Judge denies use of DVSJA in Poughkeepsie murder trial

A rally gathered outside the Dutchess County Courthouse to support Nicole Addimando, found guilty of second degree murder. Her sentence was not reduced despite evidence of domestic abuse. Courtesy of Angus Bernet

[CW: This article discusses imprisonment, domestic violence, sexual violence, murder and emotional abuse.]

On Feb. 11, Dutchess County Judge Edward T. McLoughlin sentenced Nicole Addimando to 19 years to life in prison for criminal possession of a weapon and the murder of Christopher Grover, her live-in partner with whom she had two children. The decision came after a 12-person jury unanimously rejected her assertion of self-defense on April 12, 2019.

At approximately 2:16 a.m., on Sept. 28, 2017, Poughkeepsie police officer Richard Sisilli was en route to an unrelated incident when he found Addimando’s car paused before a green light on Taft Avenue. After he blew his air horn, she exited the car, her two children asleep in the backseat, and approached him about a fight she had with her partner (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Nicole Addimando defense aims to preclude statements to police,” 11.13.2018).

Addimando confessed to shooting Grover in self-defense to the police officer, citing years’ worth of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She explained how Child Protection Services (CPS) had come to their apartment 24 hours earlier, after an anonymous call reported bruises on Addimando. She later testified that, as they lay on their sofa after the visit from CPS, Grover threatened to kill her if she left him. When he fell asleep, Addimando arose from the couch and unsuccessfully attempted to leave with the children. Grover produced a gun from between the couch cushions and pointed it at her. Addimando kneed him and grabbed the gun. The police later found Grover dead with a bullet lodged in his left temple (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Addimando tells jury about shooting: ‘I just lunged and pulled the trigger,’” 03.28.2019).

Addimando, a graduate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park, first met Grover in 2008 when they worked together as coaches at Mr. Todd’s Gymnastics (The New Yorker, “When Can a Woman Who Kills Her Abuser Claim Self-Defense?” 12.20.2019). After developing a close friendship, their relationship grew into a romantic one. Addimando even shared her history of childhood sexual abuse. The two stayed together after Addimando left Mr. Todd’s to obtain a teaching certificate and work as a student teacher in New Paltz. In 2011, she found employment at Vassar College.

Director of Wimpfheimer Julie Riess ’82 recalled first meeting Addimando after she came to work at the nursery school: “I met her [around 2011] because she was a primary caregiver for her nephew Noah, who was going to start Wimpfheimer as a two year old … I had met her a little bit and I really wanted her to apply for a job here. I heard amazing things and when Noah started she had the time to take on a teaching position.”

Riess continued, “We loved and adored her … We work with tons of college students. In doing that, you develop a sense of who is a good fit, who has got a lot of promise and who is a good match for kids and for being in a young children’s environment. Nikki was all those things.”

Riess first took notice of bruises and cuts on Addimando’s person in Oct. 2011. They had the card swipe access installed to provide Addimando an escape from the abuse: “We started trying to give her a safe place to go to. Because we had the card swipes, she could get here 24/7. I left her the little room next to my office and a sleeping bag for her, as well as a first aid kit. I don’t know if she ever used the overnight piece or not, but we did patch her up. Everything from bruises and cuts to cracked ribs. … Things got a little better, and then they got worse again.”

After becoming pregnant in 2012, Addimando left Wimpfheimer in the fall and gave birth to a son, Ben, in December. Various sources confirm that the abuse worsened when Ben was several weeks old, when Grover first forced himself on her. Riess stayed in touch with Addimando and described one incident that occurred during Addimando’s second pregnancy: “He took her head and he slammed it into the edge of the kitchen counter … Then he took a spoon and heated it and burned her all over her body.”

Another source who spoke on the condition of anonymity concurred with Riess’ assessment: “For two and a half years, I never saw her without a bruise. I saw her covering black eyes with sunglasses. I saw her with scarves covering red marks around her neck. I saw her twice with dislocated shoulders … She discussed with me the brutal rape that he did to her night after night after night, how she had to remain silent to not wake up her children.”

In cases of self-defense, the burden of proof falls upon the prosecution to disprove the defendant’s justification beyond reasonable doubt. Riess described suppression of evidence as the prosecution’s major strategy. Likewise, Putnam County Assistant District Attorney and chief prosecutor Chana Krauss rejected Addimando’s claims that Grover abused her. She instead cited an employee of Addimando’s mother who sexually assaulted her and a police officer with whom Addimando became involved after attempting to report Grover as possible abusers (The New Yorker). These individuals provided grounds for the court to question whether Grover could be proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be Addimando’s abuser.

Krauss asserted that Addimando was a manipulator who had emotionally abused Grover and killed him while in his sleep. She used texts from Addimando to Grover, such as “I have an asshole man child for a partner. That’s my disorder.” Furthermore, Krauss called to the stand Stuart Kirschner, a forensic psychologist who testified that videos depicting Grover and Adimando in rape scenes, which Grover posted to PornHub, were consensual (The New Yorker).

The day of the sentencing, friends and family gathered at a rally outside the Dutchess County Courthouse and hosted a vigil for 30-year-old Addimando, whom they call Nikki, in the common room of Christ Episcopal Church. Former Davison House Fellow Elizabeth Clifton helped organize both events, recalling through a cracked voice at the vigil: “She is able to think about other people’s needs and lives, and she remembers to ask details about them.”

Addimando’s defense team saw a glimmer of hope in May 2019, after Governor Cuomo signed into law the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA, NYS S. 1077). Specifically, the DVSJA amended existing laws to provide alternate sentences for victims of domestic violence (DV). It defines DV Alternative Sentence eligibility with respect to crimes committed due to coercion by an abuser; against the defendant’s abuser; or at the behest (at the request or order) of the defendant’s abuser (Pro Se Practice, “Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act: Resentencing Options,” 09.04.2019). However, Judge McLoughlin denied applying the DVSJA, stating to the prosecution and defense teams that Grover could not be verified as Addimando’s abuser. He also asserted that Addimando had various opportunities to leave the home she shared with Grover.

