If you read Chattanoogan.com opinions, you have probably seen one or more of my outrages of how habitual criminals seem to have no price to pay for repeating serious crimes in Hamilton County.
This time we have a great judge, David Bales, who has recognized the danger of letting Dennis Wininger walk the streets after assaulting and imprisoning his wife. Judge Bales raised the bond to $70,000, which would either keep Wininger in the pokey where he belongs or at least make it very painful for him to be released.
Ole Wininger is no stranger to the justice system, having been before judges several times before. Now, Judge Bales had done the right thing only to be overruled by another judge. How on God's green earth could or should this happen? Didn't Judge Stern at the very least need to confer with Judge Bales?
When Wininger states he is "well connected with the court system", isn't it obvious that he is above the law here?
I have watched the judgments rendered by Hamilton County judges such as David Bales and Bob Moon. I only wish we had more like them. A criminal, especially an habitual one, is much more apt to pay a penalty for their behavior in those courts.
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For a domestic violence perpetrator? Because his mother works for the courts? This really sends the wrong message. This is not right at all.
Once again, do as we say not as we do. No wonder people have lost faith in the systems, and domestic violence victims are some of the most vulnerable on the planet.
Shame on you all involved in that little backroom deal.
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I too read with dismay the overruling of Judge Bales bond and the release of this person on OR. It is so fresh in my mind of the recent murder of a woman in the presence of her children in Chattanooga that left me wandering how could someone be so full of rage and hate that he would do such a thing to another person be allowed access to this person. I just hope this does not happen in this case as I am sure Judge Stern would have to answer for that decision if not a higher authority in the court system at least to her own conscience. In the least Judge Stern should have discussed this matter with Judge Bales to understand why he might have set the bond for that amount.
I don't believe that she would just think that Judge Bales had done it to just be mean or mean spirited, and I believe when something like this occurs it does show the appearance of special treatment for the defendant that has family in the court system.
Judge Bales apparently does not agree with this decision else wise it would not be printed here with his quotes.
Just as Mr. Holcomb stated in other opinions posted on this site these thugs and criminals that are killing others and shooting up the town with no regard for human life have been in and out of the court systems just to be released to go out and do it again until they finally take someone's life and forever impact the lives of the family. I can't understand this at all.
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Judge Stern is beginning to attract a lot of negative attention this year as a result of some illogical decisions she has ruled on. The most outstanding and unexplained was granting the Wal-Mart thief Janice Boydston (school board member) diversion when she was caught red - handed stealing (great example for parents trying to raise their kids to be honest, law abiding citizens).
Now we hear about a wife who was assaulted and held captive by her husband and Judge Stern not only changes the bail amount of $70,000 set by Judge Bales without conferring with the judge assigned the case, but releases the husband on OR (no bail at all) while his wife now fears retaliation by another beating or possible death (this is a violent divorce case).
Citizens of this county that I personally know who have been arrested for the most non-violent misdemeanors and petty offenses all had to paid a bonding company to be released, although some I know owned property and homes worth over a million dollars. Is this right?
Something smells rotten in Denmark. Where is the public out rage over this judge? When this person comes up for re-election, I will make a motion to the Chattanooga Tea Party to examine all her controversial decisions during the last four years and to support a qualified candidate to replace her.
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It has been quite a while since a story "back home" riled me up, but, alas!, I have risen from my slumber.
While it does need to be noted that Mr. Wininger is only alleged to have committed any offenses against his wife, one theme from this case seems to ring true. That theme is that though measures have carefully been set into place to prevent "judge shopping" in General Sessions Court in Hamilton County, it is apparently acceptable to shop around on the third floor of the courthouse.
In the past I have defended the sentences handed down by the judges and applauded their fairness and equity in dealing with a vast array of cases. However, one must wonder if Judge Stern was acting as a friend of his mother or a judge when she gave him an OR bond.
This is especially shocking since his Criminal Court convictions came from her very court.
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I try very hard to give benefit of the doubt regarding court cases reported in the media before a hearing. The Wininger case, however, is beyond outrageous, and any citizen can access the public database that shows why.
Why would Judge Bales set such a high bond for the current charges: domestic assault and false imprisonment? When I typed Wininger’s name in the sessions court disposition search box, my computer screen filled with five reasons just to start: 10/29/01—speeding; 6/21/03—drinking underage; 6/23/03—theft over $10,000; 1/23/04—public intoxication; 2/14/04—auto theft. All charges reflect either convictions or being bound over—with the exception of the speeding ticket, which was dismissed. One must naturally wonder what the juvenile court record would show, as he entered the adult system as soon as he was old enough to do so.
As the theft cases were bound over (without a hearing) according to the entries, I searched the criminal court database. Again, my computer screen was loaded. The list included four theft of property charges in 2003, one theft of property charge in 2004, and finally a DUI and vehicular assault charge in 2005. Convictions are recorded for all charges, some by plea of guilty to lesser charges, but no dismissals.
Judge Stern is the judge on record for every single criminal court case disposition, as well as for expunging the record on the first four thefts. (Yes, the public record shows an entry for expunging the record.)
Less than a month ago, I wrote a Chattanoogan opinion letter urging that police officers be held accountable for protecting domestic violence victims pursuant to current law. Even greater is the responsibility of a judge.
Will any action be taken regarding Judge Stern? She not only provided clear validity to Mr. Wininger’s claim to have court connections, but she also gave every domestic violence victim in Hamilton County one more reason to be afraid. One more reason to stay (or to go back). One more reason to risk “one more time.”
