The ex-wife of City Councilor Angelina Marino speaks out about three harrowing domestic violence incidents, raising serious questions about the response from officials.
*This article contains graphic language, audio and images related to domestic abuse*
On November 4, 2015, Angelina Marino was elected Ward 1 City Councilor in Geneva.
On December 6, 2015, Marino’s wife of three years, Dawn Sutton, told Marino that she wanted to end the marriage.
On December 7, 2015, Marino sent the following text message to Sutton:
Over the next four months, the Geneva Police Department would respond to three domestic incidents at Marino and Sutton’s home, with incident reports identifying the City Councilor as the aggressor in all three instances, but Marino was never arrested or charged.
Although domestic violence victims’ names are often withheld, Dawn Sutton has agreed to tell her story to Geneva Believer, and has provided photos, text messages, an audio recording, and copies of the Domestic Incident Reports provided to her by the Geneva Police Department.
There are questions about whether special treatment was given to Marino due to her position in city government, about whether the incidents were poorly handled because the violence involved a same-sex couple, and about whether the police are properly handling domestic violence calls.
Sunday, January 24th, 2016 9:36pm
In the first of three incidents, Marino broke through a wooden door, damaged a section of drywall, and was verbally abusive. Sutton says that Marino also brandished a piece of wood from the broken door and physically assaulted Sutton, cutting Sutton’s finger in the process.
Sutton made an audio recording prior to calling 911 during which Marino spits on Sutton, admits to breaking the door and challenges Sutton to call the police, implying that they wouldn’t do anything (or that they would punish Sutton) because Marino was having sexual relations with an officer.
WARNING: The following audio link contains graphic language and adult content (partial transcript below).
Sutton: Stop kicking things.
Marino: I’m not gonna stop kicking things.
Sutton: I want you to think about…
Marino: You can call the police all you want, ’cause you don’t know which one of those f**king officers I’ve been blo**ng either, b**ch. So call the police and see what happens to you, and see what happens to (Sutton’s girlfriend) and her little thief husband.
Marino: I f**king dare you.
Sutton: Okay, you really believe that about (Sutton’s girlfriend)?
Marino: I dare you.
Sutton: Listen, here’s what I…
Marino: Actually, I don’t dare you, I’ll f**king call the police myself and get them over here, cause a lot of the police don’t like the f**king dykes, you know that.
Sutton: You did this to yourself after ten, eleven years of neglecting me…
Marino: I’m about to spit on you, you ready for it?
Sutton: Don’t spit on me.
Marino: That’s all you are to me is f**king spit.
Marino: You can turn around and just walk away and I’ll stare at you through my new window (referring to broken door)
Sutton: I’m going to block this up tonight (referring to broken door)…
Marino: That’s good. ‘Cause I’ll kick that in, too.
Sutton: (responding to Marino stating she would evict Sutton) Go, go do it.
Marino: I will be doing that…I don’t know…literally it’s seven o’clock on a Sunday night, do you think I can do anything now other than call the f**king police that I’ve been f**king banging for the last four weeks? You think that’s gonna help? ‘Cause I can do that.
According to Sutton, Marino knocked the phone out of her hand while Sutton was calling 911, and then physically prevented Sutton from leaving the bedroom to answer the door for the police. The police report details forced entry, unwanted contact, destroyed property and verbal abuse. At first, Sutton says the police asked her to leave the house for the night, but after some discussion, it was decided that Marino would spend the night elsewhere. Sutton says that she asked the police to arrest Marino, but they did not.
Police officers are required, in all domestic violence cases even when no arrest is made, to leave a signed and completed copy of the domestic incident report with the victim, as well as to provide a copy of the victims rights notice and information on local domestic violence support services.
The domestic incident report (link below) is not signed. Sutton says she was not given a copy until months later, and that she was not given any other paperwork or information on the night of the incident.
Monday, January 25th, 2016 6:40am
Less than 12 hours later, Marino returned to the home. Sutton says Marino further damaged the bedroom door, and when Sutton tried to walk away, Marino followed and elbowed Sutton in the back. Marino then left, and Sutton called 911. The Geneva Police arrived and spoke with Sutton. Sutton says she asked the police to arrest Marino, but they did not. The domestic incident report states that Marino punched and verbally abused Sutton, and that the victim (Sutton) was fearful.
The domestic incident report also states that Sutton failed to complete the paperwork for her complaint, but Sutton says the police didn’t tell her the report was incomplete and she had no idea she was expected to finish it later.
For the second time, the police failed to provide Sutton with a copy of a signed domestic incident report (link below), and Sutton says she still did not receive a victims rights notice or information on local domestic violence support services.
Sutton filed an Order of Protection the same day, which was granted by Ontario County Family Court, and Marino was ordered to move out of their home.
Nine days later on February 3 2016, Marino sent a text to a friend apparently joking about the destruction of the door.
