Patriot Ledger

Accused batterer chooses jail time

Refused to enter corrective program

By Dennis Tatz,
The Patriot Ledger
August 18, 1999

QUINCY - A member of the fathers’ rights group will go to jail rather than sign a statement acknowledging that he is a batterer.

"My constitutional rights are being denied me", said Harry Stewert, 44, of Quincy. " This reminds me of the days of George Wallace when he stood on the steps of the University of Alabama to deny African-Americans their rights. This is what happens to a father’s rights."

Stewert’s supporters burst into applause as he read a statement before being led away from district court. They also shouted "outrage" as they left the courtroom.

"Here lies the real abuse", said Stewert. "The abuse of our children. God bless our children."

Earlier in the day, members of the Fatherhood Coalition picketed outside the court and carried signs like "Welcome to kangaroo court," "Stop judicial abuse and "Free Harry".

A jury in June found Stewert guilty of violating a restrain order his wife had obtained. Stewert opened an apartment foyer door as he returned his son to his mother, putting him nearer to his wife than the restrain order allowed, the jury found.

Stewert, a former Weymouth resident, was given a six month suspended jail sentence on condition he complete a program for batterers. He was also placed on probation for two years.

Probation officer Carole Bambrick told Judge Mark Coven yesterday that Stewert had violated probation because he refused to comply with the terms of Common Purpose, a batterers’ program.

Stewert, who wore a Super Dad T-shirt with his blue suit and tie, said he never abused his ex wife and could never sign a statement saying that he was a batterer as required by the program.

"I have not committed any violence" said Stewert. "Violence has been done to me. I’m not charged with an abuse and yet I’m being assigned to a batterers program. I want to enroll in a program that doesn’t ask me to lie"

Judge Coven offered Stewert one last chance yesterday to find a program he could enroll in or face going to jail for six months.

"You are in flagrant disregard of the court order." said the judge. "I have no control over the conditions of the batterers program."

The judge later allowed Stewert to meet with a representative from Bay State Community Services in Quincy. When Stewert returned to court, he said he would be unable to commit himself to Bay State’s program.

Judge Coven had refused to grant Stewert a continuance because his attorney was on vacation. He said Stewert could either represent himself or have an attorney appointed.

Stewert said a new lawyer wouldn’t be familiar enough with the case to help him.

"He wants everyone in the court to feel that he is the one who is victimized here," said probation officer Bambrick. "He does not believe violating a restraining order is a form of abuse."

In a telephone interview, Stewert’s former wife, said she felt some relief now that Stewert was behind bars.

"He is a very disturbed individual." she said. "I feel he is unstable."

She said Stewert recently told the couple’s 8-and 9 year old sons to expect a package of live caterpillars in the mail.

"He said when they turn into butterflies they were to be let free," she said. "He has been showing my sons prison movies. This is the kind of mind games he plays with the children."

A member of the Fatherhood coalition said after the hearing that a candlelight vigil for stewert will be at the Norfolk County jail in Dedham. where Stewert will serve his sentence.

The group, which believes fathers have been treated unfairly in domestic abuse cases, has protested outside Quincy courthouse the past several years.