Skating on Thin Ice

Patrick Roy's slide from hero to zero.

Had the address been different -- say, the worst neighborhood in Denver -- and the circumstances otherwise identical, the police would have done the same. That's the law.

The newspapers and TV stations would not. That's the media.

Although domestic violence attracts far more notice than it did a decade ago, most of the women who were killed by their mates this month didn't make the front pages. The exception was Sharon Garrison, whose body was found last week buried beneath her front yard outside of Breckenridge. But despite the fact that her husband, and now accused murderer, had a history of domestic violence, Sharon Garrison's disappearance barely caused a blip until her friends and family sounded the alarm.

That alarm should have been ringing a lot sooner. Threats of violence are a warning sign. All too often, the fights, and the angry words, and the broken doors, have escalated into far worse. That's why the legislature voted six years ago to make an arrest mandatory.

After tempers cool, the courts can sort out the situation -- with both parties still alive to testify.

It's possible that the situation at the Roy household was misinterpreted that night. Michele Roy isn't talking with investigators, according to the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office -- a not-uncommon situation in domestic-violence cases. Patrick Roy has a lawyer, no doubt a good lawyer, who will see that the NHL's most winning goalie is treated more than fairly by the courts. Judging from the behavior of sports-team owners from the beginning of time (go, you gladiators), Roy won't get the deep freeze from the Avalanche, either. After all, he gets paid to be tough on the ice. And like the owners, sports fans have shown a remarkable ability to forgive athletes their off-field sins.

While he waits for justice to be done -- and Colorado's domestic-violence law requires that it be done quickly -- Roy can take a few tips from Pedro Astacio.

Last spring, shortly before the Colorado Rockies pitcher was to start off the first game of the season, his wife told police that he'd hit her in the face. Astacio's lawyers quickly worked out a deal that called for Astacio to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault involving domestic violence. But after they discovered that the no-jail deal jeopardized Astacio's INS status (federal law dictates that legal aliens working in this country be deported if they are convicted of certain crimes, including domestic violence), Astacio was allowed to withdraw his plea, proving that membership in the athletic elite still has its privileges. Now he's scheduled to go to trial November 15 on the original charge. Want to bet who'll be on the Rockies' roster next spring?

In the meantime, Roy, a non-immigrant in this country on a work visa, has more games to win. "Obviously, this is creating a distraction," he said Tuesday, "and my wish is that this distraction will be over soon."

The people pushing Domestic Violence Awareness Month surely wish the opposite. Thanks to Patrick Roy, Coloradans have never been so aware.

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