Four little heads stood out like fresh flowers in a coal pile.
Ranging from big to little, the oldest girl on the right to the smaller boy beside her to the smaller boy beside him to the smallest boy beside him – children of the defendant and the victim – sitting Wednesday in the Lackawanna County courtroom where a jury trial was scheduled to begin.
Police charged daddy Kevin with beating mommy Denise.
If convicted, daddy faced a prison sentence.
But even after getting battered, mommy didn’t want to hurt daddy. So she agreed to a deal that spared him from any chance of prison and a felony conviction on his record that would make it harder to get a good job.
Mommy needs him to get a good job, one that pays well enough for him to contribute to the household that he’s not part of anymore. If and when the divorce is finalized, she will still need money to put sneakers on eight small feet – the two smallest of which swung back and forth as the littlest Murphy kicked his legs and feet that didn’t even reach the floor.
Yesterday was a bad day for the Murphy family.
Yet, daddy Kevin made out.
They say he beat his wife.
Then he beat the rap.
And battered women everywhere lost a little something in the process.
The out-of-town judge from Philadelphia agreed to allow daddy Kevin into the ARD program, a break usually reserved for first-time non-violent offenders. Good prosecutors rarely agree to ARD in the case of violence, especially domestic violence. But the prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office agreed to the deal.
Even though he works for the state’s first elected female attorney general, Kathleen Granahan Kane – he agreed to a deal that trivializes violence against women.
It’s fair to expect Kane to know about the case – she might even know the defendant, who served two terms as a state lawmaker in the House of Representatives. Kane, like him, is a Democrat. And they both hail from adjoining neighborhoods in Scranton, where tribalism – particularly Irish-American tribalism - rules the political scene.
But maybe Kane didn’t know about the deal. If that’s the case she should have known. Regardless, Kane must be made aware of its impact and the sad damage the agreement her office supports does to other beaten women who depend on law enforcement officials to protect them and punish those who attack them.
Society is in trouble when the protectors enable the attackers.
We’re in trouble.
Daddy Kevin’s in trouble, too, because he kept that big chip on his shoulder in court, shaking his head as if in defiance, rejecting the prosecutor’s version of what happened that terrible day when the defendant savagely attacked his wife and her friend, beating them both and almost choking the friend into unconsciousness before fleeing – drunk, according to witnesses – in his car.
Daddy Kevin shook his head no and no and no again as the prosecutor described the beating Denise received at the hands of a big man with an admitted history of barroom violence who once told me he was considering not running for re-election because his wife was seriously ill.
Daddy Kevin remains in denial. But the big city judge either missed or ignored the dramatic and pathetic display of irresponsibility. And a dangerous man walked away unscathed.
Required to attend ninety AA meetings in ninety days, Daddy Kevin has yet to face his biggest weakness which, of course, is his ego. He lost his re-election bid because he lied about a college degree he didn’t have and then he lost his mind in a drunken rage. If he’s not careful he’s got more to lose that he claims he wants to keep.
In court yesterday I watched the littlest Murphy sit on his mommy’s lap and flash a big grin beneath a mop of beautiful wavy hair. It looked like one of his baby teeth had recently fallen out. The child seemed happy with his mommy.
But he also must have known that something is wrong with daddy, who is the only person with the power to fix what ails him. Good daddies always put family above themselves. And that test of goodness is always out there, beckoning the weak, the insecure, the drunk and disorderly and the lost to either succeed or fail.
Daddy Kevin beat the rap this time. And tomorrow’s another day. Flowers can blossom in a coal pile. But you better watch out for thorns.