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Munger v. Sirenko

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

July 12, 2017

MARTIN C. MUNGER
v.
YULIYA SIRENKO

         APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2015-08119, DIVISION "H-12" Honorable Monique E. Barial, Judge

          Bennett Wolff WOLFF & WOLFF COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          Allyson D. Tuttle CATHOLIC CHARITIES/PROJECT SAVE COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Daniel L. Dysart

          DANIEL L. DYSART, JUDGE

         On May 6, 2016, the trial court rendered a judgment dismissing Martin Munger's Petition for Protection from Abuse, and granting Yuliya Sirenko's Order of Protection. Mr. Munger appeals the judgment. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         BACKGROUND:

         The parties were married in the United Arab Emirates on December 17, 2014. The couple moved to the United States in early 2015, with their young son, Nikolas, who was nineteen months old at the time this trial began on March 21, 2016.[1] Mr. Munger testified that the couple moved here to live, but Ms. Sirenko testified that the move was temporary.

         Following an incident on August 21, 2015, Mr. Munger filed a Petition for Protection from Abuse in the Civil District Court. In connection with the filing of the petition, Ms. Sirenko was granted supervised visitation with their son at Harmony House[2].

         On September 11, 2015, Ms. Sirenko sought relief pursuant to La. R.S. 46:2131, et seq.[3] She claimed that she had acted in self-defense during the altercation on August 21, and that Mr. Munger had abused her. Subsequent to filing her first petition, Ms. Sirenko filed two additional petitions.[4] In the subsequent petitions, Ms. Sirenko set forth additional instances of abuse, both in the United States and abroad.

         After numerous continuances, the trial court began a trial on the merits of all the petitions on March 21, 2016. Mr. Munger presented his case first. He testified that on August 21, 2015, he arrived home[5] seeking to celebrate his first paycheck with his wife, son and mother. He testified that Ms. Sirenko did not want to go out to dinner. The couple then discussed plans for their son's birthday party. Mr. Munger wished to invite his 12-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, his sister and her family and his mother. Ms. Sirenko was opposed to planning a party, and specifically did not want Mr. Munger's daughter to be invited. According to Mr. Munger, Ms. Sirenko began typing a text to his daughter threatening to drag her out of the party by her hair and to kill her if she attended the party. Not wanting Ms. Sirenko to send such a message to his daughter, he claims that he grabbed the phone from Ms. Sirenko and held her hands to prevent her from punching and scratching him. The two fell to the sofa, with Ms. Sirenko landing on top of him. As they struggled, Ms. Sirenko bit him on his chest near his armpit. When he saw that he was bleeding from the bite, he drove himself to an urgent care facility for treatment. He testified that he consulted with his mother and sister, an attorney, and decided to call the Orleans Parish Coroner to obtain a protective order. After he had the protective order in hand, he called the police (about two hours after incident). He admitted that he never looked for Ms. Sirenko, who had left the apartment with their son.

         When the police arrived at the apartment building, they went upstairs and interviewed Mr. Munger. They then arrested Ms. Sirenko, who had been in the lobby of the building with the child, and returned the boy to Mr. Munger. Ms. Sirenko was charged with domestic battery and spent twenty days in jail. She subsequently pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of disturbing the peace. On the day of her plea, a Louisiana Uniform Abuse Protection Order was issued in Mr. Munger's favor for an eighteen month period.

         In her case-in-chief, Ms. Sirenko testified that she had been a victim of a pattern of abuse, beginning in Moscow, continuing in Dubai, and ending with the incident of August 21, 2015, in New Orleans. She claimed that Mr. Munger slapped her across her face while in Moscow when she asked him to help her take care of their son. She testified that she called the police, but either the line was busy or no one answered. After the couple moved to Dubai, she testified that Mr. Munger punched her in the mouth. She said he told her he was having a nervous breakdown, having just learned that his mother was in a serious automobile accident in New Orleans. After striking her, he picked up a large knife and held it to her throat. She ran from their apartment and called the police. When the police arrived, Mr. Munger apologized for his behavior. Ms. Sirenko testified that she forgave him and did not press charges as her injuries "were not that bad."

         Ms. Sirenko testified that after moving to New Orleans, which she believed to be for a temporary visit, Mr. Munger threatened to have her deported.[6] He repeatedly told her that the child would be awarded to him in a custody battle, as the child was a United States citizen and it would be in his best interest to remain here. Ms. Sirenko admitted that prior to the August 21, 2015, incident she continued to have sex with Mr. Munger. She testified that Mr. Munger would sleep in the ...


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