He was invincible.
For so long, Jared Remy got away with it, as legions of abusers do. Terrifying his victims into submission, and leveraging the indulgence and resources of his enabling parents, he bested a system that was no match for him — repeatedly preserving him from the consequences of his heinous acts.
“The king of second chances,” my colleague Eric Moskowitz calls him, in today’s devastating, heartbreaking investigation into this sick and terrifying man’s past. Remy wasn’t worthy of one chance, let alone the countless breaks his victims, parents, and judges gave him.
He started early. He was a brute at 17, harassing a former girlfriend, threatening to kill her new boyfriend, telling police he didn’t care if a restraining order was issued against him. He got plenty of practice not caring about restraining orders over the years, victimizing at least five women, facing 20 criminal cases, emerging virtually unscathed from all, except the one for which he now awaits trial — the murder of his girlfriend Jennifer Martel.
He always wins, the serial abuser once told one of his victims. He was right. Look at the nauseating catalog of his attacks, threats, and charges over 17 years, and you can’t avoid the conclusion that something is terribly wrong with our justice system. In the wake of Martel’s murder last August, we’ve focused on the failure of prosecutors and a judge to see Remy as a potential killer, releasing him after Martel failed to appear in court to renew a restraining order, freeing him to kill her the next day.
But the failures began long before last summer. The courts also had a duty to Remy’s previous victims, including Tiffany Guyette — whom Remy savaged as she held their baby, the police report describing the hand prints around her neck — and to Ryan McMahon — whom police said Remy beat and threatened to kill. There were plenty of clear signs both women were in mortal danger. Back in 2001, Guyette said as much in court. But again, a judge set Remy free over a prosecutor’s objections, failing to protect her, and the unfortunate women who came after her.
Remy was not the first brute to avoid real consequences until it was too late. Despite great advances in treating and protecting victims of domestic violence, it’s still hard to keep people safe from determined abusers.
The cycle of violence traps victims: The more brutal and prolonged the attacks, the more afraid victims are to stand up to their abusers. A victim avoids testifying in court because she’s afraid, or because family members convince her not to, and her absence is taken as evidence she’s not in danger. Despite years of education efforts, there are still some judges who don’t get it, buying phony claims of contrition, dismissing brutal assaults as if they were minor offenses. High-priced lawyers like Remy’s know the system, and the judges, and work them. The mayhem continues.
Still, even seasoned domestic violence specialists are surprised by the leniency shown to Remy. Over and over, judges dismissed his charges. Six times, they issued a continuance without a finding, which resulted in probation but not a conviction. That judgment is usually reserved for first-time offenders, to give those who show potential for reform a second chance at keeping their records clean.
What potential did Remy show, with his history, thumbing his nose at a justice system that he boasted couldn’t touch him?
“It’s supposed to be used in unique and rare circumstances,” said one former prosecutor with extensive experience in domestic violence cases. “How do you get six?”
The idea that Remy might have gotten leniency because of his sportscaster father’s celebrity, or his money, is worrying enough. Even more worrying: the possibility that fame and money had nothing to do with it — that the breaks that set a monster like Jared Remy free over and over could be granted to anyone.
Either way, those breaks helped seal Martel’s fate, long before she met the man accused of taking her life.
Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org