Former Fidesz MP József Balogh stands trial for assault

May 13, 2015

 

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Translation of Albert Ákos’ article “József Balogh again puts the blame on the blind Komondor” appearing in abcug.hu.

The trial of the Fidesz mayor of the southern Hungarian town of Fülöpháza, who is accused of physically abusing his partner, began on Tuesday. His partner since informed the press that she already pardoned Balogh and wants to marry him. A rural wedding with lots of pálinka, a commander dog with a severe brain damage and an overworked politician. Balogh presented a whole Hungarian village drama as his defense.

“I admit to being guilty” – former Fidesz MP and the mayor of Fülöpháza told the judge in the Kecskemét District Court, where his criminal proceedings commenced after two years. Balogh is accused of causing severe physical injuries, as according to prosecutors on a Sunday early morning in 2013 he has beaten his partner up, causing her nose to break.

The case destroyed Balogh’s political career. He was an MP since 1998, and joined Fidesz in 2002. Following the commencement of a police investigation against him he immediately left the caucus, and a little later his party membership has been revoked. The only thing left to him was being a mayor of Fülöpháza, where however he was reelected in 2014. Domestic violence and violence against women became a prominent topic of public speech following his case. The Wednesday court proceeding however revealed that this is about much more than that: the audience could experience a farce of a real countryside family drama about the overworked lawmaker, the partner who first cried for vengeance then suddenly became forgiving, as well as about the protagonist, the commander dog with a brain damage.

In certain aspects, the events are quite simple, but from an another angle, they are hard to make sense of. Already at the beginning of the proceeding József Balogh announced that he feels guilty. Doubtless that he will face sanctions after that. According to the indictment however, his actions were completely intentional, and the accused presented quite another version of what happened.

The prosecutor’s job will not be easy for multiple reasons, if his objective is to prove that he intentionally beat his girlfriend up. As opposed to most court documents in Hungary, Balogh’s indictment is but a few pages. It argued that Balogh and his partner arrived at their countryside ranch in the middle of the night from a wedding celebration held in Solt. Balogh was drunk, and Teri his partner started to pack away the traditional food takeaways guest receive at weddings. To which Balogh started to throw all the food out to the garden, and Teri started to clean it up. To which Balogh reacted by starting to hut her, up until the point that their stepson needed to intervene to protect the woman. Teri was diagnosed with severe injuries in the hospital, among them a severe nasal bone fracture.

The indictment ends here. From this, it is apparent that the prosecutor so far failed to reconstruct events in their entirety: the Balogh family lives in a remote ranch, only three people were present at the conflict – Balogh and two of his close relatives. According to Hungarian laws, any close relative can refuse to give a testimony, meaning that Balogh’s son is not expected under law to give a testimony against his stepfather

So the whole lawsuit depended on how Teri, the victim decided. Would she testify, or not? The indictment is largely based on testimonies she has given during the police investigation. In those she was going into details about what exactly happened on the farm that night. None of us will learn these facts however as Teri decided on Wednesday not to to testify, so her earlier confessions cannot be use during the procedure.

This was not unexpected, as it is an open secret that a few weeks after the events, Teri accepted Balogh’s apology, and moved back to the man, and now they are planning their future wedding. During the court procedure Balogh remarked on several occasions that they both want to get over this case now.

There is one factor that could favor the prosecutor, and this is Balogh’s testimony itself.

This account, presented by him on the Wednesday court case makes it hard to believe that Balogh is still a mayor, and used to be a professional lawmaker for decades. He was not able to talk in a composed way, oftentimes getting lost in irrelevant details, and at a point, it was revealed that he has not even read his partner’s testimony. “I could not gather enough strength to read it through” – he said. His attorney even remarked that Balogh “is not a law school graduate but a farmer.” Even though he spent years in the parliament as an MP, and there were occasions during the procedure when he called himself a lawmaker.

