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Unnecessary Roughness

Jay Vollmar

Denver Bronco wide receiver Rod Smith is asking that a domestic-violence assault charge be dropped because Douglas County prosecutors tried to bribe the victim -- his common-law wife, Jami Mourglia -- into testifying against him. Smith and Mourglia also claim that the prosecutors and/or the Parker Police Department's victim's advocate office "lost" portions of Mourglia's statement because it contained information that indicated she'd lied about the initial incident.

In addition, one of the victim's advocates expected to testify against Smith was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree assault and domestic violence following an argument with her husband.

Cris Campbell, Smith's attorney, charges that the Douglas County District Attorney's Office is trying to build its reputation by going after high-profile athletes.

"Whether you're wealthy or poor, if you've broken the law in our jurisdiction and we can make a case that is provable beyond a reasonable doubt, we will [prosecute]," responds Mike Knight, spokesman for the Douglas County DA's office. "No one here is out to make a name for themselves as a prosecutor."

In a mid-January call to police, Mourglia claimed that her boyfriend "beat my ass banged my head against the floorand choked me." She initially refused to identify herself, saying that her assailant was "a celebrity" and she didn't want their children put through a media "circus." Another unidentified woman later informed police that Mourglia was the caller.

Smith was out of town at a charity event when police interviewed Mourglia, who had been living with him since September 1995. The officers noted that she had red marks and bruises on her face. The couple had been experiencing "marital difficulties," according to the officers' report, and an argument broke out over who would get custody of their sons, ages five and seven, in the event of a split. "Mr. Smith stood up and grabbed Jami by the collar with one hand and by the throat with the other," states the report. Smith then dragged her by her hair into the kitchen, banged her head on the floor several times and hit her in the face, she told police; eventually, she went upstairs and locked herself in the bathroom, at which point Smith left.

But the day after her January 20 interview, Mourglia asked authorities not to charge Smith. Instead, she says, Autumn Black of the Parker victim's advocate office requested that she see a therapist who treats battered women. "I was told that there would not be any charge for at least three visits and probably no charge for additional visits," Mourglia testified in an affidavit recently filed with the court by Campbell. Mourglia agreed to meet with a therapist but says she filled out a form "stating that the charges against Roderick Smith are untrue" and gave it to Maria Schrock, another victim's advocate.

The Douglas County DA's office pressed charges anyway and arrested Smith on January 24. "It's not uncommon for a witness to want to recant after things have calmed down," Knight said at the time. "There's a belief that for the protection of these people, we still have to go forward with a case if we have the evidence to prove it."

In the meantime, though, a temporary restraining order prohibiting Smith from having contact with Mourglia or their children was lifted at Mourglia's request.

In February and March, Mourglia met with therapist Sandra Tosiou, who also told her that she would not be charged for the therapy sessions, Mourglia claims. But then on April 6, Tosiou called Mourglia and told her that the Douglas County Victim Compensation Board wouldn't pay for any therapy sessions beyond the first three, which were guaranteed by the board's rules. By then, Mourglia had seen Tosiou at least six times; according to Mourglia's affidavit, the therapist told her she'd waive the charge for the additional sessions.

Mourglia says the board cut her compensation "because I was not cooperating.'" (Tosiou did not return Westword's calls.) On April 20, Mourglia received a letter signed by Denise Piker-Gordon, an assistant with the Victim Compensation Board, stating that her "claim" was being denied "due to a lack of cooperation." Her therapist would receive $225 from the board for the first three sessions, but that left an outstanding balance of $487.50.

Four days later, Mourglia says she received a letter from Tosiou asking her to call. The therapist wanted to know how Mourglia was doing -- and requested the balance of her bill.

Mourglia never made a "claim" to the Victim Compensation Board, Campbell points out in his pleadings: "She was simply told that [the victim's advocate office] would pay for her to see a therapist." And after she did, she was confused by the accusation that she was not cooperating. "The only way I have not cooperated with [the victim's advocate office] is by telling them, and Ms. Tosiou, that I am not a victim and that Rod is not a perpetrator," Mourglia stated in her affidavit.

 

The compensation board referred questions to Knight, who says that the use of the word "cooperation" did not imply that Mourglia was being asked to say what prosecutors wanted her to say. "It means that she would have to testify truthfully in this matter," he says.

On May 5, according to the affidavit, Mourglia received a call from Schrock, who reminded her that she was under subpoena to appear at the trial on May 8. "I then asked her about the therapist's bill," Mourglia said. "Maria stated that if you testify against Rod, you will not have to pay the bill.'"

