Arrests of celebrity mechanic’s son underscore domestic worries in coronavirus lockdown
Photo: Jesse Eli James
Across the country we read stories related to the COVID 19 issue. Here’s one from Texas, brought by statesman.com –
“Austin police recently arrested a man twice in a little more than a week after responding to a rental home in Hyde Park both times and finding his girlfriend with injuries consistent with an assault.
Jesse Eli James, 23, was charged twice with assault family violence — for a misdemeanor on March 26 and for a felony on April 3. He is the son of a former TV personality with the same name who reached acclaim building custom vehicles on a Discovery Channel show.
An emergency protective order was entered after the second arrest that prohibits James from contacting the woman, who is 18, through the end of May.
James was granted a personal bond from a magistrate judge after the first arrest, which came two days before Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning Texas judges from issuing personal bonds to anyone alleged to have committed a violent offense. A Travis County state judge blocked the order Friday night.
James is currently out of jail after posting $8,000 bail following his second arrest.
The arrests come at a time of heightened worry that stay-at-home orders related to the coronavirus pandemic will result in an uptick in family violence as people in volatile relationships are confined to homes they share with each other without much room for distance.
Yet, at least for now, authorities in Travis County have actually arrested fewer people for family violence since isolation practices started becoming widespread in mid-March, according to Mack Martinez, director of the county attorney’s domestic violence division. Petitions for protective orders are coming in at a normal rate, he said.
Those findings, Martinez said, are based on his observations and not hard statistics, which he said were not available through his office. The American-Statesman filed a request for data on family violence arrests from the Austin Police Department through the Texas Public Information Act, but officials have not responded.
The SAFE Alliance, which offers services to victims of domestic abuse, said call volume has returned to normal following an uptick of roughly 40% that coincided with the start of isolation.
The decrease may be misleading, said SAFE’s Antwon R. Martin, who suspects people are still suffering abuse at a higher rate but do not feel comfortable alerting authorities while their partner is near them.
“It’s really hard to make that phone call or send that text message for support,” Martin said. “That’s the running theory on why call volume has decreased since that initial spike.”
If you or a family member is hurt or in danger, call 911. SAFE, a domestic violence advocacy and crisis intervention group, can be reached at all hours at 512-267-7233 (call) or 737-888-7233 (text), or through an online chat: safeaustin.org/chat.
The affidavit in James’ first arrest stated police arrived to a rental home in the 800 block of East 48th Street after a caller reported hearing a woman yell “help” and “don’t hurt me.”
The woman, according to the affidavit, had been dating James for about six months. She told police that James had stomped on her arm three times after she confronted him about cheating on her. Police noted in the report that the woman had two fresh bruises on her forearm and a bleeding cut to her wrist, and that her knuckles were bright red.
James, when questioned about the woman’s injuries, said they were from rough sex.
Magistrate Judge Steven Vigorito set bail at $2,000 and approved a personal bond against the recommendation of Travis County pretrial services. It is not uncommon for a judge to disregard the recommendation, particularly for a misdemeanor offense.
Eight days later, James was rearrested after an officer responding to the same home found the woman in a bath towel crying and holding her head. The woman, according to the affidavit, told police she did not feel safe when James was released after the first arrest and had a friend come stay with her.
The day before the second incident, James made the friend leave the home, the affidavit said.
James, the woman told police, sprayed her with a shower head, kicked her in her back and pulled her hair. He also threw an apple at her, she said. The woman said she repeatedly screamed for James to stop.
An emergency protective order prohibits James from contacting the woman and from going within 200 yards of the rental home or another address where she stays.
James is due in court on May 21 for the first arrest and on May 29 for the second arrest.
Defense attorney Michelle Mays, who was appointed to represent James, did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment.
James’ father lives south of Austin in Driftwood. He recently announced a split from his wife Alexis Dejoria, a prominent drag racer whose father, John Paul Dejoria, co-founded the Paul Mitchell line of hair products and the Patrón Spirits Company. The older James previously was married to Academy Award winning actress Sandra Bullock.”