A veteran accused of attacking his girlfriend and trying to strangle her dog was arraigned in New Bedford District Court on Wednesday, after Judge Edward F.X. Lynch declined to waive the charges based on his military service.
Warren R. Broughton was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a household member, and animal cruelty based on the alleged April attack on his longtime girlfriend in her South Dartmouth home.
The Globe reported earlier this month that when Broughton was in court in April, a different judge repeatedly thanked him for his service in Vietnam and commiserated with him about the military draft. At that time, Judge James McGovern continued Broughton’s arraignment to give his attorney time to build a case that he should not be charged because he’s a veteran.
A 2012 state law called the Valor Act gave judges the discretion to send veterans to treatment programs rather than arraign them on criminal charges. The provision was offered to help a wave of veterans returning from combat with substance abuse issues who were getting ensnared in the criminal justice system.
However, the Globe revealed several cases in which men avoided charges of assaulting women by citing the Valor Act. And though the provision was intended only for first-time offenders, there is no tracking mechanism to ensure a veteran doesn’t take advantage of it more than once.
Broughton’s charges stemmed from an April fight in the home of his former girlfriend, Louise Guy, a breeder of golden retrievers who was preparing a dog for a customer. When Guy refused to pay Broughton for help she said he didn’t provide, he grabbed her dog by the throat and threatened to kill him, she said. When she rushed to the dog, Broughton grabbed her face and repeatedly smashed her head on the floor, she said. He would not release the dog until she paid him all the money, she said.
She eventually ran from the house and sought an emergency restraining order against Broughton that has since been extended for a year to cover her and her eight golden retrievers.
Broughton’s attorney, Stephen P. Dalrymple said he is looking into the possibility of appeal.
“I thought it was a bad decision,” Dalrymple said. “I thought he qualified for the Valor Act.”
He said he had presented updated reports from the Department of Veterans Affairs showing that Broughton is receiving treatment and that a VA liaison had recommended him as qualified.
When Broughton first appeared in court in April, a prosecutor from the office of District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III objected to the use of the Valor Act.
But at his second appearance, the prosecutor never spoke, and McGovern asked Broughton details about his time in the military and in Vietnam, repeatedly thanking him for his service.
“This Valor Act is very special,” McGovern said then, according to an audio of the proceedings. “It’s incredibly powerful.”
The DA’s office did not dispute Broughton’s eligibility under the Valor Act, but said in a brief filed Wednesday that he is 69 years old and had not demonstrated how his behavior could be traced back to his service in Vietnam.
“There is no reason to believe that the Legislature intended the Valor Act simply to serve as a get-out-of-jail-free card for anyone who has served in the military, entirely without regard to the nature of the service or the effect of that service upon the defendant,” Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Sowa wrote.
Additionally, she argued that he is not a suitable candidate, given the seriousness of the allegations. After Guy reported the April attack, one of her friends went to police to report that she had previously seen Broughton punch another one of the dogs in the head.
“Moreover, the violent and cruel nature of the defendant’s crimes cannot be ignored,” Sowa wrote in the filing. “In one instance, the defendant choked a defenseless animal and in another instance, he punched a defenseless animal in the face.”
In a statement Wednesday, Quinn said, “The court made the right decision by arraigning this defendant today. Despite the defendant’s prior military service, the application of the Valor Act was not appropriate. The victim alleges physical violence was done to her and her dog.”
Legislators told the Globe in January that they would fix the Valor Act so it could no longer be applied to crimes against individuals. But the Senate passed a bill that failed to address domestic violence, and the House gutted it. House and Senate leaders have appointed a conference committee to forge a resolution. The legislative session ends July 31.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the name of the judge.