Details of his conflict with Teri needed to be clawed out of the politician, but he was talking about his version of the events leading to the atrocity in detail. “I was stressed out before that night” – he told to judge. According to the defendant he had a busy week in the parliament, on Friday he had to hold a lecture about his farm development program, and on Saturday, there was this wedding of one of Teri’s children. In addition a village festival was taking place in Fülöpháza on Sunday, where he was expected to be present as a mayor.

Balogh lengthily told how they were busy until late night on Friday, preparing roosters for the village festival, and he was not able to entertain himself on the Saturday wedding, as he was still expected to write his Sunday speech. He also said, that Teri was angry with him, as he was dealing with his parliamentary duties instead the wedding. The young couple also took offense for not providing extra chairs for them from Fülöpháza cultural center. They eventually go home at 5 am. According to him, they drank an additional pint of plinka together with Teri, to which Balogh took his “anti-depressant” medication, and went to sleep.

A long silence followed to testimony in the courtroom. After that, the judge asked “Yes, and how we ended up like his?” pointing to the courtroom itself. Balogh carried on talking in a much more decomposed way. He started by saying that he does not clearly remember what could have happened, probably because of the alcohol and medicine. A little bit later, he got into details about how Teri could have possibly got hurt.

“Go to hell!” – Balogh remembered Teri saying, before she went out to the garden. She was intending to take the car, so she can go back to Solt to help the young couple in cleaning up. Balogh said that he could not let that happen, as Teri was drunk, and in a few hours they needed to show up at the festival together. So he went after her, and started to drag her back, so she could not get into the car. But when he dragged her, Teri resisted, so they started a fight.

“I admit that I hit her once, but not intentionally and not with my fist, only somehow during the process of trying to push her back into the house.” – Balogh said. Later he added that he also admits to hitting her two times.

The judge repeatedly called Balogh’s attention to the fact that every single one of his testimonies is different, for example he first said that he hit once, and after that he hit twice. According to the politician however there is not contradiction. To which Balogh’s lawyer intervened, saying that it is only natural if the defendant is not able to recall the incident in detail.

“Do you remember your first testimony, in which you blamed a certain dog? What was the purpose of that then?” – the judge asked, citing the fact that immediately after the incident was revealed, Balogh told that Teri got injured while falling across the family’s blind comondor dog. Now the dog was not even mentioned.

Balogh answered the question saying that it was not a false claim, as the comondor was there, and jumped on them, causing both of them to fall dow to the ground. He hit his hand that started bleeding. In addition he revealed that the dog, that has since deceased, was “a little bit crazy” as an agricultural machine went through his head when he was puppy. Sometimes, he even hit the wall.

After the testimony, the judge said, that for her it seems like Balogh’s account of the events is constantly changing according to the interest of the defendant. Balogh and his attorney denied such intentions.

Four witnesses were also heard on the first day of the procedure. Only they words are able to compose a realistic story of what could have happened on that early morning. They were the ones, that Teri was running to with a bleeding head, after she took a long walk from the farm to the village. All of them said, that according to Teri it was Balogh who hit him, and she also asked them to take photos of her condition, and bring her to the hospital.

“It was a terrible sight, I almost started crying” one of them said. One witness told the court that Teri had previously told him that Balogh beat her, and on one occasion, she showed up barefoot in the middle of the winter to ask for help. “Despite all this, she always went back to Jóska [Balogh], I am struggling to understand, why” he said. According to the others, these were all rumors, and they have never seen a single evidence of Balogh hitting his partner.

In his testimony, Balogh was explaining that Teri did this as she was unable to understand that he deals with his professional duties instead of the wedding. According to hime “She wanted to take revenge by saying that I hit her intentionally.”

But he also said, that they made their peace, and they are living in “love and tranquility” ever since. The only problem for them now is their sick daughter, as she was diagnosed with a tumor not long after the events. Despite of his so-far calm account, he mayor burst out crying while mentioning this.