When voters elect their leaders, they expect their jobs to get done. When taxpayers pay those leaders’ salaries and those jobs fail to get done, The Baltimore Post believes those leaders should be held accountable.
But when the county’s “top cop” drops the ball, where does one go, exactly?
Elections have consequences. And in the case of one Baltimore County resident, Jennifer Cabeza, and her former professional soccer player and undocumented resident domestic partner, Yaikel Perez, those consequences include a botched domestic violence case in which Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger not only dropped the ball but – according to Cabeza – he changed the rules on the field that he set up.
Cabeza is now calling foul. For not only did Shellenberger, according to Cabeza, fail to meet with her a single time to go over her case before it was tried and — in her words — he “botched it,” but he also allowed her alleged domestic abuser to get a pass (twice) by not upholding the terms of an agreed-upon settlement: two rounds of anger management classes (called STET) and a lifetime restraining order.
In the rules of soccer, the term Advantage Rule means a referee must refrain from stopping play for a foul if a stoppage would benefit the team that committed the violation.
Cabeza alleges that State’s Attorney Shellenberger has given such an advantage to her alleged abuser after she provided time-stamped photos as well as video and audio evidence that showed in 2017 and 2018 she was choked, spit upon, and violently assaulted.
While a jury sided with her accuser after not seeing the evidence Cabeza says she provided to the state’s attorney, she agreed, at a minimum, to terms that were designed to protect her and get her alleged abuser treatment.
Some of that evidence can be viewed below.
Warning: video contains graphic language and potential violence
I decided that he did not need to complete the exact same class again because that is a misuse of resources.” – Scott Shellenberger
In July, Cabeza asked for proof that her ex-boyfriend completed both courses – a condition of her agreement not to prosecute – and that she had been given that promised lifetime protection.
“…We decided he did not have to take the class again since he has already completed it, and the class is a limited resource especially during the pandemic,” Shellenberger said in response to Cabeza in an Oct 2, 2020 email.
As for the whether or not he processed the promised restraining order, Shellenberger did not say.
And when The Baltimore Post reached out to the state’s attorney, he explained the case while also bypassing a few details.
“This is what happened in the Perez case. Yaikel Perez was the Defendant charged with assaulting Jennifer Cabeza. He was found not guilty after a jury trial. Then, when confronted with a voice mail message Jennifer Cabeza left saying something along the lines of getting Mr. Perez or making him pay, we decided not to try the second open case and instead STETed it with the condition that Mr. Perez complete the Abuser Intervention Program. He was attending the classes when COVID shut them down. He had previously successfully completed the exact same class as a condition of a District Court STET of a case he was charged with assaulting Jennifer Cabeza. She not only flew him back from Florida for that case, but she also requested the STET. I decided that he did not need to complete the exact same class again because that is a misuse of resources.”
“He assaulted me. Women take their abusers back repeatedly due to manipulation and tactics and that is exactly what happened in this case.”
But Cabeza maintains that her alleged abuser violated the terms of his first Abuser Intervention Program, while Shellenberger turned a blind eye. “He has a court order to stay away from me. He violated that court order and assaulted me. State didn’t care about that,” Cabeza told The Baltimore Post. “(Mr.) Pérez came back from Florida in May 2018. Him coming back from Florida has nothing to do with this. He assaulted me. Women take their abusers back repeatedly due to manipulation and tactics and that is exactly what happened in this case.” Cabeza went on to say that her ex-boyfriend returned to Baltimore “with the promise of going to doctors and therapy to get help. I took him to one world for help,” She said. “The doctor put him on medicine and sent him to therapy. I thought his intent was pure to get the help he needed but he lied to me.”
The ball is in Shellenberger’s court and he’s called the game. But it’s not the first time he’s been accused of fouling up cases he was elected to prosecute.
The Baltimore Brew reported in 2018 that Shellenberger sent officers to intimidate an alleged victim of violence that occurred at the hands of athletes.
According to The Brew, he sent police to a rape victim’s home to threaten her, as detailed in a 2018 federal class-action lawsuit against the state’s attorney in which police and UMBC charged that Baltimore County is obstructing justice – and still misclassifying rape reports.
The Brew reported, “Bolstered by internal emails and other communication the plaintiffs obtained under the Maryland Public Information Act, the complaint outlines the suburban department’s long-term pattern of filing rape allegations as ‘unfounded,’ destroying rape kits as little as 30 days after the examinations, and misclassifying rape allegations as ‘suspicious circumstances.’”
And, in 2019, Shellenberger not only dropped the ball, but he misplaced it too when he literally lost track of an illegal immigrant accused of running over and subsequently dismembering a Baltimore County resident in front of his wife.
In these cases, perhaps elections may not actually have consequences, after all. Except dire ones for those Shellenberger was elected to protect.
Where does one go when a state’s attorney has appeared to have abdicated his duties? The Baltimore Post asked the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission. Its response: Anyone can file a grievance against any attorney, including the state’s attorney.
As for Cabeza, her case can best be explained in her own words. Her plea to Shellenberger, below, put the ball squarely in his court. But the question is: When will he get off the bench?
“My name is Jennifer Cabeza. I am a lifelong citizen of Baltimore County..I have been a licensed real estate agent in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 16 years. I have two children, my daughter [Redacted] attended [Redacted] and then [Redacted]. [Redacted]. My [Redacted] is 17 years old and is entering his senior year at [Redacted]. I serve as a volunteer for Delete Blood Cancer, where I have found bone marrow matches and saved 28 lives. I also volunteer and attend a lot of your campaign fundraisers and rallies.
