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AG Gonzales helps open Family Justice Center

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UPI Photo
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U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with local dignitaries in St. Louis Thursday to officially open the new Family Justice Center.

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The center will primarily help women seeking to escape domestic violence.

Officials say a $1.25 million federal grant gives the facility a unique opportunity to offer victims medical, legal and spiritual relief at one location.

Paul Zemitzsch chairs the St. Louis Family Violence Council.

"The initial emergency help is; I can't afford a lawyer;' don't worry, we'll have that for you,'" Zemitzsch said. "'I don't know where to get counseling service - how much will that cost?' Nothing. Just come here. The initial money crunch is taken care of here. The long term we'll work on to get domestic violence victims back as productive lives."

The center is the first of its kind in the region, and only the sixth of 15 planned facilities across the country.

Attorney General Gonzales says the federal government is also doing its part to reduce instances of abuse.

"In addition to the efforts of local prosecutors, the United States Attorney's Office aggressively pursues federal prosecutions for these kinds of crimes," Gonzales said. "If we can prevent women and families from ever needing the services of this center in the first place, we'll be doing our job as well."

While in St. Louis, Gonzales also defended President Bush's actions in authorizing a domestic electronic surveillance operation following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

He said the president was constitutionally justified in approving the surveillance, despite claims to the contrary by some members of Congress.

But Gonzales declined to say whether he'll testify on Capitol Hill.

"Let's wait to see what Congress needs; what kind of information the administration is providing and we are trying to be forthcoming," Gonzales added. "I think the day after the president announced the program I sat down with members of Congress and explained the legal authorities."

The Senate Judiciary Committee has indicated it will hold hearings on the issue as early as this month.

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