A video captured Michigan judicial candidate Jason Kolkema whipping his girlfriend with a belt during an argument over the summer. He has pleaded guilty to domestic violence under a program that allows first-time offenders to have cases dismissed, which means his crime could get erased from his record altogether if he completes requirements during his probationary period. The 51-year-old attorney suffered a landslide loss in November for a judicial seat after videos surfaced of him allegedly assaulting his girlfriend with a belt in his apartment, reports the Detroit Free Press. Kolkema won the primary, but the videos hit social media and prompted a Free Press investigation into Kolkema's past troubles of violent behavior. After the video surfaced and charges followed, Kolkema and his then-girlfriend maintained that he never struck her; that the belt only hit her chair. That story has since changed. In a guilty plea hearing, Kolkema admitted that he struck his girlfriend, but not on purpose. "I swung a belt in her presence ... one of the belt swings struck her. The last one knocked a bracelet off her, (and) sent beads flying" Kolkema said.
The judge asked if it was Kolkema's intent to lead her to believe that she would be struck, which Kolkema confirmed. He pleaded guilty to domestic violence, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. On Wednesday, Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson said his office plans to recommend that as part of his sentence, Kolkema attend a "batterers program." Hilson said that in negotiating the plea deal with Kolkema, his office has had "extensive conversations with the victim," and that she requested that Kolkema be allowed to enter his plea under the program that allows for the case to be dismissed. Hilson added: "We felt that this particular victim made a reasonable request and gave her back some power that she lost."