Friday, November 19, 2010

When texting gets out of hand

In the hours before the Penn Street stabbing, Oct. 2 had been a slow day on the police desk at the Reading Eagle.
I was going through my e-mail when I came across a press release announcing the Pennsylvania Turnpike is now the first text-free tollway in the nation.
Statistics show that since Jan. 1, 2009, there have been 213 distracted-driver accidents on the turnpike.
I remember thinking how much texting has become a part of the social fabric. I often text my kids before I call them to make sure they’re not in class or working. Calling without warning is considered rude by some.
Around 11 a.m., the scanners crackled out a report of a stabbing in the 400 block of Penn Street.
When I got there I saw Christina Espinoza, blood streaming down her face, telling police that her boyfriend, Hector Leonel Pinto Catalan, 34, had just stabbed her in the forehead with a kitchen knife. Hector fled but was arrested later and charged with aggravated assault.
I had a camera with me and took a few pictures.
In one photo, as police, firefighters and paramedics tended to Christina, she appears to be texting someone on her cell phone.
“Now, that’s efficient,” I thought.
Anyway, ever since that day I had been wondering what important message required her immediate attention. After all, she just got stabbed in the head, right?

I ran into Christina on Oct. 15 in Reading Central Court, where she was waiting to testify at Hector’s hearing. I asked her who she was texting.
Christina said she actually had just received a text from Hector.
“He was asking me why I called the police on him,” she said.
Christina told me Hector didn’t stab her. She said they were wrestling over a kitchen knife when he let go suddenly, causing her to stab herself in the head. She said she wasn’t going to testify against Hector.
Assistant District Attorney David Golberg said that without Christina’s testimony, the charges were dismissed.
“This stuff happens all the time in domestic violence cases,” Golberg said.