We Stand With Nikki
$127,288 raised
94% of $135k goal
1719 contributors
77 Weeks running

Nicole Addimando was trying to survive.

In September 2017, after surviving years of severe and sadistic intimate partner violence, our dear sister and friend Nikki Addimando shot her partner and father of her young children in order to save her life.

Then in February 2020 — after a month-long trial that presented more evidence of abuse than most victims have — Judge Edward McLoughlin chose to deny Nikki's eligibility to be sentenced under the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (see below) and sentenced her to life in prison.

We are continuing to fight for her justice and freedom, and urgently need to raise money for her ongoing legal fees — which now includes appealing this unjust trial and sentence.

Until she is free, Nikki will be subjected to the abuse and dehumanization of our prison system — ripped from her young children (now 5 and 7 years old) who desperately love and need her.

How you can help

  1. Make a financial donation for Nikki’s legal defense fund, as generously as possible. Any amount will make a difference in our commitment to bring justice to Nikki and her children.
  2. Please spread the word, and share this campaign widely with friends and family

History

In September 2017, Nicole “Nikki” Addimando shot her partner Christopher Grover in order to save her life. (For a detailed account of the abuse Nikki suffered, read Rachel Louise Snyder’s article in The New Yorker.)

The shooting occurred hours after Child Protective Services opened an investigation against Christopher due to abuse allegations. They had two young children together, ages 2 and 4 at the time, who were sleeping. After fleeing the apartment with her children, she sought police assistance. Instead she was charged with manslaughter and murder. 

While Nikki has consistently maintained that her abuser was awake and threatening to kill her (and then himself) at the time she shot him, the Putnam County ADA Chana Krauss claims he was asleep. There is no evidence to support this claim and the People’s own medical examiner conceded that the shooting could have happened exactly as Nikki detailed. The prosecutors built their case on well-worn domestic violence myths: She provoked the abuse, she liked the abuse, she's lying about the abuse, and even if the abuse happened, she should have left.

On April 12, 2019, Nikki was convicted of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon (which was legally registered to her partner). 

Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act

Weeks after Nikki’s conviction, the Domestic Violence Survivors’ Justice Act (DVSJA) was finally signed into New York State law as part of Governor Cuomo’s 2019 Women’s Justice Agenda. This landmark legislation gives judges the flexibility to sentence domestic violence survivors convicted of offenses related to their abuse to shorter sentences or alternative-to-incarceration programs. The DVSJA is intended to help restore humanity and justice to the way we treat survivors of severe abuse who act to protect themselves — survivors exactly like Nikki. 

Her attorneys applied for a reduced sentence under the DVSJA, which led to a three-day hearing where new evidence and testimony was offered. More than 40 organizations, legislators, and activists endorsed Nikki’s application, and many wrote letters directly to the judge. Those who created the DVSJA saw Nikki as a poster child for the law.

But on February 5, 2020, the Dutchess County trial judge Edward McLoughlin denied the application. 

Nikki has more evidence of abuse than most victims, begging the question: If the DVSJA doesn’t apply to Nikki, will it work for other survivors?

Ruling to Deny DVSJA

Judge McLoughlin ruled that Nikki did not meet the three-point criteria for sentencing under the DVSJA: 1) The defendant must have been a victim of domestic violence at the time of the offense; 2.) Domestic violence must have been a significant contributing factor to the defendant’s participation in the offense; and 3) The defendant’s sentence under the current law would be “unduly harsh.” 

Intimate partner violence often occurs in private with few witnesses and little external corroboration, however Nikki’s case was an anomaly: Her partner posted videos of the abuse and torture online, which were witnessed by law enforcement and mental health counselors. She had medical documentation of injuries that are impossible to self-inflict, and dozens of individuals to corroborate seeing bruises, burns, and her arm in a sling.

Yet the judge ruled that "the defendant had a myriad of non-lethal options at her disposal" and she “had the opportunity to safely leave,” while claiming that the Court cannot make a determination on the “alleged abuse.” 

This decision sets a dangerous precedent for subsequent criminalized survivors in New York.

Sentencing

After years of consistently telling her story of abuse and torture, of consistently maintaining that she acted out of fear for her and her children's lives, Nikki stood before Judge McLoughlin in February 2020 and heard him claim that there's no evidence of abuse. She heard the judge call her a "broken person." She heard the prosecutor insist that SHE was the abusive one, because he was the one who ended up dead.

Despite testimony of a nurse who witnessed horrific injuries that Nikki sustained while she was pregnant — including burns to her genitalia; despite the testimony of Nikki's midwife who examined Nikki in the months leading up to the shooting and reported that her genitalia was swollen shut; despite medical records spanning 3 years that named Chris as her abuser; despite testimony from witnesses who saw bruises, black eyes, and strangulation marks around her neck; despite testimony from a mental health provider who witnessed Chris raping her on video and another mental health provider who saw, in real time, threatening texts coming into Nikki's phone under the contact "Chris" — despite all of this, the judge said that Chris didn't fit the "profile" of an abuser. 

Nikki gave a powerful personal statement:

"I wish more than anything it ended another way. I wouldn't be in this courtroom right now, but I wouldn't be alive either. This is why women don't leave. They so often end up dead or where I'm standing — alive, but not free."

Other victims in the community — following the news and struggling behind closed doors — received a clear message with Nikki’s case: The system will not believe you, even with evidence. (Local mental health providers reported clients riddled with despair and hopelessness after her conviction.) Just like Nikki’s verdict and sentencing sent a message to scores of women in similar situations, our collective work toward spreading Nikki's story and securing a successful appeal will send a new message of hope and reform.

Criminalized Survival Beyond Nikki

The truth is our criminal justice system is stacked against women who suffer from domestic violence, and it's shockingly common for domestic abuse survivors to be incarcerated after defending their lives. 

67% of women sent to prison in 2005 for killing someone close to them were abused by the victim of their crime (according to the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision). And according to Sanctuary for Families — an organization that was instrumental in advocating for the DVSJA legislation — 90% of incarcerated women are survivors of gender violence.

We hoped that in this new era of #BelieveSurvivors, Nikki would be an exception to this standard and find justice. However — as her month-long trial demonstrated — misogyny, victim blaming, and well-worn domestic violence myths are baked into the core of our society.

We need the support of a nation-wide community that BELIEVES SURVIVORS and wants to be a part of our movement. Your gift will help Nikki and her children AND allow us to make a statement that survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence will not be silenced.

You can help:

  1. Make a financial donation for Nikki's legal defense fund, as generously as possible.
  2. Spread the word about Nikki and the injustice she's facing. Please share this campaign widely with friends and family

Learn more about Nikki, our defense committee, and criminalized survival at WeStandWithNikki.com.

 

Self portraits by Nikki, August 2018

*Artwork created by Nikki in jail, using the only materials available to her: a ballpoint pen and deodorant rubbed on magazine pages to extract color. See more of Nikki's art.

 

Go to WeStandWithNikki.com for more information

On behalf of the Nicole Addimando Community Defense Committee

#WeStandWithNikki

 

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