Thursday, May 31, 2012

Asotin woman filed false police report of rape

The Asotin County Sheriff's Office is taking issue with an Asotin woman who filed a false report of rape.

An 18-year-old Asotin woman who claimed she was abducted and raped last Monday by a man was lying to investigators. She told authorities she was abducted on the corner of First and Harding at gunpoint. Sheriff Ken Bancroft said she was cheating on her boyfriend and didn't want to get caught.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Unusual: Man to be tried for allegedly raping his wife--49 years ago

No sane and rational person wants to see a rapist get away with his vile act. A rapist should not be rewarded for evading justice until a statute of limitations runs out.

But a case in Australia raises concerns for the presumptively innocent.  A man allegedly raped his wife in 1963, when such act was not a crime. He is being tried almost 50 years after the alleged incident, and only after two laws were changed: the law that said a man could not rape his wife, and the statute of limitations that originally barred the claim.

We don't know what the man's defense is, or when he first learned of the allegation. If he is arguing, "she was my wife back then, and it was legal to rape her," then please don't ask us to muster any sympathy for him.

But if his defense is "I didn't do it," and if the allegation was sprung on him decades after the alleged act, then the charge raises concerns about the fairness of a trial. 

Here in the US, in recent years, state legislatures have adopted varying extensions to their criminal statutes of limitations for cases of sexual assault. Some states have eliminated time limitation for bringing rape charges of varying kinds altogether.  Depending on the state, there are special rules for extending the rape statute of limitations for claims involving minors, for claims where the identity of the perpetrator is established by DNA, and for claims involving authority figures.  Each of these changes were enacted based on important societal concerns.

But it is also important to consider the other side of the proverbial scales of justice. Open-ended extensions or eliminations of statutes of limitations for purported cases of rape and sexual assault raise concerns widely shared among the criminal defense bar.

"It is a due process issue," says legislative director Andrea Meyer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. ". . .  [T]he reason we have a statute of limitations . . . is to provide the necessary safeguards -- not to protect the guilty, but to protect the innocent." See here

Last year, Slate interviewed Prof. Aya Gruber, whose feminist credentials can't be questioned, on this issue: "Aya Gruber, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School, says that when the charge is based on the word of the victim, timing can be especially important. 'For example, if a person comes forward with a claim of sexual assault when he was a 7-year-old, 20 years after the fact, arguably the charge is suspect from the beginning,' Gruber points out. 'The person’s memory has been subject to change and influence, essential witnesses might have forgotten the events or even be dead, it may be impossible to get physical evidence in the case, and the like.' Furthermore, Gruber says, a long-delayed charge lessens the retributive and deterrent value of a conviction." See here

Here, in the prison capital of the world, where there aren't enough jails to hold the men society says deserve incarceration, our zeal to punish rapists is a valid, and appropriate, instinct.  But the concern expressed by Prof. Gruber and the ACLU -- about the need to keep the innocent from being punished with the guilty -- is also a valid and appropriate instinct. Unfortunately, theirs is a concern that is difficult to hear amidst the law and order cacophony of the public discourse.


Reader Brandon Webb bemoans distracting red herrings in the quest to deliver justice for false rape victims

Reader Brandon Webb bemoans the fact that the public discourse over wrongful rape claims is plagued with red herrings that minimize the injustices of FRAs:

In part, I would agree that refusing to prosecute the woman who falsely accused Brian Banks of rape would undermine the public confidence in the justice system. However, what happened to Mr. Banks, as heinous and inexcusable as it is, is not an isolated incident. From my perspective, I posit how many more innocent people's lives must be destroyed to undermine public confidence in our justice system?

Spring Valley man, 22, gets jail for false rape report

A village man was sentenced on Wednesday to 60 days in the Rockland County jail after being found guilty of reporting a false rape to police.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Newspaper unjustly maligns an innocent man

Last week, a UK newspaper reached a new low for irresponsibility when it unjustly maligned an innocent man wrongly accused of sexual assault by gratuitously posting his photo for no good purpose.  It was a needless intrusion on an innocent man's dignity, and it might might even have been done for laughs.

The newspaper reported that a 29-year-old sleeping female passenger awoke to find a male stranger groping her chest.  She left the carriage, the report said, in shock, and then returned to snap a photo of the man she claimed attacked her.  She got off the train at the next stop and contacted the police.

Although the woman contacted police immediately, for reasons not revealed in the news report, the police waited three months after the alleged attack to release the photo the woman had taken.

The innocent male passenger came forward and was interviewed by the police. The police said they were able to eliminate him from their inquiries and that he is innocent.  It was said to be a case of mistaken identity, and the police said no further action would be taken against him.

So what does the newspaper do?  It publishes a news report with the headline, "Police rule out suspect in photograph taken by woman sexually assaulted on a train." And it includes in the report the photograph of the innocent sleeping man!  We've included a photo of the news report here, but we've obscured the sleeping man's face, which is plainly visible in the photo.

The man wasn't just innocent, he was apparently sleeping during the entire time the alleged incident occurred. Moreover, he had his photograph secretly taken, only to see his face splashed all over the British media three months later, accused of a heinous crime.  And then, even after he's cleared, a major UK newspaper with a massive circulation publishes his photo once more for good measure. And for what purpose?

Two years ago, British politicians who opposed a change in the law that would have granted persons accused of sexual assault limited anonymity successfully argued that anonymity would prevent some rape victims from identitifying their attackers. That rationale carried the day in the UK, and legal anonymity for the presumptively innocent did not become the law.

But even that rationale would not have justified this gratuitous photo identification of the wrongly accused man.  We can only hope that the man did not suffer the unconscionable stigmatization that too often accompanies the publicity of sexual assault accusations. In the court of public opinion, for too many people, even a wrongful accusation is its own conviction.

A link of the story to a different newspaper

Friday, May 25, 2012

APPALLING! (news report leading up to charges against Brian Banks being dropped)

Refusing to punish false rape accuser in Brian Banks case undermines public confidence our justice system

Refusing to punish false accuser in the Brian Banks case would undermine public confidence in our justice system

In the wake of news of the horrifying false rape claim that Wanetta Gibson's lodged against Brian Banks, we learn that is uncertain whether Gibson will have to return the money and unlikely she would be prosecuted for making the false accusation so long ago. 
Wanetta Gibson concocted a rape lie that derailed the promising football career of a young black man. She had it in her power to free Banks from this false rape hell at any time, but she watched in silence as Banks served over five years in prison despite knowing he was innocent. Then, after he was out but still on probation, she told him she'd help clear his name, but not if it meant disgorging the $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.
If Ms. Gibson is not charged, the district attorney owes it to the citizens of Los Angeles to explain why.  If the public, and that includes potential rape trial jurors, believes that innocent persons can be convicted and imprisoned as easily as occurred here, they will be all the more wary about convicting anyone for rape in the absence of a video showing the vile deed.  It is incumbent on the district attorney to signal that lies such as the one Gibson told are not tolerated, and that Brian Banks' victimization was not acceptable collateral damage in the war on crime.  This would go a long way toward restoring public confidence in the system.