About two weeks later, after hearing that Marino was sleeping in her car and office and was in danger of losing her job, Sutton agreed to have the Order of Protection reduced to a Refrain from Order of Protection. A Refrain from Order allowed Marino to move back into the home and to speak to Sutton, but prohibited her from harassing, threatening or abusing Sutton.
Saturday, April 9th, 2016 3:03pm
In the early afternoon, Sutton called Marino’s brother because Marino was drunk, removing glass items from the kitchen cabinets and smashing them. Sutton says Marino violently yanked upward on the kitchen faucet, removing the counter from its base and breaking the faucet. Sutton says Marino was also threatening suicide, something that Sutton says Marino had done in the past. Marino’s brother was unable to come to the home, so he contacted the Geneva Police Department who, according to Sutton, arrived within a few short minutes.
When the police arrived, Marino began crying and begging them not to arrest her, according to Sutton. Sutton also says that Marino refused a mental health examination. Sutton says an officer invited Marino to visit his family’s rural property in the future if it would help her to deal with her stress, and the same officer made Marino “pinky swear” that she would calm down and be okay. When Sutton expressed concern for her own safety, she said she was asked to leave so Marino could “sleep it off.” Sutton left, and returned late in the evening.
The incident report notes prior domestic violence reports, that Marino was intoxicated and threatening suicide, and that Marino was throwing items and breaking bottles.
It would appear that Marino had violated the Refrain from Order of Protection.
Sutton says that again, she asked the police to arrest Marino, but they did not.
And once again, the police failed to leave a signed copy of a domestic incident report, and Sutton says that she received no victims rights notice or information on local domestic violence support services.
The Ordeal Continues
Over the spring and summer of 2016, Sutton moved out of the house, and says that Marino continued to harass her. One night, a brick was thrown toward a window at Sutton’s house, missing the window and hitting the side of the house, although Sutton did not see who threw the brick. Sutton says that because of Marino’s drinking and unpredictability, and because Marino was never arrested or charged in the domestic incidents and had become emboldened, Sutton was living in fear every day.
Finally, Sutton met with the Geneva Police Department and insisted that she wanted to move forward with pressing charges for the second January incident and the April incident. She supplied them with documentation of abuse, including the texts, photos and audio recording in this article. Sutton says the police told her that they had sent the information to Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo, and that the DA would have to decide whether or not to charge Marino.
It should be noted that the role of the District Attorney’s office is to decide whether the case should be prosecuted, and at what level, after the police actually make an arrest. Of course, Marino was never arrested for any of the incidents.
With three indisputable and documented cases of physical and verbal abuse and destruction of property, Sutton hoped that, at the very least, Marino would be prosecuted for violating the Refrain from Order of Protection in April.
On August 1st, Sutton was notified by the Geneva Police Department that neither case would be prosecuted:
Sutton says that at this point, she still had not seen any of the three domestic incident reports. Sutton says that after each incident, officers told her that copies of the completed reports would be left in her mailbox. When that didn’t happen, Sutton says she called the police department and was told that the reports weren’t finished, and that someone would contact her later.
Once Sutton received notice on August 1st that the authorities would not be pursuing charges against Marino, she insisted that the police give her copies of the three reports, which she finally received sometime around late August/early September of 2016.
Sutton readily admits that she was completely unfamiliar with the legal process of domestic violence cases. After filing for the Order of Protection following the January 25th incident, Sutton believed that she had done what was necessary, and that the police would file the complaint and follow through with any charges.
But Sutton says the police never provided her with a victims rights notice and available support services, which they are required to do by state law. If Sutton had this information and knew her rights and responsibilities, she would have been equipped with the knowledge and support to follow through with charges against Marino.
Was Marino given special treatment due to her role as a City Councilor? In the second January incident, Sutton says that the officer invited Marino to his property to pick berries, which could indicate that the officer may have been too personally familiar with Marino to decide whether she needed to be arrested. Additionally, if a City Councilor were to be arrested on domestic violence charges, the story would likely be covered by regional media, causing embarassment not only to Marino but to the City itself. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to prove that Marino was given special treatment due to her position as an elected official, and it’s a safe bet that representatives of the city, the police department, and the district attorney’s office would vehemently deny the possibility of special treatment.
Were the incidents mishandled due to false assumptions about LGBTQ relationships and domestic violence? One common misconception is that abuse in LGBTQ relationships is not as serious, because LGBTQ relationships are not always recognized in the same way that heterosexual relationships are, and that victims are more easily able to leave an abusive relationship. First responders can also wrongly assume that in a same-sex relationship, both partners have equal social and financial standing, and equal physical strength, meaning that neither partner can exert control over the other, or be controlled in the relationship.
A 2015 report by the ACLU, CUNY School of Law and University of Miami School of Law found that “survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault face widespread and serious police discrimination when they seek protection from the criminal justice system.”
