Change of Heart

Facing South told you last week about South Carolina State Rep. John Graham Altman's bizarre outburst at a reporter when she asked him why his committee had passed a bill making cockfighting a felony while tabling a bill that would do the same for domestic violence. Among other things, Altman said of domestic violence, which remained a misdemeanor even for second and third offenses:

"There ought not to be a second offense. The woman ought to not be around the man. I mean you women want it one way and not another. Women want to punish the men, and I do not understand why women continue to go back around men who abuse them. And I've asked women that and they all tell me the same answer, John Graham you don't understand. And I say you're right, I don't understand."

It appears that the ensuing uproar had a chastening effect on Altman (R-Charleston); he's now the co-sponsor of a revised bill that will increase some penalties for domestic abuse and make third and subsequent offenses felonies. This legislation, says the Columbia State newspaper, is "on an expected fast track to passage."

Supporters of the bill were effusive about Altman's change of heart:

"John Graham Altman is the best thing that has ever happened to us," said Laura Hudson, spokeswoman for the S.C. Victim Assistance Network. "I guess there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. I do believe in redemption."


Some sentences in the revised bill are even tougher than the proposed penalty increases in the original bill, said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, who again will be the bill's lead sponsor.

"Without a doubt, this is meaningful," she said Monday. "I hope the bill will pass as presented. It's reasonable and more than fair."