Perhaps the statute of limitations has run out on Gibson. If so, it tells us there is something wrong with the way the statute of limitations is written or applied: a rape liar should not be rewarded for her ability to hide the truth until the statute runs out. The statute should only start to run when the rape lie is discovered.

Moreover, the citizens of the school district should insist that Gibson disgorge the ill-gotten gain that unjustly enriched her for a rape lie.  Mr. Banks' life was destroyed while Gibson became a millionaire.  The outrage should be palpable.

Punishing Gibson Will Not Send Wrong Message to Rape Victims
Punishing Gibson for her lie will not send the wrong message to rape victims who are mulling over whether they should report their rapes.  The one has nothing to do with the other, and charging Gibson will only deter rape liars from coming forward, not rape victims.  No serious commentator calls for the prosecution of rape accusers in "he said, she said" cases simply because an accusation turns out to be unfounded. But where there is overriding evidence that a rape lie sent a young man to prison and derailed his life, the district attorney must prosecute.  
If anyone suggests that charging for this vile rape lie will deter women from coming forward and reporting their rapes, it is they who would be doing a grave disservice to rape victims by  improperly discouraging them from coming forward. Rape victims need to be assured that this atrocity has nothing to do with the claim they should make. 
By signaling to the public that rape liars are punished, the public will have greater confidence that the system only honors legitimate rape claims, and that innocent men and boys are not in danger of being destroyed at the whim of a private citizen.  This can only help rape victims get the justice they deserve.
The prosecution of rape raises a host of complex issues that require the nuanced balancing of critical and delicate interests: we must, on the one hand, strive to punish malefactors, and on the other, insure that the innocent are not punished with the guilty. The balancing of those two imperatives is difficult enough in the rape milieu without injecting childish politicization into the discourse that insists even terrible lies shouldn't be prosecuted.
Punishing Gibson Will Not Deter Recantations
Others will say that Gibson should not be charged because it would discourage other false accusers from recanting, thus harming even further their falsely accused victims. In fact, it is likely that adopting a policy of not punishing rape liars will have the effect of reducing recantations.  
A rape liar makes a false claim to fulfill a personal need -- often to give her a handy excuse, to exact revenge, or to gain attention. The rape liar is unlikely to drop the lie unless she believes that doing so will fulfill an even greater, more pressing, personal need than the one that prompted the lie in the first place. Most rape lies are recanted due to the belief that the lie is likely to be exposed and that the liar will be punished more severely if she refuses to admit it. 
In point of fact, rape recantations typically occur only after police have found a hole, often a gaping hole, in the accuser's story and there is little likelihood that the case will go to trial anyway, much less result in a conviction. Police officers apprise the accuser that they've found a video, a witness, or some other evidence, and that her story doesn't add up. That is often enough to prompt a recantation.  (Not all recantations are legitimate, of course, and where there is a possibility that the recantation was made out of fear of the man accused, it needs to examined with heightened scrutiny.)  But many recantations occur due to the belief that the punishment to the false accuser will be more severe without a recantation. If the fear of punishment were removed, it is unlikely that many false accusers would recant. 
More fundamentally, for every other criminal act, our criminal justice system values the concept of deterrence. Would-be false accusers will not be deterred unless they know they face serious consequences. Without this deterrence, what is to stop people from manufacturing lies about serious criminality?  
An innocent person should not need to depend on a false accuser's whim to decide whether he or she will, in his or her sole and unilateral discretion, free the accused from a false rape hell by recanting. In fact, a false rape accuser is the last person whose goodwill the falsely accused should be forced to depend on. And, as noted above, without the threat of even greater punishment for not recanting, most rape liars likely would not recant.  Far too many falsely accused persons have sat in prison cells and suffered the atrocities of incarceration waiting in vain for a recantation that never was uttered.

Horrifying false rape claim

Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- A former high school football star whose dreams of a pro career were shattered by a rape conviction burst into tears Thursday as a judge threw out the charge that sent him to prison for more than five years.

Brian Banks, now 26, pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of his lawyer after a childhood friend falsely accused him of attacking her on their high school campus.

In a strange turn of events, the woman, Wanetta Gibson, friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison.

In an initial meeting with him, she said she had lied; there had been no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record, court records state.

But she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.

During a second meeting that was secretly videotaped, she told Banks, "'I will go through with helping you but it's like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don't want to have to pay it back," according to a defense investigator who was at the meeting.

It was uncertain Thursday whether Gibson will have to return the money.

Prosecutors also said they didn't immediately know if she might be prosecuted for making the false accusation when she was 15.

Gibson did not attend the hearing on Thursday.

Banks, once a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, said he had verbally agreed to attend USC on a four-year scholarship when he was arrested.

He still hopes to play professional football and has been working out regularly. His attorney Justin Brooks appealed to NFL teams to give him a chance.

Banks said outside court Thursday that he had lost all hope of proving his innocence until Gibson contacted him.

"It's been a struggle. But I'm unbroken and I'm still here today," the tall, muscular Banks said, tears flowing down his face.

He recalled being shocked and speechless on the day Gibson reached out to him after he had been released from prison, having served five years and two months.

"I thought maybe it wasn't real," he said. "How could she be contacting me?"

He said he knew that if he became angry when he met with her it wouldn't help, so he struggled to keep calm.

"I stopped what I was doing and got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me play my cards right," he said.

In court, Deputy District Attorney Brentford Ferreira told Superior Court Judge Mark C. Kim that prosecutors agreed the case should be thrown out. Kim dismissed it immediately.

Banks had tried to win release while he was in prison, but Brooks, a law professor and head of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law in San Diego, said he could not have been exonerated without the woman coming forward and recanting her story.

Brooks said it was the first case he had ever taken in which the defendant had already served his time and had been free for a number of years.

Banks remained on probation, however, and was still wearing his electronic monitoring bracelet at Thursday's hearing. His lawyer said the first thing the two planned to do was report to probation officials and have it removed.

"The charges are dismissed now," Brooks said. "It's as if it didn't happen. ... It was the shortest, greatest proceeding I've ever been part of."

Banks had been arrested after Gibson said he met her in a school hallway and urged her to come into an elevator with him. The two had been friends since middle school and were in the habit of making out in a school stairwell, according to court papers.

There were contradictions in Gibson's story, as she told some people the rape happened in the elevator and others that it happened in the stairwell.

A kidnapping enhancement was added to the case because of the allegation Banks had taken her to the stairwell. That enhancement also was thrown out Thursday.

Outside court, Banks donned a sweat shirt that read "Innocent," as several friends and family members wept. His parents were jubilant, and Banks thanked them for standing by him.

"I know the trauma, the stress that I've been through, but I can't imagine what it's like to have your child torn from you," he said. "I don't know what I would have done without my parents."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unfounded sexual assault claim leaves Chief Petty Officer's life in tatters, while the accuser is promoted

A female ensign accused her subordinate, a decorated Chief Petty Officer named John Gonzales, of sexual assault. In a general court martial, the ensign told the jury she had no direct recollection of what happened in May 2010 after she, Gonzales and a group of sailors from the amphibious assault ship Bataan left a bar and went to Gonzales’ apartment.

Jurors took less than an hour to find Gonzales not guilty of aggravated sexual assault.  Instead, they found him guilty of fraternization, a conviction that prevented him not only from re-enlisting in the navy but also from getting even a civilian job.