“Responses from the Field: Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Policing is based on a nationwide survey of 900 advocates, attorneys, service providers, and non-profit workers who support or represent domestic violence and sexual assault victims. As a topline finding, 88 percent of respondents reported that police sometimes or often do not believe victims or blame victims for the violence. Advocates identified police inaction, hostility, and bias against survivors as key barriers to seeking intervention from the criminal justice system.”
Senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and the report’s co-author Sandra Park said: “Unless police officers are held accountable for blaming victims and refusing to investigate domestic violence and sexual assault the same as they do other crimes, our criminal justice system will continue to fail survivors.”
Does the Geneva Police Department need to improve their methods of dealing with domestic violence calls in general? In the case of the April incident, no action was taken because officers appeared to find that there was no active threat. This action very likely failed to follow procedure for when an Order of Protection is in place, and disregarded Sutton’s circumstance.
Under New York State law relating to domestic incidents, an action can be considered a crime when an officer has reasonable cause to believe it was committed, even if the officer doesn’t witness it.
It was established at scene that Marino was intoxicated and there was obvious evidence of broken glassware, bottles and a sink Marino allegedly damaged. Add on the two previously documented domestic incidents and the responding officers could certainly have legally determined that Marino had posed a threat, violated the Order of Protection, and should be arrested. But ultimately, the decision whether or not to make the arrest is that of the responding officer.
Domestic Violence is Never Normal
Some readers may be considering responses or questions to refute the damning information in this article.
You might be thinking that the audio recording sounds shocking, but sometimes in the midst of a relationship breaking up, people who feel emotionally hurt will unfortunately say emotionally hurtful things that they will later regret.
In the recording, Marino spits on Sutton, admits to breaking the door, and implies that she will lie and tell the police that Sutton broke the door. This is not normal “breakup” behavior, and it’s not just somebody who lost their temper.
And while there’s no evidence that Marino is telling the truth about having a relationship with a police officer, the fact that an elected official so arrogantly states, while in the act of committing domestic abuse, that she is bulletproof from being arrested for domestic abuse is grossly unacceptable…and the fact that Marino wasn’t ever arrested or held accountable for her inexcusable behavior makes those comments even more chilling in retrospect.
You may be thinking that there are unverifiable statements in the story by Sutton, and perhaps she is just a bitter ex-wife out for revenge.
Dawn Sutton could try to simply forget it all happened and move on with her life, but she told me the reason she wants her story heard is because she is frightened. Her nightmare is not over because it looks like Marino got away with everything, and has never been held accountable for her actions. Sutton says that she doesn’t know if the day will come that Marino finally does something terribly violent to her or her loved ones. Sutton hopes that by telling her story, Marino will no longer be able to threaten or intimidate her, and perhaps others will realize that normalizing or minimizing domestic violence is wrong. And while not every last aspect of Sutton’s story is documented, there is more than enough information in the photos, texts, audio recording, and police reports to conclude that Marino has exhibited and engaged in violent and unstable behavior.
Maybe you’ve seen Sutton and Marino in person, and you think the idea that Sutton is the one who was being abused makes no sense. This type of speculation is a perfect example of the many bigoted and prejudiced beliefs relating to domestic violence and the LGBTQ community. Educate yourself so you can learn to stop making ignorant, dangerous and cruel assumptions.
Our Geneva, Our Responsibility
On February 7, 2016, a mother of three named Emily Carson was killed by her boyfriend in a murder-suicide on a Sunday morning in downtown Geneva, bringing the horror of domestic violence out of darkness and into broad daylight in the heart of our city.
Those purple ribbons on downtown lightposts may be gone, but the issue of domestic violence is still right here with us.
It’s not melodramatic to say that we all must take responsibility to deal directly and honestly with domestic violence in every instance before another unspeakable tragedy occurs.
A few days ago, I spoke with Dawn Sutton to let her know this article was about to be posted, and asked her if she was ready for the possibility of backlash from some people in the community.
She said she was ready, but she also said that she planned to shop for a security camera for her home “just to be safe.”
- Contact City Council and let them know what you think about Councilor Marino’s recent history of domestic violence, and the subsequent handling of her domestic incidents. Let them know that if the city decides to respond by simply saying “the police department followed proper procedure,” we will continue to pressure them to take domestic violence seriously. Ask them if they are satisfied with Angelina Marino continuing to serve alongside them on City Council.
- Go to the next City Council meeting on April 5th (7:00pm, Public Safety Building, 255 Exchange Street), sign up to speak during public comment (taking place near the end of the meeting), and let Council know that they need to take domestic violence seriously. If you can’t make it to the April meeting, attend the meeting in May.
- If you are a registered Democrat, contact the city Democratic Committee and ask them if they are satisfied with Angelina Marino continuing to represent their party in Ward 1.
- Share this article with your friends, and send it to local and regional media outlets and ask them to cover the story.