In 2016, I started a relationship with a professional soccer player, who at the time played for the Harrisburg Heat. His name is Yaikel Rousseaux Perez. He was fired from this team(at the time I was not told the truth as to why he was fired) on Jan 18, 2017. He was fired for spitting on and swinging at his own teammate during training, On February 17, 2017, Yaikel Perez strangled me for the first time. I filed charges. He was held without bail. He then was stetted for these charges in November 2018. He was ordered to take 28 weeks of domestic violence classes and stay away from me
In Nov, 2018, just a few days after he was stetted, he spit in my face and strangled me(I have the video and photos of this). On December 13, 2018, he threw me to the ground and spit in my face, a nurse witnessed this and became my witness.
During all this time, I was repeatedly abused and assaulted. I was in the cycle of abuse and did not even know how to escape. I was in a mental fog dealing with the roller coaster of a domestically violent relationship. I was spit on repeatedly,my food was spit on, my cat was killed, i was raped, my money was stolen, my house was destroyed with an ax, and so much more.
When I finally got him out of my house, I filed criminal charges for theft , assault, destruction of property, rape and other charges. From day 1 of these charges being filed, I never felt that the states attorneys office protected me. I presented all of my photos and text messages, videos and audios. The states attorney’s office dropped most of the charges abruptly. When my attorney, Irene Smith with the Women’s Law Center, called the states attorneys office, she was advised that Yaikel Perez’s attorney visited her at the office and she decided to just drop the charges. The remaining charge was one 2nd degree assault charges, down-graded from first degree assault. The states attormey’s office would not even explain to me why they were dropping the charges.
Yaikel Perez had a jury trial for 2nd degree assault when he strangled me and spit in my face, the Nov 2018 incident. The states attorney’s office never spent one minute with me going over the case. They went into that jury trial and did not present the correct time stamped photos. The facts that they presented in the case were wrong and because of that he was found NOT GUILTY. He is 100% guilty and he got away with it. I feel that the states attorneys office intentionally sabatoged this case.
When we had the last trial, a jury trial, in December 2019, my attorney and I had a long discussion. We knew that if the states attorney botched this, and he was found not guilty that I would be very upset. Again, the states attorney did not spend one minute with me going over the case. When I provided the photos of the injuries the morning of the trial, the states attorney asked me why they were just seeing the photos. I told them that they did not spend any time with me going over the case again. It is like they opened the file that morning and just did the bare minimum. We asked the states attorney for him to get probation, but they said that they did not want to hurt his immigration status. They said it would be a stet for the second time or a jury trial. After consulting with my attorney, we decided to agree to the stet for my sanity. The states attorney said that he would have to attend a second round of domestic violence classes for 28 weeks and that I would have a lifetime restraining order.
I am writing all of you because i need help. I want to know if Yaikel Perez completed both of his domestic violence classes(both 28 week classes), I want the transcript of the judges order from the December 2019 stet and the November 2018 stet and I want written proof that I have an active restraining order against him. I am in fear for my life every single day. I live on eggshells. I have had people follow me, I have called the police to report it, I do get text messages from fake phone numbers that the police can not trace. I also get phone calls from fake phone numbers, I have had people sitting outside of my house. As a citizen of this county I DO NOT FEEL SAFE and this is not fair. If I do not have a lifetime order against him, I need one!
In addition, I do not feel that justice was served. I do not feel that the states attorneys office protected me. I do not feel that I was represented properly. This person, Yaikel Rousseaux, 1,000000% assaulted me numerous times and he got away with it.
I am asking every single one of my delegates in Baltimore County to get answers. IS there a lifetime restraining order and if there is, where is my proof? If Yaikel Perez comes near me, and I call the police, I do not have paperwork stating that there is a restraining order. Did Yaikel Perez finish both 28 week domestic violence classes? Why isn’t the first STET reopened since he assaulted me one month after the original STET. He clearly violated his FIRST STET. I know the laws with a stet and I know that a stet can be re-opened for any reason within the first year. I want this stet re opened and I want this assailant held accountabe, even if the trial is outside of Baltimore County.
After the last case in December 2019, the states attorneys came out to the lobby and spoke to all my family, me and my attormey. The states attorney’s office told me that they will not reopen his stets, in fact, they told me to leave Yaikel Perez alone!!!!!!. They told me that I should not even follow through on my lawsuit against him. I find this to be terrible. The states attorney’s office is protecting a green card holder and not a stand up citizen of baltimore county. I have been in contact with ICE, they instructed me to contact all of my local delegates. ICE told me that Baltimore County does not cooperate with ICE, and this is why I feel that Baltimore County protected the wrong person.
There is much more involved with this case. THere are two active attorney grievance complaints against the two attorneys that assisted Yaikel Perez and went to the states attorney’s ofice to ask for a favor. These attorneys also bought Yaikel Perez a car, Paid for an apartment for one year and Yaikel Perez’s cell phone is in the name of his attorney.
I am open to having a meeting with any one of you. I am asking that we all work together to get answers for me, the victim, and an upstanding citizen of Baltimore County..
I look forward to hearing from you.
Jennifer R Cabeza