Gonzales' attorney said that the woman concocted the rape charge to cover up for her own admitted fraternization.

While Gonzales' life is in tatters, what was the woman's punishment? She received a non-punitive letter of caution and was later promoted.

Gonzales has 16 years of experience as an intelligence analyst, including two combat deployments supporting Navy SEALs. He earned a Bronze Star and received the Navy’s top award for leadership in the intelligence community.

Gonzales' punishment is not necessarily unjust, but the the double-standard that punishes one party but not another for fraternization, is.  Worse, a sexual assault accusation is used as both a shield to protect the accuser from punishment, and a sword to perpetrate an unjust double-standard.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A reason for refusing to come forward about rape is closely allied to a reason for false rape claims: shame

Sometimes, women report they've been raped but then decide not to testify. The reasons they change their minds vary.  A 17-year-old rape victim was recently jailed in order to force her to testify. Today, her testimony led to the man being found guilty. Why was she reluctant to testify?

Based on the information available to us, shame. The girl admitted on the stand that portions of her initial story were a lie. The girl initially told investigators she was kidnapped by the man while waiting for a light rail train, but she wasn't.  At trial, she testified she was actually prostituting on that night when she got into the man's truck.  The jury believed that she was raped before she was able to escape his truck.

Based on the information available to us, we have no basis to question the jury's decision in this particular case. Jurors typically have difficulty crediting an accuser's story in a he said/she said rape cases, and we are not aware of any evidence here that they blew it.  A juror told a television station after the verdict that despite originally lying, the teen was believable after admitting she was a prostitute.  Another prostitute also testified that the man picked her up in his truck last June, took her to a secluded location and raped her.

Perhaps more often than we'd care to admit, shame is a motivating factor for both making false rape claims (example, Danmell Ndonye in the Hofstra case) and in deciding not to testify, as here. 

In the Hofstra case, as we previously explained, the false accuser's boyfriend was trying to call her at the very moment she was urging four strangers to have sex with her, so she lied and said she was raped because she was ashamed.

Here, the accuser wanted to keep from airing the truth because she was prostituting.

Shame about one's sexual misconduct is an impulse that few would advocate eliminating, but when it comes to rape, we, as a society, need to preach that the truth is a more important virtue than modesty. And, we also need to preach tolerance -- so that the truth isn't distorted either by claiming a rape was committed when it wasn't, or by refusing to tell a jury that a rape occurred when it did.

Society should be very glad that this girl testified. She has likely spared other innocent girls a harrowing ordeal.  Everyone should be deeply disturbed at the idea that a rapist might not be brought to justice because the victim was too ashamed to testify that she was selling her body.

The community of the wrongly accused does not benefit when rape charges are dropped because the alleged victim was ashamed of what she was doing when she was raped. When society perceives that rapists escape justice, that perception only diminishes confidence in our justice system, taints the community of the wrongly accused, and makes the awful stigma of a rape accusation all the more difficult to remove.

Self-Inflicted Stab Wounds Land Suspect In Jail

A homeless woman is accused of stabbing herself and then filing a fake domestic violence report to get into a women's shelter. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

National Registry of Exonerations

We are giving a permanent link to The National Registry of Exonerations on this site.  Read about it here

The exoneration industry is entering an interesting phase. We've known for several years that the cases where DNA can lead to exoneration are drying up.  See here.  Now, far more than previously, the experts are focusing on the more difficult cases where DNA will not lead to exoneration. Cases involving, for example, claims of acquaintance rape.  It will be interesting if any patterns or trends emerge. Our suspicion is that most wrongful convictions on the basis of acquaintance rape involve an overzealous prosecutor far more interested in notching up another "score" than justice.

Police: Woman lied that her husband raped her for revenge

Battle Creek police are seeking a warrant for a woman, 30, after she admitted she told police her husband held a knife to her throat and raped her. The woman reported the incident April 29 and said she woke to find her husband, 31, in her apartment and that he attacked her. However police said the man denied the attack and said he had spent the night with her and they had sex but then the next day she threatened him after her sister saw the man with another woman. The woman was interviewed and admitted she had concocted the story after learning her husband was with someone else.

Police say girl who described alleged rapist as light skinned black teen male was lying

In East Ridge Tennessee, on May 10, 2012, a 13-year-old girl claimed she was raped in the girls restroom during school by a light skinned black male, approximately 15-years-old with low cut hair.  She sais the teen was wearing a dark blue shirt and blue jeans.

The girl has been charged with filing a false police report.  Investigators quickly determined the girl was lying to them about the location of the assault and the alleged perpetrator. Further investigation led police to state that all of her allegations were completely unfounded, leading to the current charges.

Friday, May 18, 2012

UPDATE: Prosecutor found not guilty of sexual assault in case where evidence suggested a set up

Former prosecutor Peter Joseph Costanza was found not guilty this afternoon of sexual assaulting a young women in 2008 when she was 17-years-old. Evidence introduced at the trial raised serious questions about why this matter was even allowed to proceed, and the jurors, consisting of ten women and two men, apparently had concerns about it.  Read on.

Costanza claimed the young woman was trying to get back at him for jailing her boyfriend on drug charges. He claimed she came to him and asked him to dismiss the charges against her boyfriend. When Costanza said he couldn't, she told him he would be in trouble and left his office.

Costanza does admit that he had consensual contact with the girl, and this certainly complicated his defense.

But the most compelling evidence introduced might have been the recorded jailhouse conversations between the young female accuser and her then 21-year-old drug-dealing boyfriend -- talking about setting up the "DA" for a sexual harassment lawsuit. On one recording, the boyfriend is heard to say: "Costanza (expletive) me."

Female police officer is victim of false protection from abuse order

The need to exercise extreme caution when a putative victim of abuse asks a court to deprive a presumptively innocent person of rights was brought into sharp focus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania yesterday.

Last week, the male owner of a Pittsburgh after-hours club was granted a protection from abuse order against a female Pittsburgh police commander. The man claimed he was a "current or former sexual or intimate partner" of the commander, but that after their supposed romantic relationship ended, the commander threatened to destroy his business. "At this point, I felt physically in danger for my life,” said the man on May 9. “This woman carries a gun.”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gay, single father says he was falsely accused of raping his twin daughters because of his sexuality

This is a case we plan to follow because it raises disturbing questions about the ease with which a non-traditional father can be targeted with a false rape claim.

Woman pleads to falsely accusing cop, other charges

A Rochester woman pleaded guilty Monday to falsely accusing a police officer of raping her and to other charges including drunken driving.

Biggest fear of man who claims he was falsely accused . . . .

In 2010, Brett Stewart, an Australian professional rugby league footballer who plays for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, was acquitted by a jury of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.
See here.  Stewart maintains he was falsely accused, and recently spoke about the ordeal:

"Even though you knew you were innocent, did you ever think maybe the jury could get it wrong and you'd finish up behind bars in jail?

"Absolutely. That was my biggest fear. I knew I was innocent but my fate was in the hands of 12 jurors. If they didn't see it for what it was, yeah, I would have been sent to jail. It could easily have happened. I think about it all the time and how unjust it would be if jurors got it wrong. Not just my case but anyone else."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I think the New York Times blew it . . . .

