SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 5, 2014

Judge: Abuser 'needs to be caged'

Martial arts instructor held without bail

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A Salem District Court judge yesterday compared martial arts instructor Joseph Louf to an “animal” that “needs to be caged” to protect his alleged victim and other women, before ordering him held without bail.

Judge Robert Brennan said the allegations against Louf, 37, of 171 North St., Salem, were “the worst case of ongoing and systematic domestic violence I’ve seen” in his 24 years in the law.

Brennan’s remarks came at the end of a 90-minute hearing, during which Louf’s former girlfriend, a 27-year-old Gloucester woman, described months of daily beatings and the resulting injuries, which have left her disfigured.

Louf has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, aggravated assault and battery and assault and battery.

“What I look to here is the level of rage and violence and controlling behavior exhibited by Mr. Louf, and based on the degree of this abuse and the degree of control, and really pathologically violent behavior that I just heard about, I can’t conceive of placing any condition (of release) on him,” said Brennan.

Brennan also took the unusual step of finding not only probable cause to believe Louf is dangerous, but also probable cause for the charges, and ordered the case “bound over” to Superior Court.

Prosecutor Kate MacDougall likened the woman to a “hostage” who was so broken down by Louf that she no longer had control over her decision-making. Louf had taken control of her phone and social media accounts, and had alienated her family and friends.

On the day she decided to leave Louf, Jan. 7, she testified, she almost went back.

“I saw the house,” she said. But something made her turn away. She went to Gloucester.

Through tears, she described sleeping in her car for three hours. “I didn’t know where to go,” she told the judge. Finally, “I went to my grandmother’s house. She had no clue who I was.”

It took another week to face her mother. “I was too scared to see her. I didn’t want her to see what I looked like.”

The young woman who had been so proud of losing weight, and who had posed, smiling, for photos showing off her shiny new hairstyle and highlights, is down to a frail-looking 104 pounds. Her nose, allegedly broken multiple times by Louf, is now pushed in closer to her face. Her front teeth are broken. She walks with a limp.

The woman said she began seeing dark spots on her eyes after one beating in which Louf kneed her in the face, and realized she had no peripheral vision. After returning home, she went to the doctor and learned that she had two detached retinas. “If you waited any longer, you would be totally blind,” she said the doctor told her.

While she wore sunglasses in court yesterday to protect her eyes from light after having surgery to repair the detached retinas, photos show that the area around her eyes is still dark and swollen.

There are marks on her face and neck from where she was punched and stabbed.

Her ears are deformed, a condition called “cauliflower ear,” commonly seen in boxers. One ear is still swollen; she said Louf jabbed a pair of scissors into it. A doctor still can’t examine the inner ear because of the swelling, she said.

The photos, which the prosecutor showed to the judge during the hearing, show marks all over her body, on her feet, torso and arms.

Louf’s attorney, Joseph Simons, suggested through his questions to her that her injuries were the result of her participation in mixed martial arts fighting at Louf’s studio, American Total Defense in Beverly.

“My client is an innocent man,” lawyer Joseph Simons told reporters outside court. “He’s being charged with crimes he did not commit.”

Simons sought to discredit the woman. He handed the judge a love letter she had written to Louf, and he questioned the woman’s character.

Simons called one of Louf’s friends, Joseph Rhodes, as a character witness. Rhodes testified that he had seen the young woman in sparring matches and that she was always eager to get back in the ring.

But after Rhodes described how he’d been involved in MMA fighting for the past decade, MacDougall pointed out, “You don’t have cauliflower ears, do you?”

Under questioning by MacDougall, the woman said she and Louf started dating a couple of months after they met through a dating website, Match.com, and she joined his gym. She took karate and jujitsu lessons, she said, but never engaged in the type of MMA fighting that Louf’s lawyer described.

As for why she never reported the abuse? MacDougall asked if Louf had said anything to her about that.

“He said he would go after me and my (expletive) mother, that he would throw me in the river, that he had ways to get rid of my body. Cruel and disgusting ways,” the woman said.

On the evening after she interviewed the victim last week, Salem police Patrolwoman Kathleen Rocheville got a call from the woman’s mother, she testified.

A co-worker had seen a man who looked like Louf pull into the parking lot, look around, and then drive away, Rocheville testified.

Louf has no license, and according to court documents, has not had one in Massachusetts since 2002. In 2011 he was charged with drunken driving and driving without a license, after knocking down a pole at the intersection of Washington and Canal streets in Salem, charges that were continued without a finding for a year.

He told police during his arrest that he hadn’t gotten around to renewing his Massachusetts license after moving back here from Florida.

In Florida, Louf also had legal troubles, including an arrest in 2008 in Margate on charges of false imprisonment, tampering with a victim, witness or informant, and battery, according to Florida court records.

Information on the outcome of that case was not immediately available.

Police and the district attorney’s office are continuing to investigate Louf’s background.

Simons, who had urged that his client be released yesterday, said that if Louf remains in custody, his school on Elliott Street in Beverly will likely shut down.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.