MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Muskegon County judge candidate accused of beating his girlfriend with a belt was in court for the first time on Monday.
Jason Kolkema, a 51-year-old attorney, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Prosecutors say witnesses recorded him in mid-August as he allegedly physically abused his girlfriend.
If found guilty, he could face up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Both Kolkema and the girlfriend — who is defending him — say he was hitting the chair she was sitting on, not her.
In court on Monday, Assistant Prosecutor Katie Norton told the judge the couple had multiple documented altercations. In one case, Kolkema allegedly became enraged in front of his girlfriend and her child. He is accused of throwing water and a bottle at them.
Norton told the judge that Kolkema violated multiple court orders, including one that prohibited the couple from seeing each other after a domestic assault in June in Isabella County.
In that case, it was the girlfriend who allegedly tried to hit Kolkema. His girlfriend told News 8 the court orders involved her, not him, so he violated nothing.
He has been ordered to have no contact with his girlfriend as the current charge proceeds through court.
While discussing his bond, Kolkema’s attorney, Terry Nolan, expressed concerns that it was becoming political.
Norton said it is “most certainly not political.”
“We’d actually encourage the court to set this to a speedy trial so we can have a trial sooner and not push it back and make it political,” the assistant prosecutor said. “We’ve already had requests from Mr. Nolan’s office that the defendant wants to lift the no contact order so that the victim can be part of his campaign and his parades. It’s ridiculous. I have concerns about the safety of the public, and Mr. Kolkema’s ability to follow court orders.”
News 8 approached Kolkema after he entered the not guilty plea, but he declined to comment.
Kolkema is running to be a judge in Muskegon County’s 14th Circuit Court. He was the top vote-getter in the August primary and will face one opponent in the Nov. 8 election.
While the court was in session, advocates for survivors campaigned against Kolkema in front of the courthouse and across the street from the office where he was arraigned over Zoom.
“If Kolkema is elected, it will be a massive defeat. A massive sign of disrespect … to women,” protester Donna Pennington said.
One protester said Kolkema getting elected would be “dangerous.” She said the video made her “disgusted” and “horrified.”
“It would be dangerous if he became judge because it would be terrible for our community and it would silence more women,” protester Kristina Forman said.
“Muskegon women are strong and we don’t want to tolerate violence,” protester Ann VanderMolen told News 8. “That’s why I’m here.”
It’s not yet known if the trial will happen before or after the November election.