A recent editorial in the New York Times takes issue with the actions of House Republicans in removing certain beneficial provisions from the Violence Against Women Act that would protect undocumented immigrants and others.

In a throw-away sentence, the editorial asserts: "The regressive House alternative removes these and other improvements, including new protections for students on college campuses."

It would be interesting to know what the Times is referring to when it talks about "new protections for students on college campuses," since the only changes in VAWA with respect to college students that we are aware of were made not by House Republicans but by Senate Democrats, with bipartisan support.

As FIRE recently wrote: "The U.S. Senate made bipartisan progress on college student rights on Friday as it passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (VAWA). Heeding the concerns of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Senators altered language in the final bill that might have required colleges and universities to employ our nation's weakest standard of proof in adjudicating allegations of sexual misconduct." 

FIRE previously reported this matter here.

It is regrettable that the Times seems intent on marginalizing the critical due process issue FIRE championed, and which had bipartisan support in the Democratic controlled Senate, by lumping it in with controversial partisan issues. The Times seems not to care about the due process concerns FIRE raised. While it would be interesting to see the Times give its views a full airing (and suffer the criticisms of persons concerned about civil liberties), regardless of how the Times feels about those issues, that doesn't excuse it from making factual errors. By suggesting that a bipartisan effort in defense of due process was some partisan, misogynistic attack on women when it wasn't, the Times blew it.

Two young men spent their vacation in the brig of a cruise liner after they were falsely accused of rape

Two young men, 22 and 26 years old, spent their week long vacation locked in the small, windowless brig on a Royal Caribbean cruise liner after an unidentified female passenger accused them of rape. Even though the woman then recanted and a physician concluded she had not been sexually assaulted, the men weren't released.

The young men are suing the cruise line in Manhattan federal-court seeking at least $100 million in damages. They are claiming false arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, and “outrageous conduct causing emotional distress.”

“I was in such stress, I can’t explain how scared I was,” said one of the young men, a commercial-boiler inspector who lives with his family in Brooklyn. “I got locked up for doing nothing.”  The other man said: “The next time we go on vacation, no girls. We won’t talk to anyone.”

The men claim that after climbing into their beds the first night, they were awakened at 5 a.m. by crew members who made them get dressed -- “in prison garments issued by Royal Caribbean.” Then, the staffers led the young men on a high seas perp walk and paraded them “through public areas of the ship to a lock-up facility,” according to court papers.

"Several hours later," according to the New York Post, "they were told they had been accused of raping an 'unidentified woman' who later recanted her allegation and who was examined by a doctor who determined she hadn’t been sexually assaulted. 'Notwithstanding the woman’s recantation and the doctor’s conclusion . . . Royal Caribbean’s arresting agents refused to release plaintiffs or to modify the conditions of their imprisonment,' according to the lawsuit."

The lawyer for the two men said the rape claim “came from a woman who was drunk and who was plainly goaded into making it by a group of people with whom she was traveling.” He accused the Miami-based cruise line of “Gestapo tactics inflicted on two innocent men.”

A Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said the men had been accused of “a serious crime,” and that the company “takes all allegations of crime seriously.  “In this instance, our security personnel onboard followed our established procedures,” spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said.

Charges Dropped Against Man Who Served 20 Years for Rape

Lake County prosecutors on Tuesday dropped sexual assault charges against a man accused in a decades-old Waukegan rape.

Bennie Starks, convicted in 1986 of assaulting a 68-year-old woman, had served 20 years of a 60-year sentence when DNA evidence was retrieved that excluded him from the crime. An appeals court ordered a new trial in 2006, and Starks was released on bond.

The State's Attorney had previously threatened to retry Starks on the charges but on Tuesday dismissed the sexual assault counts.

"I'm feeling great," Starks said. "The fight is not over yet. We still have one more hurdle, but it's a great day."
Starks still must deal with an aggravated battery charge the appeals court didn’t reverse. His attorneys maintain he is innocent of all charges. The State's Attorney would not comment on the aggravated battery count.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Band manager claims daily tabloid paid man to make false sex claims against him

In Ireland, a prominent victim of a bogus sex claim has made an explosive allegation against a major UK newspaper.

Last June, Louis Walsh, a music industry manager and judge on the British television show X-factor, was falsely accused of groping a man in the restroom of a club where one of Walsh's bands was performing.  The accuser later pled guilty to making false reports and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. 

Mr. Walsh wouldn't let it drop: "I have no intention of letting this matter rest until I have received total and absolute vindication," he said last year. Now, Mr Walsh is suing the publishers of a major UK daily tabloid for defamation over an article it published on June 23, 2011. 

In connection with that suit, Mr. Walsh is seeking access to documents that, he claims, will show the newspaper itself offered to pay the false accuser to make the false accusation against Walsh.

Walsh claims the newspaper paid €700 to his accuser and promised to make more payments to him before a journalist accompanied him to a garda station where he made his false complaint against Mr Walsh.

The newspaper denies it is liable for defamation and says it acted fairly and reasonably in relation to the publication.

We will be watching this one closely. If a representative of the newspaper orchestrated a vile false sex claim in the interest of getting a story, it will rank among the most heinous breaches of journalistic ethics imaginable. Let us hope that if it is true, the parties responsible will pay a hefty price.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Dartmouth dean: sexual assault disciplinary hearing is an opportunity for the 'accused' to learn

Dartmouth conducted a mock hearing of a sexual misconduct case last week to demonstrate how the school's disciplinary hearing system is supposed to work. What Dartmouth actually demonstrated is that there is reason to be concerned about whether the rights of presumptively innocent students accused of sexual misconduct are honored at Dartmouth.

There were complaints by students about a lack of professionalism and a randomness in the questioning; one student voiced a concern that the system favors naturally eloquent speakers. It is discomforting that the fate of students accused of serious offenses is entrusted to a system that seems to be marked by chaos.

Rape accuser threatened with jail for refusing to testify due to shame

The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that a woman can be sent to jail for refusing to testify against a man she has accused of sexual assault.  The ruling stems from a case where a woman claimed a 63-year-old Nebraska man sexually assaulted her between August 1992 and August 1994 when she was approximately 7 years old.

In April 2011, a lower level judge ordered the woman to testify or face 90 days in jail. The judge said the case hinged on her testimony, which outweighed any shame she might feel.

The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision last Friday but suggested that jailing the woman might not be the most prudent approach to address her reluctance to take the stand.

Victims' groups, such as the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), said that forcing the woman to testify would make the criminal justice system even less attractive to rape victims who are already reluctant to report their assaults.

COTWA doesn't think this issue is as clear-cut as RAINN suggests.  According to news reports, which may or may not be true, after the woman reported the alleged sexual assaults to the police, Nebraska State Patrol officers recorded a phone conversation between the woman and the man she accused where he admitted touching her inappropriately.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Harvard's 'choice': abide by a suspect interpretation of federal law and increase the risk of punishing innocent students, or err on the side of due process

Prof. Peter F. Lake of Stetson University College of Law, who specializes in higher education law, said he thinks that Harvard will follow the example of other Ivy League schools that have lowered their standards of proof in sexual assault cases to "preponderance of the evidence," as mandated by the Department of Education's “Dear Colleague” letter.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Not helpful

Someone posted this on Reddit. Members of the community of the wrongly accused don't benefit from this kind of hysteria or grotesque exaggeration. We trivialize their plight, and we build insurmountable gender barriers, when we insist, or even jokingly suggest, that men need to regard every woman as a potential false rape accuser.

