CHICAGO — Before Naomi Freeman ran over the father of her child, killing him, he had punched her in the face 25 times and dragged her from the vehicle, a lawyer for the jailed mom said.
Now, advocates for abused women across the country are trying to free her in time for Christmas.
Freeman, a pregnant mother of two, has been in jail for months while she awaits trial, unable to put up $35,000 for her bail. That could change as soon as Monday: Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration has worked with the Chicago Community Bond Fund, Love & Protect and other groups to raise more than $11,000 as part of the #FreeNaomiFreeman campaign.
And on Monday, the groups are hoping to receive a $25,000 grant that would cover Freeman's bail and help her return to her family while she awaits trial.
"Someday I will need to explain to my kids why they don't have their father," Freeman wrote to Chicago Bond in a letter from jail. "I never meant to hurt him that day, I only acted in fear of my life. I have to forgive myself, but not for surviving, and I don't think I should be punished for defending my life.
"I have to get home to my kids as soon as I can and be the best mother I can be. I need a second chance at life for them and for myself."
This weekend, the #FreeNaomiFreeman campaign will lead another fundraising push. The money will help Freeman if she doesn't receive the grant, said Holly Krig, Moms United director of organizing, or extra money raised will go to Chicago Bond to help others pay their bail. Supporters can donate online.
Black women have long been denied a right to self defense, Krig said, and Freeman's story seemed familiar to the Moms United member when she heard about the incident.
On July 5, John Perry, Freeman's boyfriend, dragged her out of her car and punched her 25 times, Steve Pick, Freeman's attorney, said in July. Prosecutors also said Perry beat Freeman that morning, and it was not the first time she'd been abused.
Freeman got back into her car, made a U-turn and crashed into a fence while trying to hit Perry, prosecutors said. Perry dared Freeman to try to hit him again, and she did, pinning Perry under the car, prosecutors said. Freeman allegedly fled, and Perry was later pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Freeman, who has no prior convictions, was charged with murder. Prosecutors said she could have driven away from her batterer, while Freeman's attorney said his client, who was then newly pregnant and who has Lupus, was "in fear for her life and safety."
Naomi Freeman ran over and killed her boyfriend in July, attorneys said, but Freeman has said she was acting in fear for her life. Her boyfriend had previously abused her, attorneys said. Freeman faces a murder charge. [Courtesy Holly Krig]
There are a "number of cases like that where predominantly black women are criminalized for taking actions in self defense," Krig said. She has met with Freeman, visiting her in jail and speaking with her family. "She is somebody who has survived a lot of trauma, and the trauma of incarceration is also profound, especially when someone is pregnant.
"That's something that Naomi herself is still just processing. She had experienced abuse for a number of years with the person involved in this situation."
The state offers no way for black women like Freeman to survive when they're being abused, Krig said: They have fewer resources and less support in their communities to help them, and black and indigenous women are more likely than others to face charges when they act in self defense.
If the #FreeNaomiFreeman campaign succeeds and her supporters are able to bail Freeman, now in her third trimester, out of jail, she'll be able to help care for her children. Her soon-to-be-born baby would be placed in a relative's care or go to the Department of Child and Family Services within 48 hours of birth if born to a mother in jail, Krig said.
And Freeman will have a better chance of successfully defending herself if she can participate in her defense outside of jail, Krig said.
"Being held for months or years in jail feels eternal," Krig said. "When people are out on bond, they don't have to think that way. They can actually put their energy into staying free."
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