Thursday, April 23, 2009

Judge dismisses rape charges in Pawtucket case

COMMENT: Interesting comment by Judge Prcaccini in this case:

He asked how could the three defendants on trial for rape could be held to a different standard, if trained observers, such as the rescue worker, could not even identify her as intoxicated?

That is an excellent question. If she was dancing, talking, smoking pot and "shotting," then it is reasonable to believe she was able to consent. Another case of day-after-regret? Maybe. But the Judge made the correct decision in this case.

Rape charges dismissed in Pawtucket case.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- They hugged, slapped backs and the word "justice" rang out in the courtroom seconds after Judge Daniel A. Procaccini dismissed rape charges against three men.

Procaccini found that the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Spencer Ward, Kenneth Sakor and Alaba Sobowale had sexually assaulted a Massachusetts woman on a stairwell at a birthday party in Pawtucket three years ago.

Monday's decision ended the trial in Providence County Superior Court and cleared the three men of first-degree sexual assault charges.

"From day one, we didn't think they were guilty," said John Coughlin, representing Sakor.
Prosecutors needed to prove the three men sexually penetrated the woman knowing she was physically helpless, meaning she was unconscious or physically unable to communicate her unwillingness to engage in intercourse.

Coughlin said the men had chosen to have the judge try the case before Procaccini instead of a jury because the judge would have a greater understanding of the law than a jury. "

"The state was dealt a bad hand," Coughlin said.

The now 27-year-old woman testified over two days that she treated her mother to The Phantom of the Opera at the Providence Performing Arts Center before heading to Sakor's birthday party around 11 p.m. March 9, 2006. She had at least five drinks, including a rum and coke that she believed someone kept refilling after she drank from it. She danced and "chit chatted" with the 20 or so people there, most of whom she supervised at that Judge Rotenberg Center, a residential facility for special needs students in Canton, Mass.

She said she smoked marijuana in the foyer with five men, including all three defendants. She took "shotties" from a man, allowing him to blow a puff of smoke into her mouth. She said she could not move or speak and awoke to find Sobowale, 48, of 79 Ivan St., North Providence, raping her; followed by Ward, 26, of 76 Petteys Ave., Providence; and then a third man.

A rape kit done at Women & Infants Hospital identified Sakor, 24, of 197 Garden St., Pawtucket, a former high school track star, as the third man.

In ruling, Procaccini noted that the rescue worker, police officer, and doctor who saw the woman in the hours after the alleged assault described her as alert, communicative and not obviously intoxicated.

"[The woman's] description of helplessness is not supported by the evidence in the record," Procaccini said. He asked how could the three men be held to a different standard, if trained observers, such as the rescue worker, could not even identify her as intoxicated?

He also noted significant gaps in her ability to recall the events, particularly when she was being questioned by the defense lawyers.

The Journal does not identify alleged victims of sexual assaults.