Judge Eugene Marano, a longtime Kootenai County magistrate, has come under public scrutiny for ordering the release of the son of retired Idaho 1st District Judge Gary Haman on his own recognizance in the middle of the night, just hours after his arrest on charges he physically abused a woman at a downtown motel.
Michael Haman, a Coeur d'Alene lawyer who works under contract for both the city and the county, was taken into custody late on the night of Jan. 14 after police were called to the Resort City Inn on a domestic dispute call.
Before the ink was dry on his booking sheet, police said Mike Haman was back on the street.
"I ordered him released into his father's custody," says Marano who, early in his legal career, worked as a deputy prosecutor under Gary Haman.
Marano says he also ordered that Mike Haman have no contact with the 25-year-old alleged victim, a law-office secretary with whom Mike Haman was having an affair.
Marano, who is considered by longtime court watchers as a strict, firebrand judge, says in his 23 years on the bench this is the first time he's ordered a defendant released on a domestic violence charge.
Idaho's domestic violence statute was changed several years ago so that defendants must be held without bail until they are ordered released by a magistrate judge. Previously, a defendant could be released from jail after posting bail.
Part of the change was to allow a magistrate to review the arrest report, put a no-contact order in place to protect the victim and determine whether the defendant was likely to reoffend.
"I was appalled at the way this case was handled," says Sue Fellen, the executive director of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. "Why didn't this individual have to go through the same process as all other batterers? Why was he special?"
News of Mike Haman's nighttime release sparked a firestorm of on-line and print responses calling for Marano's removal and accusations of favoritism.
Marano says he didn't play favorites.
"This is not the first time I've released someone in the middle of the night," he says. "I had some hesitation, but after thinking about it, I was convinced the victim would be safe and the presumption of innocence would be intact.
Mike Haman "is an officer of the court, has a good family background and no record whatsoever," Marano says. "I had no question in my mind there would be any problems with the victim. I know his dad well enough this would be taken care of the right way."
Marano also says that Mike Haman, as a member of the Idaho Bar Association, would be unlikely to risk his law license and livelihood by violating a court order or for failing to show up for court.
"That's the reason for bail, to ensure a defendant shows up for all court appearances," Marano says.
Gary Haman could not be reached for comment. Mike Haman, in a brief statement to the media last week, said: "An incident occurred for which I apologize for. Following that there was a misunderstanding, and it is now in the hands of the attorneys and the court." He declined to make further comment.
Coeur d'Alene City Attorney Mike Gridley said the younger Haman, who handled civil cases, including the long-running Sanders Beach case, would continue working for the city for now.
On Friday, a secretary for Post Falls Prosecutor Joel Ryan confirmed his office had been appointed to review the charges against Haman, but refused further comment pending the outcome of the case.
Days after the incident, Fellen says she is still upset with the release. "The bottom line is I think it's terrible. I think it almost sounded like the judge was paying him back for what his father had done for him," she says. "There should be no different rules for one set of people or another."
She also said the release sends a message to victims not to trust the legal system.
"Now when victims notify law enforcement, will they have to worry the same thing is going to happen with my batterer?"