Imagine a shirt that said "BACK UP. If you can read this, and we're alone, I can be raped." We would be outraged, and rightfully so.

The vast majority of women and men are offended by false rape claims; the persons most offended, aside from the victims of such offenses, seem to be rape victims themselves, because they understand that every rape lie diminishes the integrity of every rape victim.

The delicate balance that commands us to punish rapists while not punishing the innocent is extremely serious business. We need more sober, more adult, more serious voices to be part of the public discourse on these issues. The last thing we need is more Chicken Little hysteria, no matter which side it's coming from.

College student falsely accuses man of rape to win back boyfriend

In March 2011, Hannah Byron, then a psychology student at University of Teesside, met a man outside a Middlesbrough bar, shared a taxi with him, and had consensual sex with him.

Byron, who is now 20-years-old, had recently split with her boyfriend, but wanted to win him back. So in the early hours of the morning, she concocted a scheme to do just that: she sent texts to the former boyfriend telling him she had been raped. The boyfriend called the police, and Byron "reluctantly" named the innocent man with whom she had consensual sex.

The innocent man was arrested at his home and detained in police custody for almost nine hours. According to a detective, the innocent man was put through an enormous amount of stress through being arrested and questioned over the false claim. If he had been tried for rape, he could have been facing a lengthy prison sentence. "It must have been a very harrowing experience for him,” a judge later said.

Byron's defense in putting an innocent man at great peril of losing his liberty was that her behavior was "very foolish."

The innocent man was released only after he showed the police a video of the sex act, which clearly showed he had not rape Byron. It is not clear if the innocent man would have been charged for rape if he had not revealed the video.

Muslim woman scared secret boyfriend would send explicit pictures to her devout parents cried rape to gang who then subjected him to torture ordeal

  • Sonia Begum, 21, complained to her cousin Shahen Ahmed, 21, that her boyfriend was pestering her
  • He then rounded up a gang who kidnapped and set fire to the 22-year-old victim
  • Both were jailed at the Old Bailey, alongside five other members of the gang
By Graham Smith

A Muslim woman who pretended she was raped by her boyfriend, leading to his prolonged torture by a gang, because she thought he would show explicit photos of her to her devout parents has been jailed.

Sonia Begum, 21, had complained to her cousin Shahen Ahmed, 21, that the man had sexually assaulted her.

Ahmed then rounded up a gang who kidnapped and set fire to the 22-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The 'extraordinary and determined barrage' of violence included setting fire to the victim’s face, beating him with a belt and kicking him in the stomach.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Not a helpful sign . . .

Someone posted this picture on Reddit and claimed it was taken at UCLA.  I get it: guys being guys and all, they might just "forget" and rape a woman.  Sigh.  What a wasted opportunity to make a real statement about rape. How about a poster like this:

Hook-ups + alcohol = trouble.
Friends don't let friends hook up drunk.

Alas, the people behind this sign seem more interested in stereotyping men than in doing something to help sexual assault victims. Yes, indeed, this sign would be helpful . . . if sociopaths paid attention to sarcastic public service announcements. Since it's a pretty good bet they don't, why not address the culture of booze-fueled hook-ups that are at the heart of the college sex problem?

College students protest against punishments based on 'preponderance of the evidence' standard for non-sex offenses

The Wesleyan Student Assembly passed a Student Judicial Reform Resolution Sunday that recommends increasing the standard of proof from “fair preponderance” to “clear and convincing evidence” for student disciplinary hearings. This would apply to all infractions of the Code of Non-Academic Conduct, excluding cases of sexual misconduct, harassment, and abuse. (The reason for the exclusion, presumably, is the mandate of  Department of Education's April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" letter.")

Naperville woman charged with filing false sex assault report

A 22-year-old Naperville woman faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct for falsely reporting she was sexually assaulted, authorities said Friday.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Barbaric: It is 'worth the risk' to punish innocent college men in order to nab more sex offenders

Barbaric: It is 'worth the risk' to punish innocent college men in order to nab more sex offenders

The University of Maryland's student newspaper is running a story today about how the university lowered its standards for finding students guilty of sexual misconduct earlier this semester, in compliance with new federal "Dear Colleague" mandate. The story includes this stunning quotation: "[F]reshman electrical engineering major Steph Winter said letting someone guilty of a serious crime go unpunished would be more harmful than finding an innocent person guilty. It’s obviously one of the big side effects, if it could result in an innocent person being found guilty,” she said. “But I think sexual assault is such a big issue that it’s worth the risk.”

Anonymous sexual assault lawsuit against Travolta raises troubling issues about anonymity in civil actions

Two unidentified massage therapists, represented by the same attorney, are suing John Travolta in federal court for a total of $2 million. The massage therapists are identified only as "John Doe No. 1" and "John Doe No. 2" in the civil complaint filed in federal court. They claim that in two separate incidents last January, Travolta masturbated in front of each of them while he received massages. In addition, Travolta supposedly exposed himself to the masseurs and grabbed their genitals in an attempt to make sexual advances toward them.

Couple that framed man for rape get three years probation each

This story started in September of 2010. The September 25, 2010 Morning Journal of Northern Ohio reported on a rape accusation as if the rape certainly occurred. The story reported that Joseph Melendez, 35, of Cleveland, was visiting the home of an unnamed couple who wanted to introduce him to a woman. Melendez arrived while the husband was out for a jog, and, according to the news report, the wife gave Melendez a tour of the home.  We quote directly from the news report:

"While in the bedroom, Melendez rubbed the woman, put a large kitchen knife to her throat, and asking her for sex, the wife told deputies. When the husband arrived home, he heard his wife yelled, went into the bedroom and saw what was happening, the [police] report said.

"Melendez fled the home, denied to deputies that he tried to rape the woman and said the husband attacked him. Melendez claims that the knife was in the driveway and the wife asked him to pick it up, so he did and put it in the kitchen, Barker said.

"Deputies found the knife in the bedroom. Melendez was charged with abduction, attempted rape and taken to Lorain County Jail. The investigation is continuing."

The names of the unnamed couple are Gabriella Bracken, 18, and James Bracken, 26, and they concocted the entire incident -- they lured Mr. Melendez to the house in order to hurt or to kill him. They were charged with the following crimes:

Gabriella: tampering with records, forgery and falsification;

James:  tampering with evidence, forgery, assault, criminal damaging and falsification.

Before the charges against him were dropped, Mr. Melendez faced up to 20 years for a rape and abduction that never occurred. His false accusers, on the other hand, were looking at a maximum of two years apiece.

Mr. Melendez eventually sued the couple and was awarded $1.5 million in damages (whether he was ever able to collect is unknown).

The false accusers were sentenced for their actions: three years probation each. See here.

