Morris County Sheriff Gets His Guns Back After 6 Month Domestic Violence Investigation

January 22, 2015 · by RLF Attorneys · in

Last July, Morris County Sheriff Edward Rochford’s guns were removed from his custody after his wife of 41 years filed a domestic violence restraining order against him.  And although the restraining order was dismissed by Superior Court Family Judge John Selser in Paterson just one month after it was filed, is reporting that the court has only recently granted the Sheriff the right to receive his guns back.
According to the report, on Thursday January 8, 2015, Superior Court Judge Esther Suarez signed an order allowing the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office to return the Morris County sheriff’s weapons.  The guns were taken from Rochford in July after his wife of 41 years, Diana Rochford, obtained a domestic violence temporary restraining order against him shortly after she initiated divorce proceedings against him. Just one month after the restraining order had been entered against the Sheriff, Superior Court Family Judge John Selser dismissed the order against Rochford after both parties signed an agreement through counsel in which Diana agreed to withdraw her request for the order.  According to Sheriff Rochford, his wife said that “she did not feel threatened by [him],” and consented to the dismissal.

Despite Diana’s alleged statement that she did not feel threatened, the Sheriff had to wait 6 months to have his guns returned due to a lengthy procedural investigation that is required whenever a restraining order is filed against someone employed in law enforcement. According to Rochford, the restraining order was initially granted “based upon incomplete and misrepresented conversations” that his estranged wife had provided to authorities, although Diane’s attorney, Christopher Garibian, issued a statement indicating that his client “vehemently disagrees with the sheriff’s version of events” and that “this matter was not a ‘misunderstanding.”  Declining to elaborate further, Garibian has stated that “issues in domestic violence court are to be kept strictly confidential.”
Although each party appears to have a different version of events regarding the basis of the restraining order, according to the sheriff he “could have suffered significant professional damage” because, according to him, the restraining order was “filed based on inaccurate facts.”  The Sheriff added that “to date the law does not provide sanctions for those who tarnish and disrupt the lives of those falsely accused of domestic violence.”
Those who have had restraining orders filed against them might agree with Sheriff Rochford’s sentiments, but there is good reason for why in NJ obtaining a temporary restraining order and final restraining order in cases of domestic violence is not difficult.  Saint Peter’s University Criminal Justice Professor Kevin Callahan, who is also a retired Superior Court Judge, notes that NJ has “always had very liberal laws with regard to domestic violence… with the idea of separating the parties and not having another, possibly more serious incident.”  Following a domestic violence incident, a victim need only call the police and request a restraining order.  If the request is made during court hours, the victim will appear before a municipal court judge and a restraining order will be granted if the judge finds that it is truly a “domestic” incident.  During off-hours, a request for a temporary order can be granted over the phone.  According to Callahan, “it is just her statement that she has been threatened, hit, abused, and that is enough, without corroboration, to have the person removed from the house.”
In order to make the restraining order final, however, the parties must appear at a hearing before a Superior Court Family Judge, during which the judge will determine whether to make the order permanent or to extend the temporary restraining order. But Joan Eileen Coughlan, the director of Domestic Violence Services at WomenRising notes that with respect to the burden of proof at the hearing, “it’s not very difficult to get a final, but [the victim does] have to go before the court and say everything that happened and that can be difficult.”  Tina Morales, a mental health therapist at North Hudson Community Action who works with domestic violence victims, further notes that “there are many DV victims who do not seek a restraining order even though they should,” because they think that their abuser will change, they are afraid what will happen to them if they come forward, or because they are afraid of the process for other reasons.
If you believe a restraining order was wrongfully granted against you and would like it removed, contact The Rosenblum Law Firm at 888-815-3649 for a free consultation.