Domestic violence victim lashes out at The Bail Project for releasing her attacker
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For far too many women, every day is living a nightmare. One Louisville woman said she feels like her abuser was rewarded.
Christina McIntosh shared videos in which her husband of 10 years, Michael Strong, is heard yelling at her. The videos include Strong calling McIntosh names, cursing at her and telling her she’s worthless. She also showed photos of bruises on her face, broken bones, and scars around her neck from one of the many times she claims Strong strangled her.
In another video Strong sent her, he admits to being “aggressive.”
“You go on that, ‘I am doing all this bad stuff’ and the other,” Strong says. “Yeah, I am very aggressive. Yeah, I’m very hurt. Yeah, I drink a lot, you’re right,” he continues. “You know why? Cause I do that to drown my god**** sorrows every f****** day.”
McIntosh said his voice in those videos still haunts her.
“Purgatory,” McIntosh described her time with Strong. “And every now and every once in a while, I got to get out and go to hell.”
McIntosh’s voice quivered when she spoke of him, and her hands started to shake. She said it was because she feels more at risk for her life now than ever before, and she is angry The Bail Project paid $5,000 cash to bail Strong out.
The Bail Project is a national nonprofit organization with a chapter in Louisville that pays bail and operates “for people in need, reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence.” The Bail Project believes that freedom should be free and that money shouldn’t determine who gets out or stays in jail.
“You’re kidding me,” McIntosh said of the organization. “You are a joke. The bond was set that high so (Strong) couldn’t kill me. The judge did that for a reason.”
Bond amounts are not set by the kind of charge alone. The amount set by the judge considers many facts including the suspect’s ability to pay the posted amount as required by Kentucky law.
“We level the playing field,” The Bail Project’s local manager, Shameka Parrish-Wright, told WAVE 3 News.
Parrish-Wright said they research the person’s case before posting their bond to ensure they’d be a good candidate, but the organization previously came under fire for posting the bond for Michael Dewitt, who later went on a crime spree and killed 17-year-old Madelynn Troutt in Louisville.
Dewitt had over 10 prior arrests. WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters discovered additional charges and convictions for burglary, drugs, drunk driving, breaking and entering, and theft, including theft of firearms, between 2012 and 2019. He also had a history of contempt of court and parole violations.
Right across the Ohio River in Southern Indiana, WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters found 13 previous charges of domestic violence against Michael Strong, including one charge for strangulation, which was dismissed in exchange for pleading guilty to domestic battery. It was one of four domestic violence convictions that spanned from the early 2000′s and involved Strong’s previous partner, before he married McIntosh.
The convictions were aside from the strangulation and assault charges by Jeffersontown Police for McIintosh. The strangulation charge, a felony, was later amended down to attempted strangulation he agreed to plead guilty to.
“I literally had to fight to stay alive,” McIntosh said of the period following Strong’s release.
The years of abuse McIntosh described makes leaving an abusive relationship, experts say, that much more difficult.
“There’s this underlying sort of psychological abuse that often is the basis upon which the violence erupts,” Dorislee Gilbert, the former director the anti-domestic violence organization, The Mary Byron Project, told WAVE 3 News.
Gilbert explained that posting bond in a domestic violence case should be approached with caution because lives are at stake and the time when a woman comes forward is one of the most dangerous for the victim.
“Maybe they never called the police before because the person said to them, ‘If you call the police, I am going to kill you,’” Gilbert said.
Parrish-Wright said Strong’s son called them to help get his father out of jail. At the time the Bail Project bailed Strong out on March 2, they said Strong had come to court for five hearings and hadn’t violated any court orders.
There was no mention of Strong’s criminal history or the pictures and videos McIntosh had on paper in the criminal case. However, just down the hall in family court, his history of convictions, the pictures, and the violence were all on paper for anyone to see.
Parrish-Wright said that The Bail Project was aware of a case against Strong in family court but did not look into it.
When WAVE 3 News reviewed the family court file, it was discovered that an emergency protective order had been issued against Strong on Feb. 5, one month before The Bail Project bailed him out — something McIntosh believes the organization should have not only read but also considered.
“Take that money and give it to victims,” she said. “Take all that money you brag about. Give it to the ones that need a voice, give it to the homeless.”
Parrish-Wright said that The Bail Project was unaware of Strong’s criminal history because the charges were filed in Indiana, and they only have access to Jefferson County cases. She insisted the organization does its homework but admitted they did not consult with the prosecutor in Strong’s case before posting his bond. She also stated that their team does not have access to family court cases.
However, many family cases, including McIntosh’s, are open to the public, though Parrish-Wright said that is not true. Still, WAVE 3 News obtained copies of the entire case with some personal information redacted after making a single request in person at the courthouse. Copies of the files were provided the following day.
It’s a process available to anyone in the public, not just the media.
Parrish-Wright said she is a victim of domestic violence herself and would never intentionally put someone’s life at risk. But she stands by her team’s research and decision to bail Strong out. She said judges are the ones who set bail amounts. She also said that a person is innocent of a crime until proven guilty.
Despite her trauma, McIntosh said she is fighting and unafraid to share her story, if not for her case, then for the thousands of other women who have gone through similar experiences.
“I am not going to live my life in fear again,” she said. “I’m going to stand up. I want every victim out there to know that they can be a victor.”
McIntosh’s family court case in Indiana is still pending.
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell said when it comes to bail, public safety and victim care must be prioritized. He released the following statement:
“Public safety and attention to victims must be at the forefront of issues involving bail. As a longtime supporter of bail reform, money should be not be part of the equation. A lack of money should not be the reason someone is kept in jail, just as access to money should not allow someone who is a danger to others to be released.
Intimate partner cases are some of the most volatile in the criminal justice system and come with a heightened risk of death for victims. The time immediately after an accused domestic violence offender is detained is often the only opportunity when a victim has the needed space to prepare and implement a safety plan to escape an unhealthy environment. For these reasons, my office and others in the domestic violence advocate community continue to urge bail organizations to consider whether the charges in each case are of an intimate partner nature and avoid these cases.”
Anyone who is experiencing domestic violence can reach out to the Mary Byron Project for guidance by clicking here.
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