The Agitator #55
by Oliver_Halle
 The Agitator
January 03, 2013 11:14 AM | 1626 views | 3 3 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

To say that the murder of Donna Kristofak is tragic would be a gross understatement. I have no idea what was going on in her personal life and marriage; how her husband, John Kristofak, could so viciously kill her is something incomprehensible. What leads to that kind of anger and premeditated reaction is part of the unexplainable human condition. It’s a safe bet that John Kristofak will almost certainly die in the Georgia prison system.

In reading the blogs associated with this story and listening to comments from various people, there is a lot of hostility directed toward Cobb Superior Court Judge, Adele Grubbs. The focus seems to be that she sentenced Kristofak to four years and five months probation, and seven months in jail. The judge then released Kristofak crediting him with the seven months he spent in the Cobb County jail for aggravated stalking and family violence related crimes. Donna Kristofak pleaded with Judge Grubbs to keep her ex-husband locked up, expressing her fears that Kristofak would kill her.

What the MDJ stories did not report is if the plea the judge took was a deal struck between the District Attorney’s Office and Kristofak. That is an important piece of information to a complete understanding of the sentence Kristofak was given. What sentence did the prosecutor recommend to the judge? What evidence did the prosecutor have that manifested an imminent threat to the victim? What evidence did Kristofak present, other than having no prior criminal history, that he posed no threat? In no way am I pointing fingers at the DA’s office for what might seem to some a lenient deal. I am confident that the prosecutor’s office did their homework and whatever recommendations they may have made were based on interviews, facts, and evidence. I would be surprised if Judge Grubbs deviated from a prosecutor recommendation, but the MDJ did not report any of this so that the readers can draw their own conclusions.

It is a sad state of affairs that in our country there is so much spousal and child abuse, much of which goes unreported. How many women suffer in silence, quietly live in daily fear, do what they can to protect their children and themselves, and no one knows that this could be your neighbor? The MDJ story would also have been much more complete if it had talked with someone in the DA’s office to learn how many stalking/aggravated stalking cases are prosecuted each year, how many result in violence versus the effectiveness of the restraining orders. My uninformed guess is that the DA’s office sees a significant number of stalking cases. Prosecutors and judges probably hear cries for help from tormented women all the time, and from all that I have read over the years, Cobb County is one of the better places where the criminal justice system makes a meaningful difference, where the professionals make a sincere effort to listen. This was a case where things went terribly wrong, but I don’t think it is fair to blame the judge or the system.

For those who are always advocating long prison sentences for virtually every crime, I won’t argue the point. It is a fair perspective, especially if you have been a crime victim. But the other side of that argument is the cost to incarcerate felons. That cost includes more police that are paid what they are worth, more prosecutors, more judges, more training for everyone in the criminal justice system, and more judges. That’s before we get to the cost of building and maintaining jails and prisons. And that cost is staggering. This is another example of wanting a champagne system on a beer budget. Until those who complain are willing to pay for what they expect, they shouldn’t expect perfection. Wars are not won on the cheap, and fighting crime is no different.

Judge Grubbs has been around a long time. She has always enjoyed a solid reputation for fairness and meting out stiff punishment for those convicted of felonies in her court. A bleeding heart she is not. As a 27 year reader of the MDJ, I have read many stories about her. Among them is one involving her own personal tragedy with the loss of a teenage daughter in a car accident some years ago. Judge Grubbs is human with a broad spectrum of experience. She deserves better. Perhaps the MDJ can round out this story by addressing some of the questions I have raised.

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Liora Farkovitz
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January 09, 2013
Mr. Halle,

The part of this story that grieves me, beyond that it is avoidable is this very important detail:

Judge Grubbs was appointed to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention. Most of us have no idea what this is. But, it's an Executive Branch appointment that was awarded to her by Newt Gingrich in 1998 while he was Speaker of the House. The President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States and the Speaker of the House (who would become VP or President if the other two die); were each allowed to appoint three Juvenile Court Judges. So the three most powerful men in the country hand picked Judge Grubbs to be on this Council.

Each cabinet member of the President has a seat on this council, and it is chaired by the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder.

The council is charged with the task of giving federal funding, per the legislation passed by the Congress and the Senate, (our federal tax dollars) to the FBI, State Bureaus of Investigation, (like the GBI), and national non-profits - hundreds of millions of dollars every year - to protect our youth. Judge Grubbs has attended these meetings for almost fifteen (15) years now.

You have to work, very hard, to find this information in any of her biographies, because she simply identified it as a "bar activity". Clearly this is not a Summer BBQ. Judge Grubbs has been trusted to protect our nation's children by the most powerful men in our federal government. That means, she is supposed to take protecting our children pretty seriously, I think most would agree.

When I discovered this information, I was a bit flabbergasted. I also went over to the Secretary of State's site, and the State Ethic's site to see what she listed there as her business and property holdings. She's supposed to let the state know of any financial influence she holds beyond her personal holdings too. But there is no mention of this influential or "fiduciary" role in her filing in any of the years since her appointment. Maybe I'm wrong, but if she could influence the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in their receipt of $178,000,000 since 1998 - maybe that should be there. But it isn't. Yet, it does mention she is on their Board of Directors in the neighboring county to their national Head Quarters in downtown Atlanta. That is 99% of the funding for all of the non-profits in the entire state of Georgia for that time period. And, it affects funding to protect children in all of our states.

Judge Grubbs probably knows that Attorney General Holder feels very strongly that children that are witnesses to violence in their own homes are very much at risk, and is promoting studies that would turn the tide of awarding custody and access or visitation to violent offenders. He favors the funding of programs that protect children from domestic violence, not marginalize it. He has been quoted repeatedly about the importance of protecting children from domestic violence. A statistic I used in my book was that in 2008, 911 children were murdered by a violent parent.