WSU student files false police report

Woman claims sexual assault, later admits to lying after police review surveillance video

A Wayne State student is facing possible charges for filing a false police report after admitting she fabricated a report that she was sexually assaulted on WSU’s campus April 23.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'By mandating that institutions use the weak preponderance of the evidence standard, OCR has undermined the reliability, integrity, and basic fairness of disciplinary proceedings and invited error.'

FIRE and 19 other signatories have written a letter urging the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to address the threats to student rights posed by OCR's "Dear Colleague" letter regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus.  Here is an excerpt:

Police say 'victim' concocted tale of sexual assault

If you are a clean-shaven white male with short dark hair in your mid-30s, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds, and if you were in the Taylorsville, Utah area in mid-April, you fit the description of an alleged rapist.

A 22-year-old woman claimed that on April 17, she was walking her dog on the Jordan River Parkway when the knife-wielding man, described above, attempted to rape her in broad daylight by grabbing her from behind. She claimed she was able to fight him off by kicking him.  She showed the police cuts and bruises.

KSL newsradio's Web site reported the story with this headline: "Woman fights off attacker on Jordan River Parkway."  The first line of the news report was as follows: "A 22-year-old woman fought off a would-be rapist along the Jordan River Parkway Tuesday afternoon."

A police officer warned people to be careful: "I would just recommend that people stay on the main trail if they're by themselves, and not go off on these side trails."

A local ABC affiliate interviewed a scared local citizen: “I’m kind of shocked it happened during the day in broad daylight,” said Cassandra Petersen from Taylorsville.  “It scares me. I live here and I take the dog out all the time. It makes me rethink where I’ll walk her because I’m usually by myself.”

Now police say the unnamed woman made it all up. Taylorsville Lt. Rosie Rivera said Monday the woman has been cited for filing a false police report and disorderly conduct.

Taylorsville authorities say this is the second time in a little over a year that detectives determined a trail assault report was fabricated.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Reckless 'rape' talk in the news: (1) Insisting a penis joke hints at 'our agressively sexualized culture,' and (2) Insisting that a rape claim not charged must have been false

Two cases in the news underscore the need for greater discernment and maturity in talking about matters related to rape:

The Cox T-Shirt: Lucy Berrington thinks the Tuft's men's rowing team's cox T-shirt "hint[s] approvingly at the aggressively sexualized culture within some fraternities and college sports teams." That's an unwarranted stretch because the shirt suggested nothing agressive or misogynistic; it was a juvenile college boy wiener joke. 

Indignation about our aggressively sexualized culture should be reserved for the real thing, not for every silly reference to penises. 

Massachusetts Gaming Commission: Here's a story that warrants some indignation.  The new interim executive director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was accused several years ago of sexual assault in Florida.  No charges were ever brought.

The problem is that the chairman of the state’s gambling commission apparently justified, in part, hiring the new interim director by telling the commission that the sexual assault charges were false and that Florida authorities had concluded there was zero substance to them.

In fact, it appears that the Florida authorities only decided not to press charges, but their reasons for that decision aren't evident from the news reports.  According to a news report: "A police officer who handled the case told the Globe last week that he ‘absolutely’ believed the [alleged victim], who was curled up in a fetal position, shaking and crying after the alleged attack."

It generally isn't fair to treat a presumptively innocent person who was accused of sexual assault, but not charged, much less convicted, the same as a convicted rapist.

But words matter, and the fact that a charge wasn't brought doesn't necessarily mean that the claim was "false." 

To his credit the chairman of the gambling commission corrected himself: He said he should not have referred to the allegations as "meritless, if I did, because I do not know the full facts. I should have said ‘evidence insufficient to warrant prosecution of the charges.'"

Declaring charges "false" when they might not have been is hurtful to the alleged victim. As a society we need to be sufficiently mature to be able to treat with dignity and respect both the presumptively innocent man who was accused of, but not charged with, rape, and the alleged victim who claimed s/he was raped. This means not making inaccurate assumptions about either.

Friday, May 4, 2012

What is the answer about anonymity for rape victims and the presumptively innocent accused of rape? We don't know . . . .

Attorney Wendy Murphy criticizes the student newspaper at Bridgewater State University, which recently published the identity of a woman who claims she was raped in 2008. The woman's identity was published only after she had publicly spoken about the rape at a rally held in connection with the school's “Take Back the Night.”  The rally was designed to encourage victims of sexual assault to speak up and not live in shame.

Organizers of the Take Back The Night rally, various fraternities, sororities, and student government members want the newspaper to take the article off its website and apologize to the woman. The student newspaper is defending its decision to print the woman's name on First Amendment grounds.

Reporting the woman's name wasn't necessary to tell the story the newspaper wanted to relate, and we suspect the woman didn't anticipate that her identity as a rape victim would be publicized beyond the supportive forum where she related it. On the other hand, it is our guess that the newspaper assumed the woman had de facto waived her anonymity by going public with the story and felt it was appropriate to name her.

The First Amendment doesn't require student newspapers to exercise good judgment or to insure its publication isn't in bad taste. Last November, for example, East Carolina's student newspaper splashed on its front page, above the fold, an unedited, full frontal nude photo of a 21-year-old man streaking at the school's football game the previous weekend. Sometimes it is appropriate to condemn a newspaper for acting in bad taste while still defending its right to do so.

But it is the issue of anonymity, in general, that is important. Wendy Murphy explained that "[v]ictims in sexual assault matters face unique burdens not experienced by other types of crime victims because the very nature of sexual violence is such that a public trial is certain to reveal things about the victim that are not only highly personal but protected by the Constitution.""Not naming victims in the press insulates them from the harm that would otherwise disproportionately affect their constitutional rights simply because they had the misfortune of being targeted for the most intimate of violent acts."

Ms. Murphy's assertions are difficult to refute. But, ironically, the same interests she discusses are shared by persons falsely accused of serious sex crimes. Rape is perhaps the most loathsome offense in the entire criminal law canon, universally considered worthy of the most severe societal censure and condemnation; in some cultures, rape is regarded as more offensive than murder. Because of the he said/she said nature of most rape claims, a false rape accusation is almost impossible to fully disprove, and even when falsely accused persons are cleared of rape charges, they often are tainted as the possible perpetrators of the most detestable crime known to mankind.  Our bloggers have reported the public scorn heaped upon many false rape victims.

So what is the answer about anonymity for (1) rape accusers and (2) the presumptively innocent accused of rape? We don't know. We do know that the issues don't lend themselves to easy answers and that the current state of the public discourse ignores significant interests that should be aired.

The interests of protecting the identities of rape victims are well known, and they are legitimate. Those interests need not be fully aired on this blog since they represent the status quo and are articulated in the policies of the American news media that shield the anonymity of anyone who claims to have been raped. This blog, on the other hand, is among the few forums devoted to giving voice to the wrongly accused, and they, too, have interests that deserve to be aired but too often aren't.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz has made a persuasive case against anonymity -- for anyone. Here's what he wrote about the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case: "The prosecution presented its case in public as if there were no doubt about the alleged victim’s credibility or the complete guilt of the alleged offender. In fact, one very important implication of the Strauss-Kahn case was this: the press is dead wrong not to publish the names of alleged rape victims. It is absolutely critical that rape be treated like any other crime of violence, that the names of the alleged victims be published along with the names of the alleged perpetrators, so that people who know the victim or know her reputation can come forward to provide relevant information. The whole manner in which this case was handled undercuts the presumption of innocence, and the same goes for many other cases like it. By withholding the name of the alleged victim while publishing perp photos of the alleged assailant, the press conveys a presumption of guilt. The next time I have to defend a case where there’s any chance of a perp walk, I’m going to federal court to demand an injunction against it."

