November 29, 2023

California DA is investigating Atlanta lawyer over wife abuse allegations

MartinChitwoodCarolSwansonChitwood-Article-Vert-201509021833By R. Robin McDonald, From Daily Report

The San Diego County district attorney is reviewing “potential criminal charges” against Atlanta attorney Martin Chitwood stemming from his arrest last year after his wife said he attacked her, a DA spokesman told the Daily Report.

The district attorney’s office began reviewing the matter after San Diego police forwarded the results of their investigation in August, said Steve Walker, a spokesman for San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

In June, the Daily Report asked San Diego law enforcement authorities about Chitwood’s arrest and why, according to his lawyer, the case had been dropped.

Any charge would presumably be a felony, because in California, the statute of limitations for prosecuting most misdemeanors is one year. San Diego police responded to Carol Chitwood’s 911 call on Aug. 13, 2014 at his La Jolla home.

Calling it an “ongoing investigation,” Walker said the DA “will conduct a thorough review of the case.”

Chitwood is a prominent securities class action litigator and a founding partner of Atlanta’s Chitwood Harley Harnes.

Last year Carol Chitwood told police, and later claimed in court papers associated with the couple’s ongoing divorce litigation in Atlanta and a separate assault-and-battery suit she filed in California, that her husband had slammed her down on a credenza, spat repeatedly in her face, then, as she attempted to flee, shoved her down a flight of stairs.

Martin Chitwood’s San Diego attorney, former San Diego County DA Paul Pfingst, could not be reached for comment. Chitwood’s Atlanta divorce lawyer, Marvin Solomiany, told the Daily Report on Wednesday, “In her failed attempts to try to set aside the prenuptial agreement that she voluntarily negotiated with the assistance of her own counsel, Ms. Chitwood’s fraudulent claims of domestic violence are an insult to those who wrote the laws protecting legitimate victims of domestic violence and to the victims themselves. Her fraudulent claims mock the claims of legitimate victims and the legal system that has been set up to enforce and protect them. In addition, they jeopardize the enforceability of the claims of legitimate victims by causing Judges and law enforcement officials to perhaps become skeptical of the truthfulness of victims who do have legitimate claims.”

Carol Chitwood’s attorneys in her California suit, Lisa Bloom and Jivaka Candappa, could not be reached for comment. Her Atlanta divorce lawyer, Christine Stadler, also could not be reached.

Notes from Carol Chitwood’s La Jolla physician the day after her husband’s arrest attached to her affidavit in the Atlanta divorce document her account of the alleged assault. Her physician noted injuries to her right wrist, bruises to thighs and legs, scalp pain, a pinching back pain around the sacroiliac joint and a persistent headache. The notes also say the physician diagnosed her with battered spouse syndrome, which leaves a victim of abuse feeling depressed, defeated and, often, helpless to leave her abuser.

The force of Carol Chitwood’s fall down the stairs was so great that a gastric band implanted in her abdomen nine years earlier ruptured, and several fibroid tumors in her uterus burst, according to her affidavit and medical records filed in the divorce case.

During a follow-up visit, her physician noted abdominal swelling at the site of the gastric band and recommended surgery for what was diagnosed as a “fracture” of the band “secondary to blunt trauma,” the notes said. Carol Chitwood underwent abdominal surgery in September 2014, and again last month, to repair the gastric band.

The alleged attack was, according to Carol Chitwood’s affidavit, the culmination of escalating, violent assaults by her husband that she said in court papers had begun shortly after the couple married in 2009.

After Chitwood was released from jail last year, he flew to Atlanta, filed for divorce and moved to enforce a prenuptial agreement that the couple had signed. Meanwhile, Carol Chitwood secured a restraining order against her husband, which a San Diego judge eventually extended through 2017.

The San Diego County DA’s review of the case against Chitwood follows a decision by the office of the San Diego City Attorney, which handles misdemeanor prosecutions, not to prosecute Chitwood.

A spokesman for San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told in June that the case against Martin Chitwood wasn’t winnable because Carol Chitwood had not wanted her husband arrested and the likelihood that Martin Chitwood would attack her again was “pretty low.”

Spokesman Gerry Braun also said his office was unaware that Carol Chitwood had sustained any serious injury.

San Diego police Lt. Misty Cedrun, who heads the San Diego Family Justice Center, told the Daily Report in June that no charges were filed against Martin Chitwood after his arrest because Carol Chitwood “refused medical treatment” when the officer responded to her 911 call and “demonstrated a level of unwillingness” to cooperate because she didn’t want her husband arrested.

Although police forwarded the Chitwood case to the city attorney for prosecution, Cedrun said at the time that the case “looked to us like part of their divorce” and that Carol Chitwood may have been “posturing for money,” even though neither Chitwood had filed divorce papers when Martin Chitwood was arrested.

Cedrun also told the Daily Report she was not aware that Carol Chitwood had sustained injuries. She told the Daily Report that if Carol Chitwood “wants to bring all these medical records forward, and wants him [her husband] prosecuted for a felony,” police might revisit the case.

Cedrun could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, and a San Diego police spokesman said police do not comment on a case once it has been forwarded to the DA.

Candappa, one of Carol Chitwood’s California lawyers, told the Daily Report in June, “We reached out to the [San Diego Police Department] and the San Diego city attorney’s office to inquire about the status of the criminal prosecution” and never heard back from them. But he added, “I am not aware of Carol’s unwillingness to cooperate. … It was and is our understanding that the case is still under investigation and no one has told us otherwise.”

Walker, the DA’s spokesman, wouldn’t say on Tuesday what, if any, additional information San Diego police may have received that prompted investigators to forward the Chitwood case to the DA for possible prosecution. “This is an ongoing investigation and review, so I’m unable to discuss the facts or evidence,” he said.

IMAGE: Martin Chitwood

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