MUSKEGON - A former candidate for judge in Muskegon County, charged with beating his girlfriend, said he didn't intend to hit her with a belt, but did mean to scare her when he swung it.
In virtual court Wednesday, Dec. 7, Jason Kolkema, a 51-year-old attorney, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge as a result of a plea agreement. Prosecutors say witnesses recorded him in mid-August as he allegedly physically abused his girlfriend.
More:Muskegon judicial candidate caught on camera allegedly belt-whipping girlfriend
During the hearing, Kolkema said he "swung a belt in her presence," but didn't mean to hit her.
"I would say it was unintentional," he said. "I think when she raised her arm, essentially, the belt was out of range, but when she moved her arm up, protecting herself, that made contact with her."
When asked if he swung the belt meaning to scare his girlfriend into thinking she may be struck, Kolkema admitted he did.
"Yes, I believe that a reasonable person would, the swinging of the belt would cause some sort of fear," he said.
Kolkema's girlfriend has defended him, saying he was hitting the chair she was sitting on, not her.
The judge said his plea would be taken under advisement, and said there won't be a conviction on Kolkema's record. If he completes everything that he's supposed to during the probationary period, the case will ultimately be dismissed.
Kolkema has a history of losing his temper, behaving violently around women and children - including spitting on a 12-year-old girl - and has violated court orders, lied about his relationship with his client-girlfriend, battled an Adderall addiction and failed to pay child support, according to a decade's worth of court and police records reviewed by the Detroit Free Press and interviews with multiple people tied to him and his girlfriend.
Two days before the belt incident, Kolkema allegedly spit on his girlfriend's 12-year-old daughter as she slept in his apartment with her mom, despite a court order that prohibited him from being around the girl. He allegedly spewed toothpaste on the girl and her mother, then threw water on them because he was angry about a previous fight, according to court records in Ottawa County.
The next day, he allegedly threw a Gatorade bottle at his girlfriend and her daughter but missed and hit a lamp.
Three months earlier, Fruitport police got a call from Kolkema's girlfriend saying "my boyfriend just slapped me." When police arrived, Kolkema told an officer his girlfriend "gets like this when she is drunk ... and makes things up." The girlfriend then recanted and refused to cooperate. No charges were filed.
In 2013, Kolkema's ex-wife filed a domestic assault complaint with the Fruitport police, alleging Kolkema shoved her in the back and knocked her to the ground during an argument that occurred while she was picking up her children from his parents' house.
"(She) advised that her daughter was visibly upset and crying, because she had seen Jason act like this in the past," the police report states. Kolkema was uncooperative, became "defensive" and refused to answer questions without an attorney. No charges were filed due to a lack of witnesses who could "substantiate the alleged assault."
A year earlier in Ingham County, Kolkema admitted to pulling his ex-wife's hair during an argument that got out of hand, but left after she called police.
"(He) stated that he left the marital home before police arrived because he represents a lot of agencies which have pro-arrest policy in relation to domestic violence and was not interested in going to jail," a court filing states. No charges were filed.
Kolkema also denied being romantically involved with his current girlfriend - though six months later, a Mount Pleasant police report involving a domestic dispute at a casino would characterize their relationship as follows: "Jason and (his girlfriend) have been in an intimate dating relationship for three years, and have also previously lived together."
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Family members have said their relationship started while Kolkema represented her in a civil, parenting-time case involving her three children from prior relationships - all of which involved domestic violence.
In the casino incident, the girlfriend was charged and convicted of hitting Kolkema during a drunken birthday celebration in which she kept telling police "she was with bad company."
- The Detroit Free Press contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Ex-judge candidate: I 'unintentionally' hit my girlfriend with a belt