Though Grover’s family could not be contacted for a comment, several relatives and close friends shared their thoughts on social media. Multiple individuals expressed relief and appreciation for what they see as justice having been served on Grover’s behalf.

The People vs. Nicole Addimando dragged on for nearly two and a half years, during which her family paid thousands of dollars in legal fees. Clifton and Michelle Horton, Addimando’s sister, established the Addimando Defense Committee: “Our goal is to support her, to help raise money for her defense, and support her in telling her truth.”

The Defense Committee plans to continue advocating for Addimando and assist in finding attorneys to appeal the decision. The DVSJA will not only be central to the appeal, but The People vs. Nicole Addimando will establish its application in New York State case law.

18 Comments

  1. Glad they’re keeping her locked up, like she deserves. It’s about time for women to be held accountable for their actions as well.

    • You must be joking. Clearly.
      You can’t think that the behavior of the abuser is acceptable, unless of course, you are an abuser. Which means you are a coward.
      If a woman has to be held accountable for her actions, doesn’t a man as well? Where was his accountability? Oh, there was none, because by nature he is stronger and forced himself on her and abused her.

      You, sir, are a special kind of pathetic and I wish I could just have a chance to show you how much of a coward you are.

      • please, you’re the type of person who ignores the facts and believes the emotion. They investigated him, they had zero claims of abuse or visits to the house , the neighbors reported no yelling and arguing. Just because it has been said does not mean its true.
        Now, God forgive me if I am wrong but a jury of 12 and no evidence is usually a pretty good reason to believe him over her

    • Lol, yes because statistics prove as such. With men being the primary victims.
      Yes, it’s about time women stood up against this travesty of a broken system. Hoping you are sans females in your life. Because if not, I feel for them

      • What A joke. He was shot in the temple. In the history of battling for a gun nobody has been shot in the temple. Try reading the story and paying attention. Then make an informed decision.

  2. Her claims were thoroughly investigated, and no evidence was found that he abused her.

    Let’s not forget she was proven guilty by a jury that witnessed the actual evidence.

  3. LOL She plays a “victim” and tons of #metoo women come to her side. Just because a person tells you “their version” of a story doesn’t mean it is true. You have to hear both sides yet #metoo victims are biased. They all jump on a bandwagon to support each other against the big bad terrible men.

    Unlike any of us “readers”, a judge and jury heard BOTH sides of it. In some cases when a jury get’s it “wrong” in a judges opinion, judges have set aside a verdict and created his or her own. That didn’t happen in this case. She chose to pick up that gun and kill her boyfriend.

    This isn’t 1940 where women kept silent or suffered or reported it and found zero relief. This is 2020 and every single woman knows right now that they are “empowered” and know their rights! Yet they still want to fall back on the old adage “I’m just a girl and he was so mean to me” type rhetoric that it just doesn’t work anymore in the courts.
    She has no one else to blame but herself. She could have just called up her parents and took her kids and left. A brother? Sister? Cousin? Aunt? Uncle? Grandparents? Best friend? Anyone? No, she chose to shoot him in the head while he slept. Imagine her cowardess as she pulled that trigger.

    The #metoo movement loses less and less credibility every time women gather behind another and blindly accept their version of the story and stand behind them without being informed. I’m sure her dead husbands family had a few things to say about and did so in court. Remember again, a judge and jury heard what was going on and they just did not believe her stories.

    Why did not doctors summon the police after her “claims of abuse?” More importantly, he worked. If he beat and raped her over a pattern of YEARS, again, why didn’t she call someone and just leave?

    Because she wanted vengeance. She picked up that gun and BOOM. She is certainly no battered woman that deserves pity. If he was asleep she certainly was not in any imminent danger. I believe the prosecutor did a great job in “labeling” her the master manipulator that she was. Her sentence was light in my opinion. The law is there for both sides, men and women no matter who the abuser is. The law is the safeguard that one person can’t just up and kill another without giving them the benefit of charges, a trial and jury. She took away his right of that to provide his defense and his side of the story when she murdered him. People keep forgetting that little tidbit.

    She has no one but herself to blame for being in this situation. Imagine if she had waited until he went to work and then took those kids and went to her parents house and separated. He’d still be alive today and they’d be in children’s court over visitation and custody and child support. Instead, she picked up a gun. I applaud the prosecutor for doing an outstanding job. I don’t even think the Supreme Court would hear her case.

    • This is coming from a #metoo Man! After reading the book you wrote, lol…
      i just had to reply. The reality is that there was sufficient evidence that she was sexually abused! And for you to ignore the evidence and not admit that there was an injustice here, is very insensitive on your part! If you have a wife and or daughters I feel very sorry for them!

  4. When men get life in prison for beating the crap out of women, then you can all cheer for this verdict. And as far as statistics go, women don’t just kill men because they woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Women represent less than 18% of all homicides. And I guess all the people who knew her where on this conspiracy too, and claimed she was beaten when she wasn’t. Quite the thing, right? And that shrink who decided the sex was consensual must have quite the sexlife. Or maybe he’s just so used to viewing violent sex that he can’t tell a rape when he sees it. We’re back in the medival ages, when a wife who killed (an abusive) husband was burnt on the stake, whereas the man who killed he wife was let go. And we’re told misogyny is a myth. Uh huh.

  5. I’m glad she did what she had to do!! I stand with Nikki. I hope you get out soon baby girl. You did not deserve any of this awe full pain he afflicted on you. Stay strong !

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