Thursday, October 11, 2018

Morganelli Taps Kassis to Lead Domestic Violence Unit

L to R: Lori Sywensky, Suzanne Beck,
Abe Kassis and Dean Wilson 
NorCo DA John Morganelli announced yesterday that he has named veteran prosecutor Abe Kassis to head up the busy domestic violence unit. Kassis' unit handles 15-17% of the entire criminal caseload. Admitted to the bar in 1995, Kassis has been an Assistant District Attorney for the past 18 years.

Kassis is getting help. Morganelli has persuaded Attorney Judy Chaverri, a Berks County Public Defender who graduated from Villanova Law School, to join Team Kassis. She is fluent in Spanish, which Morganelli believes will be a great aid to victims whose primary language is Spanish.

That's not all. Morgaenelli has assigned Detective Dean Wilson, a Bethlehem Tp Police alumnus, to the unit. As a Bethlehem Tp police officer, Wilson developed the "Every 15 Minutes" program, designed to educate teens about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Morganelli has charged Wilson with designing a similar program for domestic violence.

These moves are made as part of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

When he first ran for DA, Morganelli committed to (1) increasing the number of female prosecutors; (2) expanding a Victim/Witness Assistance Program; (3) prohibiting part-time Assistant DAs from representing parties in protection from Abuse matters; and (4) creating a Domestic Violence Unit.

He has kept all four promises. In fact, 50% of Morganelli's prosecutors are female. 

Abe Kassis
The Domestic Violence Unit has existed for 20 years,and has been led by talented prosecutors who include Martricia McLaughlin, Teresa Miranda, Kelly Lewis, Jacqueline Taschner and Erika Farkas. Detectives assigned to that unit have included Reggie Cora, unfortunately deceased, and Frank Jordan, unfortunately retired.

Since enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, Morganelli has noticed a two-thirds reduction in the overall rate of domestic violence. But as the criminal caseload suggests, the problem continues.

In recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Morganelli was joined by Lori Sywesky ( a NorCo alum) of Turning Point and Suzanne Beck of  Lehigh Valley Crime Victims.

"Unfortunately, the work of this team is as necessary today as it was two decades ago," said Sywensky. "Each year at Turning Point, we continue to help over 2,500 of our friends and neighbors who are living in violent and abusive homes here in Northampton County. Many are just reaching out to our hotline for the first time and learning for the first time that there are options and choices available to them. For many hundreds of people, they will turn to law enforcement and the courts for help. When they find the bravery to do this, it's critical that the helpers - investigators, prosecutors and judges -.understand the seriousness of the danger in these relationships and respond to them with empathy.

"As we celebrate our 40th anniversary at Turning Point this year. we've been asking people to share with us stories about their personal turning points. One in particular really illustrates to me just how powerful this work can be that we're doing. A person named Jan shared with is that she remembers standing in an elevator with a big smile on her face. Someone asked her, 'Why are you smiling?,' and she stated, 'Because I'm finally safe and happy.'"

"Victims and survivors of domestic violence present differently than victims of other crimes," added Suzanne Beck."Many often minimize and recant or even altogether deny their abuse as a result of the power and control that permeates their relationships.Many victims have been physically, psychologically, socially and financially abused for so long that they distrust anyone who tries to help them.

"to help victims regain trust in themselves and in the justice system, it is imperative that the process offers consistency and continuity. Specially trained prosecutors and detectives, just like the ones here, have a better opportunity to build relationships with victims and ensure that consistency and continuity. Domestic violence units like those here in Northampton County are indeed best practises.

'The ultimate goal, the reason we're all here today, is to keep victims safe."


Anonymous said...

I do not think there is a reduction in domestic violence at all right now, from what I personally know and see. Many women and unfortunately also men are victims for years before they speak up, if they ever speak up at all. Many never do, because even if they are fortunate enough to get out, they are then forced into joint custody arrangements with the abuser which just allow the abuser to continue the abuse "from afar" or, worse yet, inflict more damage on the kids. Poor women and women in rural areas of this county have even less options. I applaud these steps being taken, and yet we are so far from a real solution to this complex and devastating problem. There is still no way to get a PFA or protection from emotional/psychological/financial abuse - it has to be physical for police to truly intervene. Yes, we still have so far to go. Thank you for covering this issue Bernie. Without Turning Point, I'd still be suffering and my children would have had nothing under the Christmas tree that first Christmas alone. That organization is a Godsend.

Ron Karasek said...

Excellent choice,

Bernie O'Hare said...

3:01, I hope that one day you can be that person smiling on the elevator.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Effective workplace policy would be great start. It is my opinion that the greatest grade school risks of violence would be a domestic issue not a student,because of the overwhelming number of female employees and the victims are stationary and thus easily engaged. We have discussions about safety but most will Debate the issue incorrectly. HR professionals should be the ones that understand this the most not the police ,or guard at the school buildings.

Robert E Samberg said...

Abe is a very good man for a very important position.