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Woman says she has been victimized by her ex-girlfriend and the court

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CANTON — A Lewis County woman and the St. Lawrence County court she stood before faced criticism from a victim Monday morning.

Donna M. Deline, 49, of 155 county Route 23A, Harrisville, was sentenced Monday to five years of probation for af first-degree criminal contempt conviction, but not until after she was faced by her ex-girlfriend and accuser, Donna L. Richards.

Deline was arrested on Feb. 15 on charges of third-degree assault, second-degree strangulation and aggravated criminal contempt. The latter two charges are felonies.

In a victim impact statement, Ms. Richards, her girlfriend at the time of the attacks, said that the physical and emotional abuse had escalated at what she called “the end result of the tumultuous two-year relationship that we had. On this day, she strangled me not once but twice, and in doing so, gouged flesh from both sides of my neck with her fingernails,” Ms. Richards said.

In addition to those injuries, Ms. Richards said she had her nose broken in two places and was left on the side of the road, bleeding, as Ms. Deline allegedly drove off in Ms. Richards’ car when a passerby said she was going to call the police.

“I still have nightmares to this day,” she told St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards.

But Deline wasn’t the only person who was going to be confronted in court.

After expressing her fears and concerns regarding the potential sentence of Deline, Ms. Richards turned to the court system, accusing it of being “good old boys” which “conjured up this light handed sentence” that would end with Deline out on probation for the five years and 26 weeks of anger management.

“It sounds like a sweetheart deal to me,” she told Judge Richards. “I can’t help but feel that I have been victimized again by your office. Donna Deline and all the abusers like her belong in prison.”

Although Ms. Richards left the courtroom after her statement, Judge Richards responded to the accusations.

“What Ms. Richards may not want to hear is that the system isn’t just about punishment,” he said. “It is about rehabilitation first, that people can show they can change and that is something I think you have done.”

Deline faced an issue with her sentence, however, in that the offender accountability program that she was supposed to participate in, conducted by Catholic Charities, would not enroll her, as it is restricted to males only.

“I don’t understand why you couldn’t have participated, just because they were all male,” Judge Richards said. “People are just people. It shows a weakness in our system.”

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