Mourglia's statements, along with the letter from the board accusing her of not cooperating, gave Campbell enough ammunition to file two motions asking that the charges against Smith be dropped. In one, he contends that when the prosecutors turned over what was supposed to be all of the evidence in the case, there were only two pages from the victim's advocate office containing Mourglia's statements. "The District Attorneys' Office or [victim's advocate office] has not provided the complete form," Mourglia testified." Nearly all of my statements are missing. I believe they are missing because one or both of the offices did not like what I had to say about this case."

In the second motion, Campbell asks that the charges against Smith be dropped "based on witness tampering" -- Mourglia's claim that she was told her therapy bill would be paid if she testified against her common-law husband. "If a person or entity other than the District Attorney or [victim's advocate office] had attempted to purchase testimony in this manner, there is little doubt that a criminal prosecution would follow," Campbell wrote in his argument to the court. "Here, however, it is the State attempting to do the bribing. Under these circumstances, we cannot expect a prosecution. What we can expect, and what Smith seeks from this Court, is a dismissal of the charges against him."

Both Schrock and Black also referred all questions to Knight, who declines to discuss the specifics of the motions. In general, he says, "it is not unusual to get motions that allege some kind of wrongdoing on the part of the police or DA's office . . .but we don't try to litigate our cases in the press." The district attorney's position regarding the allegations "will become crystal clear at the motions hearing," he added.

Black is the victim's advocate who was arrested Saturday. She posted a $1,000 bond and was released about 1 a.m. Saturday with a restraining order prohibiting her from returning to the couple's home. She denied striking her husband, but according to Douglas County sheriff's spokesman Attila Denes, Jeffrey Black had a small bruise on his cheek and scratches on his back.

It is unclear what effect Black's arrest will have on her as a witness for the state in the Smith case. However, Campbell said Tuesday, "I think it certainly undermines her credibility. It points out the irony of the entire domestic violence system . . .we have this systemic idea that anytime someone makes an allegation it's true and anytime someone makes an allegation, they need a victim's advocate to shore up the initial allegation. They're such reactionaries that they never stop to think about facts in the case . . .The irony is that Autumn Black is now being accused of engaging in the exact same conduct she teaches and preaches against."

The Smith hearing is scheduled for this week, at which time Campbell intends to point out that under Colorado law, "a person commits the felony of bribing a witness or victim if he offers, confers or agrees to confer any benefit upon a witness or a victim."

"If these facts do not paint a picture of a prosecutorial regime run amok, then nothing does," he wrote in his motion. "Over and again, she has told the District Attorney's and [victim's advocate office] that she lied about the incident. Despite this fact, the State has chosen to believe that Ms. Mourglia told the truth initially, and that she has been lying ever since. In its zeal to convince every woman who reports an assault that she is battered,' and to convict every man who is the alleged perpetrator of reported assaults, the State apparently will stop at nothing, including bribery."

Pending the outcome of that motions hearing, Smith's trial is now set for June. If the charges aren't dismissed, Campbell says, in court he'll present a half-dozen witnesses who will testify that there "wasn't a mark on her . . .The photographs show her eyes are all puffy, but that's from crying for hours." In fact, Campbell adds, the initial argument erupted when Smith told Mourglia their relationship was over and that he wanted her out of the house; they split that day and have since reached a civil settlement.

 

If Smith is convicted, he faces a possible two-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine, as well as anger-management classes required under Colorado's domestic-violence statutes. But the penalty could get much higher, Campbell says. Since former University of Colorado Buff and Carolina Panther Rae Carruth was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, the National Football League has come down hard on players who get in trouble with the law. Smith has been told that even a conviction on this misdemeanor charge could result in a four-game suspension, "which would cost him about $700,000," Campbell says.

And Smith isn't the only athlete on the Douglas County DA's list, Campbell points out. The county is currently prosecuting Julie Romanowski, wife of linebacker Bill Romanowski, for conspiracy to illegally obtain prescription Phentermine for her husband -- a diet pill and stimulant that isn't even on the NFL's list of prohibited drugs.

Knight acknowledges that Douglas County sees more than its share of cases involving professional athletes, particularly the Broncos, because many of them live in that part of the metro area. "But I don't think they're treated differently," he says, "and I think that you'll see that with anyone else, the end result will be the same.

"If there wasn't a case [against Smith], we wouldn't be pursuing it," Knight adds. "That would be silly and reckless and unethical."


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