Thursday, August 12, 2010

A false rape claim in Baltimore? No, it can't be! Four college band members sprung from jail after 30 days, but not before they are assaulted by 30 inmates

Shades of Hofstra?  You decide after reading the two news reports below.

Four young college band members -- all black -- were held without bail for one month and were only released and the charges dropped, according to the Baltimore Sun (second news report below), after their accuser changed her story.  One of the young men's defense attorneys said he can prove the sex was consensual because, he said, the accused sent text messages arranging the group encounter. 

The four men are named, of course; their accuser is not, of course.

On top of it, three of the men were assaulted by a group of 30 inmates in jail before they were released. "They we're being called rapists while they were being attacked," said one of the men's defense attorneys.  Another example of the state wrongly arresting men and then not bothering to adequately protect them while they are behind bars.  I would like to hear how the state explains that one.

This case is just another in a long line of similar episodes where law enforcement arrests first (and holds the arrested men with bail set so high -- if it is set at all -- as to insure the defendant won't leave unless the charges are dropped) and only later completes the investigation that shows the charges are not warranted.  This is especially common among young black men.

The state will not prosecute the accuser because, said a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, there was some unspecified, phantom, mysterious probable cause to prosecute this case. Come again?  Do you mean to tell us, sir, that there was probable cause to prosecute a vicious rape -- and your office isn't doing it? You can't be serious, sir. Perhaps the spokesman means there was "probable cause" before the investigation was completed based on the word of the accuser?  See, sir, that's the problem.  You need to investigate first before you arrest. Or am I missing something here?

This just sounds to be just another instance where the state hands to young women the power to deprive young men of their liberty, based on nothing more than her say-so, to lock them away without bail for days, weeks, months, even years, where they live among -- and are beaten by -- real criminals, and then when it turns out they shouldn't be there, the state does nothing to punish her for abusing that power she's been given.  Since she's not deterred, there is nothing to deter her or others from doing it to some other innocent young man.

Here are two news stories regarding this case -- the second from the Baltimore Sun.  Click on the first story and watch the great news report from WJZ reporter Adam May, who very properly emphasizes the harm done to the accused men:

Charges Dropped For MSU Students Accused Of Rape

BALTIMORE (WJZ) ― Charges have been dropped for two current and two former Morgan State University students charged with a violent attack.

Sexual assault charges against four current and former Morgan State University students are dropped.

Adam May reports one of their defense attorney's is now calling for new charges against the original accuser.

The four men, now cleared of any wrongdoing, were held without bail for almost a month.

When four current and former members of the Morgan State Band were accused of sexual assaulting a band mate last month, people who lived next door to the Hamilton Hills Apartment, where it allegedly happened, were stunned.

"I never heard any screaming or someone say rape or anything like that, no," said a neighbor.

Now the charges against all four men have been dropped because of what a spokesman for the state's attorney describes as conflicting evidence.

"There are varying accounts of what happened, who did what," said Joe Sviatko, state's attorney's office spokesman.

Dale Lawton's defense attorney tells WJZ he can prove the sex was consensual, claiming the accused sent text messages arranging the group encounter.

"If you're charged with any sex offense, even if you're exonerated, it may be something that can follow you the rest of your life," said William Buie, defense attorney.

Not only did the falsely accused have their reputations damaged, but three of them were also assaulted.

They were jumped by other inmates Tuesday in jail, right before they were supposed to head to court to have the charges dropped.

"They we're being called rapists while they were being attacked," said Buie.

"The young lady who made these accusations needs to be prosecuted.

That's the way you keep this from happening in the future."

Prosecutors say that won't happen.

"There was definitely probable cause to go ahead and charge this case, so the answer to that question would be no," said Sviatko.

There may not be any legal recourse for the time lost behind bars, but Buie is considering suing the Department of Corrections for failing to protect his client.


Sexual assault charges dropped against Morgan State students

University band members beaten up in jail

Sexual assault charges against four men — all former or current Morgan State University students held without bail since mid-July — were dropped Tuesday, after their accuser changed her story.

But the defendants never made it to Baltimore District Court for the proceeding.

Renard James, 30; Dante Green, 24; Dale Lawton, 22; and Howard Smith Cook, 22, were jumped by other inmates in a city jail holding cell before they could be transported, defense attorneys said.

The two younger men were taken to a hospital, treated and released, according to the state's Department of Corrections. The older two were taken to a detention center clinic for treatment.

"My understanding is … 30 people attacked our clients, I don't know why," said defense attorney Catherine Flynn, who represents Green. "I think one has a broken nose and broken ribs."

Few details of the attack were available Tuesday.

Attorneys said that the men were all former band members at Morgan. They were arrested a month ago and charged with various sexual offenses, including assault, perverted practice and conspiracy.

Their accuser, who also has a connection to the Morgan band according to Lawton's attorney, told police she was assaulted June 30 in Cook's apartment in the Hamilton Hills neighborhood. She said the men forcibly removed her clothes, held her down, and performed sexual acts on her against her will.

But the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office chose not to prosecute "after the continued investigation by prosecutors and police detectives showed insufficient evidence to proceed," said spokeswoman Margaret T. Burns.

The decision to drop the case was made this week. The men were to be released after processing Tuesday.

"Apparently they did not believe the young lady's story after all of this," said Lawton's lawyer, William R. Buie III.

He said he planned to talk with Lawton's parents about taking legal action against the accuser. The family was too concerned with their son's well-being to discuss much yesterday, Buie said.

He believes the fight may have occurred because the defendants were bragging about their impending release, which they were told of Monday.

"Almost 30 days in jail for a false accusation, then he gets assaulted," Buie said. "Needless to say, his family's not really happy about the whole process, and neither am I."

Lawton has been threatened at least once before by another inmate, Buie said.

His client and James have clean criminal records in Maryland, though Green and Smith Cook were separately given sentences of probation before judgment for theft charges, according to online court records.

Mark Van Bavel, who represents Renard James, said he planned to counsel his client about expunging the charges from his record.


Thanks to CJ