Michigan Judicial Candidate Charged With Using Belt to Assault Girlfriend Remains on Ballot, Creating Controversy
Michigan judicial candidate and attorney Jason Kolkema has been charged with one count of domestic violence.
A Michigan lawyer and judicial candidate has been charged with domestic violence after allegedly being caught on video beating his girlfriend with a belt, generating controversy over the upcoming November election.
Jason Kolkema, 51, remains on the ballot in the upcoming contest for a judge's seat on Muskegon County’s 14th Circuit Court.
He has pleaded not guilty to one misdemeanor charge of assault and battery after cellphone videos were given to police in which Kolkema appears to be seen through the floor-to-ceiling windows of his apartment whipping a belt, allegedly hitting his girlfriend, authorities said.
The allegations have ignited an outcry from advocates against domestic violence, who have protested Kolkema's campaign and alleged he should not hold judicial office, where he could preside over domestic abuse cases.
"I cannot imagine a victim sitting in front of a 'Jason Kolkema' and asking him to protect her from an assailant," Heather Fry, a Muskegon mother, domestic abuse survivor and longtime victim's advocate, told the Detroit Free Press in a story published Friday.
"I'm sorry. We saw what we saw. The video is very damning," Fry told the news outlet. "It was a violent act meant to instill fear."
Kolkekma and his attorney have repeatedly denied the allegations, saying he hit a chair with the belt out of frustration and did not strike his girlfriend.
The alleged victim has also said she was not hit.
"I understand that the optics are bad. I understand the anger and disappointment, especially from the people who voted for me and supported me. All of the facts will be revealed in due time" Kolkema wrote on his Facebook page.
Defense attorney Terry Nelson said at his client's arraignment in September, “You have to know what’s going on in the apartment and you don’t. What it appears from 100 feet across the street, two floors down, is not what’s going on in the apartment.”
The alleged assault was videotaped by witnesses using their cellphones, prosecutors said.
Responding to the claims that Kolkema struck the chair and not his girlfriend, Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said that has no legal bearing on the case, according to the news outlet.
"Domestic violence includes violence that can either be physical, or threatened. Contact is not required," Hilson told the Detroit Free Press. "We're prepared to try this case if that's what Mr. Kolkema wishes."
Kolkema is free on $500 cash and continues to campaign for office. His trial is scheduled to being Nov. 21, after the election, according to online court records.
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