Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Textbook case of everything wrong with the way we treat the presumed innocent in rape cases

The following news story is a text book case of what is wrong with the way we treat the presumed innocent in rape cases.  It underscores how easy it is to destroy a man's life with a rape lie, without penalty.  (The story is reported here.)  It highlights the three critical areas that need to be fixed. Please follow along; there are some points that need to be highlighted.

First, the facts: A 23-year-old all-American boy spent more than a week in jail after he was arrested for rape solely on the basis of a woman's say so.  She told police that she was sleeping at a college football victory party, attended by the accused and others, when the accused forced her to have sex.  That, of course, was enough to jail him. 

The reputational harm to the man accused was horrendous.  He lived in a small town and word about the charges spread quickly. 

The charges hung over the man's head for two months until the prosecuting attorney dropped them.  Why?  Here's how the news story explains it: "A person at the party had been taking video with a cell phone that showed another man touching the victim, and the victim calling for [the accused man] to come help her. [The accused man] also had saved sexually suggestive text messages that had been sent to him by the woman."  In addition:  "There were also three witnesses, including a friend of the woman, who said they were listening in on the accused and the woman when they were alone in a room at the apartment. All three men said they didn’t hear anything that sounded like someone was being raped.  'They overheard the act,' the accused man's attorney said. 'Thank God they were listening.'”

Given the evidence described above, it is reasonable to conclude that she lied, right?  “The victim’s version didn’t pan out,” the prosecuting attorney said. “The evidence really pointed to him not being guilty.”  But without explanation, the prosecutor added that there is not enough evidence to charge the woman with making a false crime report. Go figure.

Let us analyze what we've just read. The accused man was arrested solely on the basis of the woman's word.  Either he committed a crime (rape) or she did (false reporting).  It was just as likely either way.  Yet, in a "he said/she said" claim involving alleged rape, only one of the possible criminals is arrested and has his life destroyed.  Here, the man was deprived of his liberty for more than a week, forced to post bond, had his reputation destroyed, and then was forced to live a hell beyond words for two months before the charges were finally dropped.  Persons who've never experienced the anxiety of this delay can't imagine the unspeakable torment, not knowing if you are going to spend ten years or more in prison -- where, if you are a young male, you likely will be victimized by the same crime you did not commit.  He was only released from this hell due to the fortuity of eavesdroppers -- just as so many men are released only after a video surfaces.  You see, in "he said/she said" rape disputes, her word alone is enough to destroy his life; his word alone often isn't enough to overcome it -- he needs the corroboration of a video, or eavesdroppers or some other smoking gun evidence.  (You see, by dropping the requirement of corroboration -- one of many rape reforms in the past 30 years -- we've effectively flipped the rule: now she needs no corroboration to bring a rape charge, but he needs it in order to prevent being jailed for a crime he didn't commit.  Real fair, isn't it?)

Unstated is that this young man likely incurred staggering legal fees, easily in the $10,000-$20,000 range, or more.  We are not told if he was fired from his job, but that is common.  We are not told if his friends abandoned him, but that happens, too. Moreover, in the news story, the man is identified by name -- his identity is splashed all over the news for the world to titillate to his humilation.  For the rest of his life, any prospective employer who Googles this man's name will be able to read about the horrid accusation. Most employers will not take a chance on someone who might be a rapist, no matter how remote the possibility. 

In contrast, his accuser is not named.  Her identity is guarded with a tenacity greater than Clark Kent protects Superman's.  Thus, her reputation emerges unscathed. She was not deprived of her liberty.  She incurred no legal fees.  Her employment prospects are not affected in the least.  If, in the future, she lies that another male raped her, no one will know about this accusation, and even if the defendant in that subsequent case somehow stumbles across this allegation, this allegation will not be admissible in that rape trial because of the rape shield laws.

And finally, she wasn't charged.  Rape charges, in contrast, are brought on far, far flimsier evidence than what is reported here.  (Last week, we did a post about a wrongly accused young man who spent 18 years in prison based on the flimsiest of evidence.  He was subjected to prison atrocities reserved for young rapists.)  Because she wasn't convicted of making a false police report, when the sexual grievance industry talks about false rape cases they will insist that this case not be included in the "false" column. In fact, they will include this one in the "rape" column, since they assume that any rape claim that is not demonstrably false was necessarily a "rape." (This is why they say, for example, that "only nine percent of all rape claims are false" -- suggesting that the other 91 percent must be rapes.  This case is an example of one they will classify as a "rape" when they do their tally.)

This, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with the way we treat the presumed innocent charged with rape: (1) we are too quick to arrest and charge them on the basis of no evidence beyond the word of a lone accuser; (2) we are too quick to allow their reputations to be destroyed based on no evidence beyond the word of a lone accuser; and (3) we are too quick to let potential false accusers off the hook, thus allowing women (and sometimes males) to lie with impunity about rape, without providing any deterrence to other would-be false accusers.

The saddest part is that here, the system worked about as well as it ever does for rape cases. Which only goes to show that the system is broken and needs to be tossed out and replaced with something fair.  Somewhere along the way, we, as as society, have decided that the victimization of the presumed innocent and the falsely accused isn't nearly as important as the hypothetical victimization of possible rape victims, even those who might be lying.  And there is something very wrong with thinking like that.

In case you'd like to read the news story, here it is:

Evidence shows rape allegations false

MANKATO — Text messages saved by an Iowa man, as well as reports from other witnesses, helped get him released from jail and out from under false rape charges.

Referring to 23-year-old Anthony James Weatherman of Milford, Iowa, as an “all-American boy,” attorney Thomas Hagen said his client was the real victim in allegations that led to his arrest in September.

A woman accused Weatherman of raping her during a college football victory party, but felony charges were dismissed after investigators learned more about what happened at the Sept. 6 party near Minnesota State University.

“Basically, what she said was a lie, and no rape occurred,” Hagen said. “He played basketball in high school, he’s a member of the National Guard. It was just totally out of his nature, these allegations that were made.”

The woman told police she was sleeping before Weatherman forced her to have sex. Weatherman was arrested, charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and jailed until he was able to post a bond for his release more than a week later. His bail had been set at $75,000 but was later reduced to $10,000.

The following November, hours before Weatherman was scheduled to appear in court for a hearing, the charges were dismissed by Michael Hanson, assistant Blue Earth County attorney. There was no longer evidence to support the charges, Hanson said.

“The victim’s version didn’t pan out,” Hanson said last week. “The evidence really pointed to him not being guilty.”

It is rare for someone to make a false report about being raped, Hanson said. There is not enough evidence to charge the woman with making a false crime report, he added.

Calvin Johnson, who also represented Weatherman, said the allegations created a “horrendous” situation for his client. Milford is a small town and word about the charges spread quickly.

An investigation done by Johnson’s office quickly showed Weatherman was innocent, Johnson said. A person at the party had been taking video with a cell phone that showed another man touching the victim, and the victim calling for Weatherman to come help her. Weatherman also had saved sexually suggestive text messages that had been sent to him by the woman.

There were also three witnesses, including a friend of the woman, who said they were listening in on Weatherman and the woman when they were alone in a room at the apartment. All three men said they didn’t hear anything that sounded like someone was being raped.

“They overheard the act,” Johnson said. “Thank God they were listening.”

Link: http://mankatofreepress.com/local/x1897238975/Evidence-shows-rape-allegations-false