This council is designed to provide investigation resources to stop internet pornography and child exploitation - which I includes trafficking and online auctions of our children. Children forced into trafficking are on average between the ages of 9 and 13 years of age. Most have been sexually molested in their own homes by family members to prepare them for the sex trade. And white middle aged men are the most frequent purchasers, not minorities.

The council is designed to fund the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, among many other legitimate organizations. So I would assume that going to Washington DC and having the most powerful men in the country attending to the protection of our "most precious assets" means that Judge Grubbs has a better than average opportunity to understand that violent families (including those that have issues of sexual abuse) can even traffic their own children, or murder their own children.

In fact, according to RealAtlanta.com, this happens to 300 children per month in your fair city - and fully 82% of them were trafficked by a a family member. And 22% of them - by a parent. Additionally, I am deeply disturbed to see publication that Atlanta is now considered the #1 Child Trafficking Hub in the entire nation. Aren't you, also, deeply saddened and disturbed too?

Judge Grubbs probably has a better than average opportunity as a jurist, and an American Citizen, to understand that between September 10, 2001 and June 6, 2012 that 11,766 women were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends - and that is more Americans than all of the victims of the World Trade Center Attacks, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

This is a math problem. Any Judge with basic statistical capability has the predictive ability to know that this woman was at risk - regardless of what the District Attorney did. Because any domestic violence advocate will tell you that the single most accurate predictor of violence comes from the victims themselves. There is no lack of data or evidence.

This is a problem of conscience and of values. For whatever reason, that I don't pretend to understand, Judge Grubb's set of values means that she does not believe it is her job to predict the potential murder of a mother. So these poor children were orphaned this past Christmas Day.

I expect better of my elected officials. But more than that, I expect better of my very own judge, and she is, my very own judge in my very own domestic violence plagued custody case. And I could no more count on her to protect me, or my children, than the man in the moon - because she made it glaringly clear that she would not protect me or my children. I am not surprised by Donna Kristofak's murder in the least. I'm surprised it has not happened more often.

I am well aware that Judge Grubbs has had unspeakable loss and horror in her life, and my compassion for her loss is tremendous. I'm so sorry, I know how much that hurts. The love she was bestowed on by her late husband, and her current one as well, is absolutely legendary. They adore(d) her, and probably deservedly so. And while I do not know what it is like to have my only daughter ripped from my life forever - I do know what it has been like to have my three children ripped from my own breast for the last seven years. And it hurts, and in large part it hurts because there is no closure and their father plays with me like a cat plays with a mouse for fun every time I attempt to exercise my right to talk to them on the phone or see them in person. I pray, every single day, for Judge Grubbs to have the blessing of understanding the err or her ways - not for me because I am not coming back to her for help. But for the women that she is supposed to be protecting today. I can't approach her as my judge because I don't have the financial resources to raise the fight, and I can not be confident in my chance for fair treatment. I have been advised by attorneys that representing me in my cause would "risk their careers and it's not worth it". I had someone lie to me and tell me he no longer practiced family law. It is an act of futility, and has left me a lot of time to read through the entire public domain on Cobb County cases like my own.

I think it is disingenuous to hide an important federal appointment like this and put forth the pretense that she is a small town judge in a rather unimportant bedroom community of Atlanta. But I know a dozen women that have suffered a fate like mine, and no matter what, I did not deserve this fate, and neither did they. Every single one of them had to leave the state of Georgia to have safety from the actions of violent ex-husbands, and most lost custody of their children for trying to protect themselves and their children. I live very safety in a relative "ghetto" in New York City, much more safely than I did off of Columns Drive or in Forsyth County.

We should not be put in the position to beg for our lives and/or the lives of our children. The position of Judge is sacred, and Godly, and it is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly or made into a political game.

I appeal to Judge Grubbs to please resign from the role of appropriating federal tax dollars, and to stop hiding the role that you have played for the last fifteen years to the general public. I humbly ask you to retire from the bench, and to accept, that while you have no accountability to the Nations family or the Kristofak children, or the city of Marietta, that this was something that you did fail to prevent, and that was in your power to stop from happening.

You have served the city of Marietta and Cobb County for a very long time. You are extraordinarily wealthy and blessed with a loving family. I wish you would work with me to help other families across this country from having the future we, or the Kristofak family now face. Help us, make the family courts the first line of defense from family violence and child trafficking. I believe, from your career, that this is the woman you meant to be. Not the one that condemned so many women to a Holocaust upon our families and our souls.

I don't believe that you did anything to deliberately harm them, or even me, in your rulings. But, your lack of insight on this important issue has caused harm - the kind that will take seven generations for my children and theirs to heal from. Humility is being able to honestly understand your strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly. This is no longer your strength, and you are doing a great disservice not just to the small number of people whose lives you touch every single day - but the millions of lives you affect through federal funding each day.

I don't wish revenge on her. I wish she just simply understood the mistakes that she has made so she would stop hurting so many innocent people.

oliver g. halle
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January 04, 2013
Barbara, thank you for your comment. If you could solve the riddle of the human condition and why people do some pretty bad things, I suspect that you wouldn't be a teacher,but instead enjoying some very quiet, peaceful time doing what you want on your private island. I would have had a very different career, and the world would be a much better place to live, work and play. But we can all dream. Hope your New Year is off to a good start. Oliver
B D Lane
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January 03, 2013
Really interesting, Oliver. It is a very sad story for all involved. I often wonder how someone could have once been enough in love to share marriage vows with someone and then turn so viciously against that same person. It is a darkness I will never understand.
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