Inside a cozy courtroom in Aspen, Colorado this week I came face to face with Carlos Irwin Estevez as he appeared to face multiple domestic abuse charges. I said hello. He remained silent.
This is a man whose past is littered with complaints from the women in his life. One of his ex-wives alleges he became absorbed in pornography, abused alcohol and street drugs and threatened her safety. Several of his past female companions worked in the porn industry and he once shot a girlfriend in the arm. He's been in and out of rehab for cocaine abuse and court ordered probation violations but still he keeps popping up on law enforcement's radar. So far, he's avoided prison time.
On this day, Estevez was dressed in somber black, including his skinny tie and horn rimmed glasses. He was memorable for what he wasn't wearing. He'd left his trademark smirk and cocky bad boy attitude back home in Los Angeles where he makes a multi-million dollar living as an actor.
You probably know him as Charlie Sheen.
Estevez, aka Sheen, came to court surrounded by an entourage of high priced lawyers and PR types. He looked focused on the task at hand, (learning the exact charges to be filed against him) tense and uncharacteristically unsure of himself. He looked like a man who realized the serious nature of what had brought him there. Namely, the Christmas day 911 phone call his wife Brooke had made to police claiming he'd held her at knifepoint and violently threatened her life. Police said alcohol fueled the fight. Sheen spent Christmas night in jail.
The District Attorney, Arnold Mordkin, made it clear that no one, not even a celebrity, comes to Aspen and assaults their spouse.
As I watched Sheen at the defendant's table I noticed he never looked around at his wife, Brooke, and her parents sitting in the front row of the spectator's section. Maybe he was too ashamed. Or maybe he looked at this as another appearance he had to get through, a role he had to temporarily assume to get on with his life back in Hollywood, unscathed. She was there to underscore her desire to take Sheen back.
So many men -- and some women -- who come to court on domestic violence charges don't get it. The abuser often believes the victim somehow deserved it. They kid themselves into thinking they were justifiably provoked into hitting, choking or threatening their partner with a weapon. And, it's not unusual for the victim to mistakenly believe they were at fault. Some decide they don't want to press charges, choosing instead to try for reconciliation.
For prosecutors, none of this matters. Their job is to keep the public safe from dangerous people and it is the state that brings a criminal case against the abuser, not the battered spouse.
Through her attorney, Yale Galanter, Mrs. Sheen made it clear to the court she didn't feel the need to be protected from her husband any longer and she wanted to reconcile. But her damning 911 call remains as powerful evidence as the actor heads for a trial later this year.
Judge James Boyd warned the actor to stay completely away from guns, alcohol and needless prescription medications. Sheen's attorney mentioned some vague counseling his client had sought. And then the protective order was officially lifted. This is what often happens when a wife swears she thinks everything will be okay.
As the Sheen's court session ended and the protective order keeping Charlie away from his wife was lifted, he made a serious bee-line for her. Staring intently at her he crossed the room for all the reporters to see and embraced Brooke for the favor she'd just done him. Did he really mean it or was it all part of the act designed to make sure the network didn't pull the plug on his livelihood?
In the end, the couple left court together and flew back to Los Angeles to be reunited as a family with their infant twin boys.
Watching them walk out to their waiting limousines I wondered about their future. Like so many once warring couple's they seemed serious about making a go of their marriage. But both of the Sheen's pasts seem to make their futures uncertain. She is also reported to have had a history of substance abuse. Maybe they're simply made for each other, two of a kind, peas-in-a-pod who share similar addictions.
I'm a firm believer in letting adults make their own choices in life -- even if they are bad choices -- as long as no one else gets hurt. But in this case, as with so many others, there are vulnerable children to consider. Anyone out there absolutely sure Brooke Mueller Sheen is taking the right step for her children's welfare?
It's a teachable moment for other women in similar situations. Are they listening?