Dershowitz previously said this on the subject: "People who have gone to the police and publicly invoked the criminal process and accused somebody of a serious crime such as rape must be identified." Moreover: "In this country there is no such thing and should not be such a thing as anonymous accusation. If your name is in court it is a logical extension that it should be printed in the media. How can you publish the name of the presumptively innocent accused but not the name of the accuser?"

Feminist Naomi Wolf  has many interesting arguments why rape accusers shouldn't be anonymous.  Among other things: "It is wrong – and sexist – to treat female sex-crime accusers as if they were children, and it is wrong to try anyone, male or female, in the court of public opinion on the basis of anonymous accusations. Anonymity for rape accusers is long overdue for retirement."

And there are legitimate arguments as to why persons accused of rape should not be named, at least until they are charged, or even convicted. Justice for rape victims does not depend on the public shaming and humiliation of the presumptively innocent.  Our bloggers have argued in previous posts it is likely that more women would come forward and report their rapes if the men they accused were anonymous.  That position bucks the common thinking on the subject, but it has a logic difficult to refute. When a woman accuses a male acquaintance of rape and he is publicly identified, it often isn't difficult to infer who the accuser is. It is reasonable to assume that most rape victims would prefer not to have their identities revealed by inference when they accuse an intimate acquaintance of rape.

Ms. Murphy, fraternities, sororities, and student leaders are bemoaning the fact that a woman who claims she was raped was stripped of her anonymity even though she publicly spoke about her ordeal at a rally. Such concerns are legitimate, and it is good to air them.

It is lamentable, however, that virtually no one bothers to voice concern that persons wrongly accused of serious sex crimes are also stripped of their anonymity. Their reputations are sometimes indelibly stained by the publicity.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Update on Tufts T-shirt scandal

Peter Bonilla of FIRE has an astute update here.

Two men formally exonerated in Dallas rape, shooting

Two Texas men were exonerated Monday in a nearly 30-year-old rape and shooting after DNA tests in Dallas County implicated others in the crime.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

FIRE takes issue with punishment over 'Cox' t-shirt

FIRE reports that the director of Tufts' men's crew team suspended the entire team from racing at a championship event scheduled for this weekend, and also removed two students from the position of captain, due to a double entendre T-shirt the crew created for an annual school concert. The shirt states "check out our cox" above a picture of a silhouetted boat. "Cox" is short for "coxswain," the person who sits in the front of a boat and directs the rowers. 

FIRE has not received any information from the school to confirm what FIRE has learned, but, apparently, the shirt was reported through Tufts' "bias incident" reporting system, in which students can anonymously report actions, words, or pictures that "target a person or community."  The dean allegedly said the picture was too phallic and promoted aggression and rape.

FIRE believes Tufts' reaction is overblown. Read it here:

It is a moral imperative that colleges (1) support the accuser who was likely sexually assaulted, and (2) protect the presumptively innocent unless it is clear he is guilty: Princeton proves it is possible to do both

Late last year, Princeton quietly revised its sexual misconduct policy in a laudatory manner that serves the interests of both the accused and the accuser. It should be the model for all schools.

Most institutions of higher education have interpreted the the Department of Education's April 4, 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter as mandating that their schools apply the lowest standard of proof, preponderance of the evidence, for all sexual misconduct hearings. This means that a student likely will be expelled, or suspended for a lengthy period of time, if a disciplinary hearing board determines that it is more likely than not (50.1%) that he committed the offense.

Princeton doesn't read it that way. It has established separate, parallel procedures for (1) student discipline, and (2) Title IX grievances. Disciplinary proceedings, which involve investigations and adjudications of alleged student violations of University rules, require “clear and persuasive" evidence to find a violation. But Title IX grievances, which involve complaints against the University alleging that Princeton has failed to meet its obligations under federal law, require a lesser standard, a preponderance of the evidence.

What this means is that Princeton could clear an accused student of violating campus rules, but still conclude a Title IX violation took place, triggering a duty to provide support for the accuser.

Princeton's Provost Christopher Eisgruber described the University’s procedures as “fully compliant with Title IX,” noting that the OCR letter explains that colleges and universities “have options about how to address Title IX grievances related to sexual misconduct.” Provost Eisgruber said the policy is the best way to balance protecting both the Title IX and due process rights of students. "There are in these kinds of proceedings two different kinds of mistakes that can be made. You have to protect against both of them."

Provost Eisgruber is correct. First, protecting the accused is vital to all civilized notions of fairness. Employing a stringent standard of proof to adjudicate guilt is critical to the fair treatment of the presumptively innocent. It is universally accepted that the "beyond a reasonable doubt" and "clear and convincing evidence" standards reduce the risk of punishing the presumptively innocent based on factual error. Sexual misconduct cases often come down to a battle of "he said/she said" evidence. The absence of overriding evidence to establish guilt or innocence is neither a valid nor a serious-minded justification for making it easier to punish the presumptively innocent. Just the opposite: it is a sound reason to be ever more vigilant of the possibility of punishing an innocent person for something he or she did not do.

By the same token, since it is often impossible to be reasonably certain about what happened in these cases, it is a moral imperative to also support the accuser if it's likely true that she was assaulted. If the school finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the accuser's Title IX rights have been violated by the school, she should be treated as a victim. Such an adjudication might require the separation of the accuser and the accused as well as other protections for the accuser that may impose certain restrictions on the accused. But it would not include besmirching forever his reputation, and impeding his education and employment opportunities, by expelling him.

Wendy Murphy, for one, takes issues with the University’s approach. “Preponderance of evidence is a nonnegotiable standard of proof for all harassment based on sex — including sexual assault — irrespective of whether the harm is framed as a ‘disciplinary’ matter or a ‘Title IX’ matter,” Murphy said. She says that schools "have to stop saying, ‘We believe her, but not enough that we’ll punish him.’”

The fact is, in many cases, the school doesn't know who to believe. Murphy's all-or-nothing approach forces the school to make a terrible, and unnecessary, choice, often based on murky evidence: (1) severely harm the accused by expelling him, or (2) clear the accuser and do nothing to support the accuser. On gray evidence, most fair-minded people would have to choose the latter course, which often is not a good solution. Princeton's approach recognizes the reality of these cases and protects both the accuser and the accused as much as possible. For reasons that are unfathomable, it is more important to Wendy Murphy to punish men than to help women.

Most troubling in the ongoing debate are assertions that trivialize the rights of the accused. Murphy was recently quoted in a news article: "Colleges must protect victims, she says. That means abandoning the fantasy they can make everybody happy by also offering accused students the full due process rights they’d enjoy in a criminal trial. 'You can’t run a school that way,' Murphy said. 'If every once in a while a school has to be sued at the cost of being fair to all students, so be it.'”

