DETROIT – Every year the Department of Justice observes National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Commemorated in the United States since 1987, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month educates the public, recognizes and honors victims and survivors, and connects service providers across the country.
“Domestic violence is a crime that effects every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion or nationality,” stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider. “The heavy emotional toll that domestic violence takes on a person can last a lifetime. We are committed to using the tools available to ensure that offenders are held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office are working on several fronts to prevent domestic violence and bring those perpetrators to justice. One way is through the use of a federal statute that prohibits individuals with domestic violence misdemeanor and felony convictions, as well as individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders, from possessing firearms. The Department as a whole charged more than 500 cases last year. However, in some states such as Michigan, the federal and state definitions of domestic violence differ requiring complex legal analysis that varies based on location of the conviction. Even with limited prosecutorial authority in domestic violence cases, the federal government remains committed to working with all of its partners to end the scourge of domestic violence. One way is by violating individuals who are on federal supervised release when they are accused of domestic violence in the state.
Some examples of these cases are:
- Derrell Hayes, a convicted felon, was on federal supervised release for illegally possessing a firearm. While on supervised release, Hayes fled the state of Michigan and was found in Texas where he had been arrested for abusing the pregnant mother of his child. Hayes was convicted of domestic abuse in Texas. Following his conviction, he was subsequently sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment to be served consecutive to his Texas sentence for violating the terms of his supervised release.
- Mohammed Karkash was on federal supervised release after being convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. While on supervised release, two different women made domestic abuse claims against him. In both cases, the women were in intimate relationships with Karkash. In both cases, Karkash violated the “no contact” orders that were issued by the courts to protect the victims in the cases. Karkash admitted to physically assaulting his then-girlfriend and was sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment for the supervised release violation.
- Michael Browder, a convicted felon, was on supervised release after having served 72 months’ in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Prior to his federal conviction, Browder had twelve state felony convictions for various crimes including: pistol whipping a man and assaulting his children’s mother. Twelve days following his release from federal custody in April 2019, his girlfriend flagged down a patrol car to report that Browder assaulted her. At his 2019 supervised release violation hearing, his girlfriend recanted her allegations and the court continued Browder’s supervision. In February 2020, Michigan State Police responded to multiple 911 calls reporting the on-going assault of a woman in a vehicle by her male passenger. When MSP located the car, they learned from witnesses that Browder had assaulted the same woman who recanted the 2019 allegations. After a hearing on the violation, Browder was sentenced to ten months in federal prison.
- David Byford, a convicted felon, was on supervised release after being sentenced to a 48-month term of imprisonment resulting from his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. According to his probation officer, on April 24, 2020, Byford assaulted his wife, pushing her to the floor in the bathroom. This incident arose out of an argument because Byford had gone to a liquor store. The government moved for Byford’s detention based on his history of abusing his wife as well as the fact that his pregnant wife had obtained a Personal Protection Order against him only a few days before the April 2020 incident. Byford was sentenced to twelve months in federal prison.
Another way the Department is addressing domestic violence is through grants. The Department’s Office on Violence Against Women and Office for Victims of Crime just last month awarded nearly $4.5 million in grant funding to groups in the Eastern District of Michigan to support efforts to curb domestic violence. The grants will provide resources to local legal aid providers, victim service providers, healthcare professionals as well as tribal victim services providers.
Domestic violence tears lives apart. It causes physical, emotional and psychological trauma not only on the victim, but also on children who witness the abuse. It creates fear and can destroy families.
For more information on domestic violence or to get help, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).