October 21, 2014

Elyria
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48°F
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Paper shield: Can protection orders really keep you safe?

ELYRIA — When Lorain police officer Corey Earl allegedly made contact with his wife after a civil protection order was issued against him, he defied one of the few tools authorities have to protect women who fear for their lives.

But protection orders don’t always work.

“As for protecting people, they’re just a piece of paper, so the protection lies in that the person who it’s issued against has respect for authority,” said Marilyn Zeidner, executive director of the domestic violence shelter Genesis House.

There are two types of protection orders for those who fear that someone might harm them — civil protection orders and temporary protection orders, which result from criminal cases.

A civil protection order is what Earl’s wife obtained after he allegedly came to her Amherst home in the early morning hours of Aug. 20 armed with a handgun and threatened to kill himself in front of her.

Those orders can be obtained at a hearing with only the alleged victim present, but they remain in place only until a full hearing is held.

Two days after the Aug. 20 incident, Laura Earl obtained the civil protection order from the county Domestic Relations court, where the couple has a pending divorce. The civil protection order could last as long as five years — if Laura Earl can prove that she has legitimate reasons to fear her husband, a 24-year veteran of the Lorain Police Department who was placed on medical leave after the Aug. 20 incident.

Amherst police say Earl violated the protection order Labor Day weekend, and he was charged with a misdemeanor carrying a possible penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if he’s convicted.

Earl currently is being held in a psychiatric unit at a Willoughby hospital on a court order.

Earl’s attorney challenged the civil protection order at a hearing last week, and a county magistrate must determine how long the order — which bars him from carrying a gun and from coming within 500 feet of his wife — will remain in effect.

That decision is expected within weeks.

The second type of protection order, a temporary protection order, is issued by police after someone is charged with domestic violence, assault against a member of the same household, menacing by stalking or aggravated trespassing.

Temporary protection orders remain in effect for as long as the criminal case lasts, Zeidner said.

It’s rare, Zeidner said, for someone to lie about whether they fear their spouse, as Earl’s attorney suggested was the case at the hearing this week.

“Most people don’t call the police on their spouse,” she said. “Everyone has arguments and has disagreements, but you don’t call the police unless you’re afraid.”

It’s not uncommon for people to ignore a restraining order, said county Prosecutor Dennis Will, adding that the only certain way to protect someone is to take them into custody.

“But (the orders are) more effective than nothing at all,” Will said.

Zeidner said if someone violates a protection order, it’s a strike against them on a lethality assessment used by the county’s Domestic Violence Task Force.

“If someone violates a court order, that increases the likelihood of future violence or homicide,” she said.

But it’s not always the alleged aggressor in the incident who breaks a protection order, Zeidner said. Victims themselves often call or stop by to see the person they got the restraining order against, she said.

But that still means the person with the restraining order against them is breaking it by not hanging up the phone or leaving, she said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.