Brown releases plan to combat domestic violence

BALTIMORE, Md. - The establishment of a hospital-based domestic violence screening and increasing penalties for those who commit domestic violence, sexual assault or rape in front of a minor are highlights of a plan unveiled by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown to combat domestic violence and sexual assault in Maryland.

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Brown, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, outlined his 10-point " Our Path to Zero " proposal Tuesday. Brown said the issue of domestic violence is one close to his heart, as his cousin, Cathy Brown, was shot and killed by an estranged boyfriend five years ago.

Brown said over the past seven years, Maryland has reduced the number of domestic violence-related assaults by nearly 20 percent, decreased domestic violence-related homicides by 15.3 percent and reduced juvenile and female homicides by 31.7 percent.

"We can't bring these victims back, but we can honor their memories by working each and every day to make sure no more Marylanders fall victim to abusers," Brown said in a statement. "As governor, I'm committed to building on the progress we've made over the last seven years, and ‘Our Path to Zero' plan to end domestic violence will have a real impact in helping thousands of victims across our state."

Among the proposals outlined by Brown was legislation to allow victims of domestic violence to get out of a cell phone contract with abusers without facing penalty fees. In addition, Brown wants to establish a $5 million "innovation fund" along with a "DV" stat computer system for tracking information pertaining to domestic violence cases.

Brown also wants to end Maryland's "dubious distinction" of being the only state in the nation whose standard of proof to obtain a final protective order is "clear and convincing evidence" to a "preponderance of evidence."

Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is also running for governor, challenged Brown's record on combating domestic violence. In a news release, the Gansler campaign charged that during Brown's time as a state delegate he backed off certain bills to toughen domestic violence laws in deference to House Judiciary Committee chairman Del. Joseph Vallario, a longtime defense attorney.

Gansler has touted his own record of combating domestic violence , which includes in 1999 when at Montgomery County state's attorney, he instituted the first dockets specially designed to handle domestic violence cases.

"[Brown] traded buddying up to the chairman over protecting the victims of domestic violence," said Del. Jolene Ivey, Gansler's choice for lieutenant governor in a statement. "The women and families of Maryland will not let him get away with standing here today to pontificate about domestic violence when his past shows he abused our trust on this issue."

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