KELSO — At a Nov. 14 protection order hearing in Cowlitz County Superior Court, a court commissioner imposed a domestic violence restraining order on state representative and Longview school board member Justin “JD” Rossetti that bans him from having any contact with his wife and 14-year-old stepson for one year.
The 19th district legislator is also facing arraignment in Cowlitz County District Court on suspicion of misdemeanor assault, and divorce proceedings in Clark County Superior Court.
Commissioner Dennis Maher imposed the order after listening to emotional testimony from Rossetti’s wife, Amber Rosewood, 34, of Longview, about the alleged abuse, intimidation and harassment, that began after they married in 2012. Rosewood initially applied for a temporary protection order in early November. However, Judge Stephen Warning denied her petition and scheduled the Nov. 14 hearing for a full protection order, indicating that he did not wish to impose the order before giving Rossetti a chance to respond.
Rosewood is the second woman to successfully seek a restraining order against Rossetti. In summer 2008, Warning granted Rossetti’s first wife, Rebecca Rossetti, a temporary order, after she said that on two occasions Rossetti had made as many as 40 angry, late-night calls to her and her family members following their separation.
Rossetti attended the hearing with his attorney, Joseph Daggy, of the Longview firm Daggy & Anagnostou. Though several people came to support Rosewood, she sat at the petitioner’s table alone.
“I have outlined that I am in fear for my life. I have been abused,” Rosewood began, referring to a packet of documents in which she and others described the alleged abuse. “I outlined six separate events in which Justin has exhibited violent behavior, has hit me, has ruined things in my home … he has repeatedly communicated with me since I left.”
Rosewood’s voice shook as she described the fear and distress that she and her son felt as Rossetti’s allegedly unpredictable, destructive rages escalated into physical abuse over time. According to Rosewood, the abuse allegedly culminated in a final, terrifying August 2016 confrontation, in which Rossetti fought to gain control of a baseball bat that she had tried to use in self-defense, asking her, “What would you like me to break first?”
Rosewood was overcome by emotion when she told the court that her husband’s prominent name and position had often left her feeling powerless and afraid to tell the truth about her situation.
“The police have been to my house three times in six years, and every time, he stayed, they left,” Rosewood said. “He is a state representative and school board member, and no one will believe me.”
When Daggy asked Rossetti to testify, the legislator denied initiating unwelcome calls, visits, letters and attempts to track Rosewood and her son through a cell phone app, following the August separation. Rossetti acknowledged that he had difficulty managing his emotions, and that he had enrolled himself in special counseling for batterers. However, even though Rosewood provided the court with numerous letters and emails in which Rossetti described himself as an abuser, he insisted that he had never been physically violent toward Rosewood or her son. The representative, who earlier this year was featured in a baseball-themed campaign ad, along with his fellow 19th District legislators Sen. Dean Takko and Rep. Brian Blake, countered that the August incident was actually “… an assault that she started with a baseball bat.”
Rossetti’s own statements at times contradicted his claim that he had never been violent.
“I was asking her to calm down and I wasn’t getting any response. I think there was tension between us, and I punched a wall,” Rossetti said at one point.
“You’re using the term ‘DV’ in the scope of your family life. What does that term mean in the sense that you’re using it?” Daggy asked.
“From what my counselor and I have talked about, it is mostly about verbal and emotional abuse,” Rossetti responded.
“You indicate that you’ve been domestically violent. What are you talking about?” Daggy continued. Rossetti replied, “Rather than talking to people in a critical manner, talking to people in a more positive manner...”
Commissioner Maher did not appear to find Rossetti’s definition of domestic violence especially convincing.
“Rossetti has actually, I think, in the folder presented by [Rosewood], been very candid about the fact that he recognizes that he in fact is a domestic violence offender,” Maher said, and then he spent several minutes reading excerpts from Rossetti’s letters to Rosewood and her family members.
“For example, in one letter in the first paragraph, he says, ‘I know I am a DV offender. My abuse affected you by making you hate and fear me.’” Maher said. “Fear me.”
After reading several similar statements, Maher paused for a long moment, then picked up again. He concluded with an email in which Rossetti characterized his own behavior as “aggressive, violent and intimidating.”
“I find the petitioner has clearly met her burden of proof,” Maher said, and read the terms of the protection order.
Daggy immediately asked to Maher to make the restraining order mutual, but the commissioner told him that was explicitly banned under Washington law, and said he would have to file a separate petition.
Rosewood and her supporters quickly left the courtroom without giving comment.
When a Chinook Observer reporter asked for an interview as he left the courtroom, Rep. Rossetti also declined to comment.
“Not now,” he said. “I’ll call you.”
Rossetti was appointed to the legislature in October 2015, when Dean Takko, D-Longview, moved into former Sen. Brian Hatfield’s vacant Senate seat. Even though his opponent Tiffany Turner actually won the vote of precinct committee officers, a majority of LD19 county commissioners — including Pacific County Commissioner Lisa Ayers — voted to appoint Rossetti instead during the second round of voting. The decision came shortly after the Chinook Observer published an article documenting Rossetti’s previous history of questionable conduct.
Rossetti ran for his seat in 2016, but lost to Republican Jim Walsh and fellow Longview Democrat Teresa Purcell in the August primary. He leaves legislative office at the end of this year. He was elected to the Longview Public School board in 2013. His term expires in November 2017, according to his profile on the LPS website.