Monday, January 16, 2012

'There are false allegations made against people in this community all the time'

The following story is a chilling barometer of where we are as a society when it comes to men accused of rape.  The week before Christmas in Albuquerque, a mother called police to the family’s apartment claiming her husband was raping his own son. The police arrived, but they did not believe they had enough evidence to arrest the father without a forensic specialist to interview the child first at a safe house.  The police knew the father, knew he wasn't a flight risk, and knew he had no history of abuse. They worked out a plan with the mother whereby the child would be safe for the evening (the details of that plan are not divulged in the news report), and instead of immediately arresting and jailing the father, they took him to a truck stop for the night. 

Nothing happened to the little boy overnight. The father didn't leave the truck stop and hunt him down to rape or murder him. The next day the little boy gave a statement about what he claims he endured.  Police then arrested the father and charged him with criminal sexual penetration 1st degree. The father was held under a $100,000 cash-only bond.

It sounds as though police did a careful job here. But it wasn't good enough for local TV station KRQE. See here:  That station's indignant news anchor, Dick Knipfing, said the case "has raised some eyebrows" (mainly Dick Knipfing's, no doubt) because the father wasn't immediately arrested.

"It sounds strange," Knipfing harrumphed, "but Albuquerque police insist they did the right thing when they took a man suspected of raping his son not to jail but to a truck stop to spend the night."  Watch Knipfing's somber, judgmental facial gestures as he reads the story. Then listen to the indignation in the voice of the young female reporter, Alex Tomlin, when she says the man was taken to a truck stop -- as if it were the most outrageous thing imaginable. You would think that the police just set Max Cady of "Cape Fear" loose to exact Martin Scorsese-style bloody revenge.

Think about the implications: it "raises eyebrows" and it is "strange" that an adult male who isn't a flight risk and has no prior history of abuse isn't arrested and deprived of his liberty, with all the attendant reputational, emotional, and even physical harm that accompanies it, based on nothing more than the say so of a six-year-old before a proper investigation.

The fact that the father was not immediately arrested shouldn't scare us. The reaction of Dick Knipfing and Alex Tomlin should.  Don't take my word on it -- watch the video and decide for yourself.

Albuquerque Police Department Chief Deputy Beth Paiz dismissed the local TV station's concerns out of hand: “There are false allegations made against people in this community all the time."

Isn't it strange that this statement, which is not one you routinely hear uttered by police officers, didn't cause Dick Knipfing or Alex Tomlin to raise an indignant eyebrow?

On the subject of sex allegations by kids, in June of 2008, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, explained: "There are . . . serious systemic concerns in prosecuting the crime of child rape." He singled out "[t]he problem of unreliable, induced, and even imagined child testimony . . . ."  Justice Kennedy continued cited Quas, Davis, Goodman, & Myers, Repeated Questions, Deception, and Children's True and False Reports of Body Touch, 12 Child Maltreatment 60, 61-66 (2007) (finding that 4- to 7-year-olds '"were able to maintain [a] lie about body touch fairly effectively when asked repeated, direct questions during a mock forensic interview").

People who insist we can "never be too careful" when it comes to children are, themselves, a danger to society. A society ready to sacrifice a man's liberty without probable cause in the name of "protecting the children" is not a society worth handing down to those children it insists it is protecting.