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New ruling flouts 2008 law designed to protect victims

Which concern outweighs the other: the idea that a potentially innocent man could be forced to remain out of contact with his children while a false allegation of a violent marital rape moves through the criminal court system or the possibility that a criminal who raped his wife now has unfettered access to his children—who are expected to be called as witnesses for the prosecution during his trial?

That's the question that a Louisiana appellate judge faced before ultimately deciding that the father's parental rights won out, because there was no evidence that he was ever violent to the children or threatened to harm them.

However, that decision is leaving a bitter taste in mouths of many critics—including the prosecuting attorney and those who advocate for the rights of the victims of violence. Some, like the executive director of the New Orleans Family Justice Alliance, say that the court's decision is blatantly ignoring a 2008 law meant to protect the victims of a violent crime. It prohibits the alleged offender from contacting the victim or the victim's close family and potential witnesses in the case.

The appellate judge says that the law was never meant to apply to a case like this. Victim advocates say this is exactly the sort of situation the law was meant to address—not only to protect the victim, but to protect the children involved. From the prosecutor's standpoint, there's clearly a concern that the children may find themselves being emotionally or psychologically manipulated into recanting their testimony or softening it a bit when they finally take the stand.

Yet, the father's attorney's say that he's actually the victim and that the charges are false, motivated by vindictiveness on the part of the ex-wife. The new ruling is, from his standpoint, merely righting a wrong that was keeping him from parenting his children.

There are times where there are no easy solutions, but it seems like the court took an "all or nothing" approach. It might have been possible to look for a middle ground that would have allowed the accused—a father who is still innocent in the eyes of the law—some time with his children while still protecting them from any coercive or manipulative actions on his part. That solution probably wouldn't have made anybody entirely happy—which in family court is often a sign that everyone's interests are being protected as much as possible.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Courts clear path for Uptown surgeon Sadeghi to see his children while awaiting rape trial," Ken Daley, Nov. 16, 2016

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