A domestic violence victim must overcome many fears and obstacles in order to leave an abuser. Fear that the abuser can charm “the system” should not be one of them.
If law enforcement and judicial process will not provide support and protection, she really may be better off staying with her abuser. Abuse almost always escalates with the leaving, and she needs strong support to make it through the fire. What will the system offer her? She really doesn’t know.
On the other hand, she knows the circle of domestic violence very well. It’s predictable and does provide for some phases of “the nice package.” Sometimes maybe that’s just as good as it gets.
Karen Walden Simpson
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It’s interesting to read the opinions on this case. Mainly because the writers are so ignorant of the facts. I realize the news coverage tried to sensationalize this and turn it into a story about the good-ole-boy system. But as several have pointed out, the judge who oversaw this young man’s convictions is also the one who looked at both sides of this case and realized that there is nothing there.
If the opinion writers would bother to read the entire article, they would see that the restraining order in this case was filed by the young man. They would also see that no charges were filed until after the restraining order was served.
In this case the man is the primary caregiver to this couple’s infant daughter and is seeking to protect her from an unstable mother. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the opinion givers. Because someone has a record they must be guilty. Maybe it’s that thinking that led the mother to pull the domestic violence card in this case. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why the judge ruled as she did. She saw this for what it is. A woman trying to make her husband and daughter’s lives hell.
But really, don’t let the facts get in the way. After all, for certain crimes it’s guilty until proven innocent.
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Once in a while, there is a case that is so blatantly wrong, all opinions are on the same side. The case of Dennis Adam Wininger is one of those cases.
It is a travesty Judge Stern is so easily swayed to overturn the bond set by Judge Bales. As a woman, I hate to have expectations of someone based on their gender. Judge Stern should be ashamed to have ruled in favor of a man, with a criminal record, charged with domestic violence. Who is Judge Stern accountable to for such a decision? Who is Ms. Wininger accountable to for using her position with the court to ask for personal favors?
This is not the first time Ms. Wininger has used her "connections" to influence the courts unjustly in her son's favor. Days before Wininger was released OR from jail, he was able to get an order of protection against his wife to obtain custody of their two-year-old child. How does a man with a criminal record and no evidence of employment get custody of their child based solely on his word? There could not have been any type of investigation when he was able to get the courts to sign over custody the same day he filed the petition.
The old adage, "It's now what you know, but who you know" holds true in the Hamilton County courts.
Jo Ellen Plummer
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Mr. Ellis, you, sir, should get your facts straight. According to the news account, the judge did not hear any "sides" of this case. The OR bond was given without any evidence being heard by anyone, especially the judge.
The deal was reportedly cut in the judge's private office and not in the courtroom where both the defense and the prosecution should have had an opportunity to be heard.
I will guarantee you that if it had been my son charged, he and most other people's kids would not have gotten a back room OR "Blue Light Special" get out of jail free card. My son and most kids would have gone to jail and had to post a bond even if he had no prior record. This man's criminal record is atrocious.
Configure it any way you want, but at the end of the day it's just the good ole boy system alive and well. This multiple criminal defendant was released because he was "well connected to the judicial system" because his mother worked for one of the judges. What is really sickening in this case is that he bragged about his connections which proved to be true.
Now let's see if this corrupt and unequal judicial system in Hamilton County can somehow correct itself in this case and the good ole boy system can be put to bed once and for all.
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Did anyone other than Mr. Ellis actually read the news article? Did no one else see that Mr. Wininger was the one who took out the protective order against his wife as he started the divorce proceedings? Did no one else actually see that Mr. Wininger is only accused of domestic assault/false imprisonment and he has not actually been convicted?
None of the arguments against him are making any sense to me. Personally, it sounds to me like the words "domestic assault" have been read by the bleeding hearts and it doesn't matter that it is nothing more than an allegation.
Does it not strike anyone else as peculiar that she waited until he filed for divorce and got a restraining order against her before she went to the police and said she was abused? If it happened in August, why didn't she go in August? September? October even? Did it only make sense for her to go and finally tell of this abuse after Mr. Wininger took legal measures against her? Am I really the only person that can see how this seems like an upset and vindictive woman who just wants to get back at her ex for leaving her?
Does anyone understand that it is beyond abnormal for a judge to set a $70,000 bond for domestic assault? Now take into account that she claims it happened in August and she didn't say anything and she doesn't have a bit of evidence. Just her word is worth a $70,000 bond? I really don't think so. Maybe instead of crying that Mr. Wininger's mom had anything to do with it, you should be looking at what on earth made Judge Bales set a bond so high? It seems to me that Judge Stern took one look at the allegations with no evidence and being filed so soon after Mr. Wininger filed for divorce and she saw that Mr. Wininger was no threat, especially not a $70,000 threat. Why should Mr. Wininger be treated worse because his mom is a longtime courthouse employee?
Yes, Mr. Wininger has a record. He was 21 the last time he got in trouble and he is now 26. He grew up, he became self employed, and has become a productive member of society. And, for the record, Ms. Plummer, being self employed does not mean there is no evidence of his employment. There is no crime in owning your own business and is actually something for him to be proud of rather than a negative that should be spoken out against him.
It breaks my heart to read these opinions and see how quickly people want to take what the "victim" claims as an absolute truth. "What is really sickening in this case is that he bragged about his connections which proved to be true." Let's try to remember that he is only accused of these things being said against him. Instead of spending time looking up his court records, why don't you spend your time looking up what the word accusation is - I truly believe it would be time better spent for all parties involved.