights by calling attorney Joseph Lento and the Lento Law Firm today. Attorney Lento and his team will use their extensive experience working with domestic violence cases in the Pennsylvania justice system to build a strong case for you and obtain the best possible outcome. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or online for a consultation.