Brett Sokolow, founder of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, which helps colleges across America mold their sexual assault policies to enhance the rights of alleged victims, recently commented on a news story by stating flatly: "Campuses are not administering justice.  Why would you think we are? We're protecting our communities from those who may be dangers to it. How can we do anything less?"

We would like to see one of the schools that utilize Mr. Sokolow's services put that in a recruiting brochure -- "if you are accused by a fellow student of an offense, don't expect justice from us."  Private colleges generally adhere to an established protocol of fairness, which often is contractually binding on it. Moreover, to suggest that a public college has no duty to apply due process in disciplinary proceedings (and how else can one reasonably read Sokolow's pronouncement?), or that a school can truly protect its communities by not doing justice, are assertions as frightening as they are wrong.

Wendy Murphy doesn't think the Department of Education's OCR will tolerate Princeton's approach. But the AP recently reported that Russlynn Ali, the head of OCR, "indicated she wasn't necessarily opposed to a two-tracked system. She declined to address any particular school, but said OCR was talking with colleges about their concerns and would study them 'case by case' — suggesting colleges may have more flexibility than they realize."


Secretary of Defense creating SVU's for the Entire Military

Secretary Leon Panetta said that the Army's model of prosecuting sex offenses will become the entire military's model, and that the other services will establish Special Victim Units (SVU's).  Also, whenever a sexual assault is reported, then the offense is required to be disposed of at an O-6 level.

Secretary Panetta announced that some of the steps the military will take will "not only prosecute those involved, but more importantly send a signal that this is not a problem that we are going to ignore in the United States military.”  Isn't it interesting that sending a signal that sexual assault is not a problem that will be ignored is more important than prosecuting those who have committed rape?  Makes you wonder if the signal is intended for would-be rapists or for the sexual grievance industry to show that the military takes rape allegations seriously.

So, you might wonder where our tax dollars go when the Services create new SVU's.  Well, one of the highly qualified experts hired in 2009 for the Army's SVU program was Roger Canaff.  Read his blog and perhaps you will wonder why the Army would hire him to be one of its highly qualified experts to train its prosecutors:

Another highly qualified expert hired for the Army's SVU program is Sandra Tullius who has a particularly aggressive reputation in the Army.  You can read what the Hartford Courant wrote about her here:

Anybody wonder what kind of people the other Services will hire for their respective SVU programs?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why is there not more outrage? A 33-year-old locked away for a murder he didn't commit is finally released at 51

All persons of goodwill should be asking how could this happen? and

False rape claims 'deserve severe punishment from the courts and abhorrence from a cruelly mocked community'

False rape belittles victims

Cast the mind back to last autumn and the memory of menace will still be clear.

Shock and fear hung over Carlisle. People felt shame for their city, held suspicions about their neighbours, were afraid to go out at night.

The belief was that a rapist was stalking women. It was a sincerely held conviction arising from separate and apparently unrelated reports of attacks by a stranger.

Two women have now been punished for the lies that blighted Carlisle. Two women have been convicted of fabricating stories of brutal sex assaults – untruths that seriously and directly impacted on the ordinary, routine day to day activities and peace of mind of thousands of their fellow citizens.

The latest to be dealt with in court was Takara Jayne Harding, a young woman who admits now wanting to worry her boyfriend, draw attention to herself, corner him into offering pity.

Not only did she waste valuable police time and contribute to bringing a climate of terror to Carlisle’s nightlife, her actions thoughtlessly belittled all women who, having been subjected genuinely and terrifyingly to rape, struggle to face the frightening ordeal of bringing charges and giving testimony.

False rape claims carry no logic beyond shameful attention-seeking selfishness – which is no logic at all.
They deserve severe punishment from the courts and abhorrence from a cruelly mocked community.

Is Senator Bob Casey scaring women about rape for political gain?

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, like his father, the late Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, is that rare Democratic politician on the national stage who identifies as pro-life.

Beyond that, Bob Casey was one of just three Democrats in the Senate who supported Sen. Roy Blunt’s recent failed attempt to give employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for contraception on the basis of conscience. 

The senator seems cognizant of his tenuous-at-best relationship with an important block of female voters, and sometimes, he seems to pander to women in prominent ways. Last year, he procured hundreds of thousands of dollars for little Gannon University to reduce violence against women on the university's campus even though the director of Gannon University's office of campus police and safety said there is no evidence that the university has a problem with sexual violence.  We did not hear any taxpayers complain.

Casey also introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE Act), which, among other things, would do legislatively what the Department of Education has already improperly done by executive branch fiat: mandate that colleges use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof for sexual assault cases. In other words, if your son is accused of sexual assault at college, Senator Casey thinks its fine to expel him even if the hearing tribunal believes there is a 49.9999% chance he didn't do it.

Casey is at it again. He recently took to the editorial pages of the Delaware County Pennsylvania Daily Times to warn women that one-in-five of them will be raped.  His source was a survey released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

That survey is problematic because, among other things, it counts “alcohol or drug facilitated penetration” as a sexual violation even though such penetration often is legally, and factually, consensual.  In addition: "Participants [of the survey] were asked if they had ever had sex because someone pressured them by 'telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue?' All affirmative answers were counted as 'sexual violence.' Anyone who consented to sex because a suitor wore her or him down by 'repeatedly asking' or 'showing they were unhappy' was similarly classified as a victim of violence. The CDC effectively set a stage where each step of physical intimacy required a notarized testament of sober consent."

The fatal legal infirmities of punishing for "sexual coercion" are many. See here. The fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies sexual coercion as sexual violence is disturbing; the fact that a United States Senator uses that terribly flawed survey to fear-monger and to play group identity politics should be unacceptable.

The newspaper where Casey wrote the op-ed thinks so, too. It has written an editorial called "Rape has no place in political arena" that astutely points out that a terrible byproduct of rape hysteria is wrongful convictions. Among other things, the editorial criticizes the Obama administration's fiat requiring colleges to lower the standard of proof  for sexual misconduct. "This should be troubling to any parent who sends a son to college," the editorial notes, "for the vast majority of those accused are young men. More than a few have had their lives forever changed by an accusation later recanted or shown to have been false." The editorial also bemoans the "prevailing campus orthodoxy . . . that when accused of any sort of sexual misconduct men are basically guilty until proved innocent."

The editorial concludes with this:
By unquestioningly citing statistics, such as the ones developed by the survey, Casey is allowing himself to be used by partisan ideologues who are more interested in seeing women as potential victims, especially of sexual assault, than the empowered and self-determining people that they are.

They do, after all, today make up almost 60 percent of the college-going population. No matter how much equality in the classroom or workplace that any identity group achieves, there will always be those who will pander to individuals of that group and their sense of vulnerability and/or grievance.

Generally speaking, such pandering efforts should be revealed for what they are and resisted, corrected and even, mocked. Derision is sometimes the best disinfectant against such divisive tactics.

Rape is too serious and awful a crime to be used in such an obvious political manner. Bob Casey is a decent man and he should know better.

Woman sentenced for lying about rape

Three men spent 14 months in jail before being acquitted due to the false testimony of an 18-year-old women who will now receive psychiatric treatment.