By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
For the second time, Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley has declined prosecution in an alleged case of abuse of a quadriplegic woman by her husband.
In a New Times story published last year ("Paralyzed in Paradise," May 1, 2003), Heather Grossman claimed that her husband, John, spit in her face, slapped her, tossed garbage on her bed, threw bags of dog feces at her, smeared food on her face, locked her in a bedroom away from her children, threatened the kids and called them names. When she forgot to buy John's favorite red licorice or chocolate-covered soy nuts, she says, he screamed for hours. (He denied it.)
Many witnesses -- including nurses, who had intimate knowledge of the Grossman household -- backed up the allegations and added their own details, in interviews with both the Paradise Valley Police Department and New Times. PV police -- in an exhaustive investigation -- referred the case for prosecution.
Romley's office turned it down.
Heather Grossman and her parents, Ralph and Florence Stephens, gathered additional evidence and, with the help of Stasy Click, an attorney with the Victims Legal Assistance Project at Arizona State University, resubmitted it.
Earlier this month, Barnett Lotstein, special assistant to Romley, wrote to Heather Grossman to explain the office's reasoning.
According to Lotstein's letter, Ralph Stephens requested a reexamination of the case last summer. In December, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office Incident Review Board considered the resubmittal and questioned the investigator and county attorney assigned to the case, then declined to reconsider the previous decision.
Lotstein did not explain in the letter why it took four months to inform Grossman and the Stephenses of this turndown.
"There is no dispute that Ms. Grossman has suffered through tragic events," Lotstein writes. "However, three separate investigations concluded that allegations of abuse failed to provide sufficient corroboration to establish a reasonable likelihood of felony conviction of the accused."
Lotstein goes on to observe that Heather Grossman was found to have offered false testimony in a previous court proceeding, and adds that "witness interviews don't support the allegations of abuse."
He concludes, "The prosecutorial standard of reasonable likelihood of conviction, as determined by experienced prosecutors and as required by law and ethical considerations, has not been established in this case. Therefore, it is the determination of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office that prosecution of John Norman Grossman is denied."