ORLEANS — An Orleans District Court judge last week found Harwich Selectman Jannell Brown not guilty of a single count of domestic assault and battery following a July 18 incident.
The misdemeanor assault charge stemmed from an argument in which her accuser called police to report that Brown was refusing to give him his car keys and had slapped him in the face. Brown described the man as her former domestic partner.
The police report filed at the time of the incident indicated that her accuser was video recording their argument using a cell phone. Police said the video showed Brown swinging her hand toward the accuser. The phone then falls to the ground and the video ends, police reported. But Orleans District Court Judge John Julian acquitted Brown of the assault charge, and also found her not guilty of a related charge of malicious destruction of property under $250 for the phone.
In November 2015, Brown was charged with assaulting the same man, and was sentenced to nine months of probation, after which time that charge was dismissed.
Brown, a selectman since 2015, said she believes justice was served this time.
“The truth was represented in this verdict, unlike the previous case in which my accuser coerced a ‘witness’ to back his story and because of that I was forced to take a plea of pretrial probation,” Brown wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
While The Chronicle does not routinely report on cases of domestic violence, it covers such cases when one of the parties is a public figure like a selectman. Brown said she doesn’t believe that’s fair.
“Of course not. However, because I am a person who ALWAYS looks for the ‘phoenix rising’ in a situation, I will use this opportunity to raise awareness of domestic abuse. (I prefer the word abuse to violence, because the most damaging part for me has been the emotional and mental abuse, not the physical. Bones heal, skin heals, but the emotional scars left behind and the mental thought processes that need to be reprogrammed are the challenges we victims face.)
“I hope my story will enlighten the public as to the prevalence of domestic abuse and the traps it sets for people. Further, we can marry this with social issues Cape Cod faces like lack of affordable housing and lack of affordable wages,” she wrote.
Brown said she believes that the state’s domestic violence statutes put defendants at a disadvantage, since they are essentially treated as guilty until a trial proves otherwise.
“Though I understand the reasons behind the laws, ultimately a smart abuser knows their way around the system, as is the case with my accuser. In addition, the financial burden of hiring a lawyer puts undue stress upon the situation,” she wrote.
“People asked me all the time why I stayed in this relationship. Money was my number one reason. It's all well and good for people to say ‘just leave,’ but where would I have gone and how would I have paid for it?” Brown wrote.
Brown thanked members of the community who have supported her during “this public humiliation.”