New NJ strangulation law too little too late for Yasemin (Opinion)
It could have been called Yasemin’s law yet had nothing to do with her particular case.
A measure passed by the Assembly and Senate earlier this year was just signed into law by Gov. Murphy and increases the penalty for a strangulation attempt from a 3rd degree crime to a 2nd degree crime. That means it’s now punishable by up to 10 years in prison as opposed to up to 5 years. It also means up to a $150,000 fine instead of up to a $15,000 fine.
But what’s really significant is that while a 3rd degree crime COULD receive up to 5 years they usually never do because 3rd degree crimes in New Jersey come with a ‘presumption of non-incarceration’. If it’s a first offense you will usually be entered into a program that avoids jail time.
A 2nd degree crime presumes incarceration and is therefore the most important part of this law’s passage. But it’s too late for Yasemin Uyar.
She was the 24-year-old mother of the 2-year-old boy police say was abducted by the father Tyler Rios. Believed part of the same abduction, her dead body was found in the woods in Tennessee where Rios was found, police say.
There was by all accounts a long history of domestic violence. In 2018 Rios was indicted by a grand jury with strangulation of Yasemin. Experts say strangulation should be regarded in a far more serious way than it has been because statistics bear a strangulation attempt that a victim survives is often a precursor to homicide.
Here’s the sad thing.
Even this new law, signed by Gov. Murphy just days after Yasemin’s body was found, would not have saved her. In 2018 the prosecutor offered a plea deal and dropped the strangulation charge anyway. Rios never saw a day in prison; only less than 3 months in county jail for lesser charges.
What good is any penalty when the courts decide to plea away serious charges? For that matter, what good are restraining orders when you have a justice system that gives a slap on the wrist for violating them?
Yasemin tried moving six separate times to get away from this man. He kept finding her. When he violated the restraining order Rios only spent 10 weeks in county before Superior Court Judge Joseph Donahue sentenced him to a year’s probation. One of the stipulations was that he not have any contact with the victim.
That was in December. Just 7 months before she once again would be confronted by him according to authorities. She was in the process of moving for a sixth time to get away from him that Friday morning.
She wouldn’t live through the weekend.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.