The Broward County judge who ordered a husband accused of domestic violence to treat his wife to a night of bowling and Red Lobster earlier this week is coming under fire by a local women's advocacy group.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Broward Circuit Judge John "Jay" Hurley, Broward's Women in Distress agency President Mary Riedel expresses her disappointment in Hurley's ruling Tuesday in the case of Joseph and Sonja Bray.
"On behalf of all of us at Women In Distress of Broward County, Inc. who work daily with victims of domestic violence, we are extremely disappointed and concerned about your ruling and comments in the domestic violence case that came to your courtroom this week," Riedel wrote.
Hurley declined to comment Thursday.
According to Bray's arrest affidavit, Bray and his wife got embroiled in a spat after he failed to wish her a happy birthday. Bray's wife claims that her husband shoved her against a sofa and grabbed her neck.
Hurley, citing Bray's otherwise clean record and the incident's apparent lack of serious violence, did not consider Bray's behavior a major offense, and handed down the sentence which includes Bray buying her flowers and the couple visiting a marriage counselor.
"He's going to stop by somewhere and he's going to get some flowers," Hurley said. "And then he's going to go home, pick up his wife, get dressed, take her to Red Lobster. And then after they have Red Lobster, they're going to go bowling."
Hurley noted that he would not typically treat a domestic violence charge in a similarly jocular or light-hearted manner.
"The court would not normally [make this ruling] if the court felt there was some violence but this is very, very minor and the court felt that that was a better resolution than the other alternatives," Hurley said.
But Riedel said an incident of domestic violence that seems "like a simple issue today can escalate into tomorrow’s very dangerous and often lethal situation."
"To make light of what is a growing and very serious public safety issue here in our county demonstrates a lack of understanding around the issue of domestic violence," Riedel wrote. "Domestic violence is not solved with flowers, dinner and a night out."
Plantation Police, who investigated the incident, also didn't seem to laugh the incident off.
"We determined that a domestic violence law had been violated and we acted accordingly," Plantation Police spokesman Det. Rob Rettig said. "The Plantation police are going to continue to arrest offenders regarding domestic violence wherever probable cause exists. According to Florida law the act that took place in this case was indeed an act of domestic violence."