U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova said yesterday that proper procedures were followed last week when charges were dismissed against a man accused of breaking into the apartment of the mother of his two children and threatening to kill her. The following day, police allege, the man fatally shot the woman.
"The ultimate outcome is very sad and of concern to all of us," diGenova said after reviewing the case, "particularly in light of the degree to which we have tried to sensitize ourselves to the seriousness of domestic violence . . . but the matter has been reviewed and we're satisfied that everything was done properly."
Michael Anthony Scott, 22, is accused of shooting Leedonyell Williams in a stairwell in her Southeast apartment building last Friday, the day after he was arrested for allegedly slipping the lock of Williams' apartment and holding a gun to her head, telling her "that he was going to kill her," according to a police affidavit.
Prosecutors decided to dismiss those charges because the couple appeared to be involved in a domestic and child custody dispute and no gun was found, sources said. During the Thursday incident, Scott took one of the couple's two children back with him to his apartment, where he was later arrested.
DiGenova said yesterday that senior prosecutors met yesterday to discuss the office's handling of the case. He said he had concluded that the case was handled "according to guidelines," including review by a senior supervisor before the charges were dismissed.
"There are a host of factors that are taken into consideration," diGenova said, citing an arresting officer's impressions and a prosecutor's experience as factors generally considered in decisions to proceed with prosecution or drop charges.
DiGenova would not speak specifically about factors considered in the dismissal of this particular case, but other sources said important considerations were that police found no gun and no signs of physical injury, and that police and prosecutors formed the impression that the case involved a domestic spat.
DiGenova said yesterday that his office had increased the number of warrant issued annually in domestic violence cases by a "quantum leap . . . from the tens in the late '70s and early '80s and now we're in the hundreds." But he said that these kinds of complaints remain among the most difficult for a prosecutor.
"They are very, very difficult decisions to make because of the regularlity with which the complainant refuses to go forward," he said. "But even in the face of these refusals we are charging more and more domestic assault cases."
After Williams' death, her mother, Naomi Bush, said that Williams had previously reported to police that she had been bothered by Scott and that on advice from police had filed complaints with the Citizens Complaint Center, which tries to resolve domestic problems without prosecution. Williams had a civil hearing scheduled on her request that Scott be barred from coming near her.
Bush said her daughter was not asked to come to Superior Court to provide more explicit details about the Thursday incident, a fact that others said may have had a bearing on the decision to drop the charges.