Monday, September 30, 2013

'Rape lie Antrim woman named'

Ballymena woman Natasha Foster told police she had suffered a serious sexual assault in November 2011.

She was forced to admit to making the entire story up after officers began to investigate her claims.

At Antrim Crown Court on Thursday Foster pleaded guilty to a single charge of perverting the course of justice for knowingly making a false statement to police on November 22, 2011.

Fixing a date for sentencing Judge Desmond Marrinan — who ordered a pre-sentence report into the case — advised Foster to co-operate with probation services.

He said: “I am not going to say anything more until I hear the facts of the case but you have pleaded guilty and that is an important factor here.

“It means the person you made this allegation against does not have to appear in court.”

Judge Marrinan upheld a previous decision to protect the identity of Foster’s victim.

He added: “What I want to know is what drove you to make this allegation.”

Foster — who appeared in court wearing a black two-piece suit — will be sentenced on November 4.

In 2010 Newtownabbey woman Lindsay Gorman was jailed for nine months after admitting to making a false rape claim which had terrible consequences for an innocent young man.

The 20-year-old had caused widespread panic among students in the Holylands area after claiming she was attacked in Botanic Gardens.

An 18-year-old man was eventually arrested and charged with the 2008 attack.

He was freed on £3,500 bail after being forced to stand handcuffed in the dock while a lawyer publicly accused him of being a sex offender.

A detective even told the court that police had forensic evidence linking the man to a “high-profile stranger rape”.

He was only cleared when Gorman admitted to police she had told them a pack of lies.

In January this year shamed Dromore woman Belinda Potts Sneddon received a suspended jail term for falsely claiming to police she had been raped by a stranger in a local park.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Jury: Students, Parents Damaged Teacher's Reputation With False Claims Of Sexual Misconduct

A California jury found three students and their parents guilty of defamation after they labeled a former Catholic school teacher a ‘perv.’

A Santa Clara County Superior Court jury found that former physical education teacher John Fischler’s reputation was significantly damaged in 2011 when a group of schoolgirls and their parents accused him of inappropriately touching 10- and 11-year-old girls and peeking into the girls’ bathroom at Almaden Valley’s Holy Spirit school.

The court awarded Fischler, 49, $362,000 in compensatory damages. In a second phase of the trial beginning Monday, the court will determine how much the girl considered the ringleader of the accusations will have to pay in punitive damages.

"I just feel good my name is cleared," said Fischler, who chose not to return to the school after a paid leave and instead pursued a lawsuit, claiming that the accusations had ruined his teaching career.

The alleged conspiracy against Fischler was sparked by two incidents, the San Jose Mercury News reports. In 2009, a student claimed he had touched her buttocks when teaching the class to do squats. He acknowledged touching her hips and was reprimanded for violating the school’s no-touching policy.

In 2010, some girls claimed that Fischler stared at them while they were changing in the girls’ locker room and bathroom, while he said he knocked on the door in response to hearing shrieking from inside. When Fischler then opened the door, he claimed he inadvertently peered at them while they were changing.

Fischler was then put on paid leave for alleged sexual misconduct, but was cleared of the accusations when an investigator found that the ringleader of the girls had persuaded others to corroborate the accusations. Fischler says that girl disliked him because he had once scolded her.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Newspaper wants prosecutors to roll the dice and charge questionable rape cases

The Casper Star-Tribune wants police to charge he said-she said rape cases where no one know can possibly know with reasonable certainty what happened except the parties involved. The paper says it doesn't matter if the prosecution thinks it can win, or whether the prosecution wins or loses after the charge is  brought, "the more cases that get covered in the media, win or lose, the better the message to the public that this is an issue that needs serious attention."

The Casper Star-Tribune is advocating nothing less than a morally grotesque witch hunt. It is Salem, 1692 in Wyoming. But don't believe us, read it for yourself here.

A prosecutor's job is to do justice, and that means more than just getting convictions. The prosecutor is the gatekeeper of justice who should only bring charges, as Prof. Bennett L. Gershman described it, when he or she is convinced to a moral certainty of both the defendant's factual and legal guilt. To bring charges when there is any less certainty does not fulfill the prosecutor's duty to do justice, but invites miscarriages and the possible conviction of an innocent defendant.

The Casper Star-Tribune's advice, if followed, likely would nab more rapists. But it also runs the unacceptable risk of nabbing more innocent men and boys. It is likely that the paper is not familiar with Blackstone's Formulation, and every member of its editorial team should be required to study it.

Beyond that, the paper should be excoriated for fanning a public outcry. Prof. Mark A Godsey of the Innocence Project has said that "the risk of wrongful conviction is the highest when there’s public outcry. Most of the exonerations and wrongful convictions have occurred in rape cases."

And, of course, by pandering to base law and order sensibilities, the newspaper does no favor to rape victims. When the public believes that the system is not adequately safeguarding the innocent, when the public believes that prosecutors are intent on "rounding up the usual suspects" just to say they did, jurors are all the more wary about convicting men and boys accused of rape even when the evidence supporting guilt is compelling. While the public insists on harsh punishment for rapists, it does not tolerate a system that blithely allows the innocent to be destroyed. If we want to take sexual assault seriously, we need to take seriously our obligation to protect the innocent.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Junior doctor 'lied about being raped by two men twice in her own hospital'

A Junior doctor falsely claimed she had been raped by two men at the hospital where she worked, a medical tribunal was told yesterday.

Hannah Farnsworth, 26, alleged that, in one of two attacks, she was dragged into an office, threatened with a knife and sexually assaulted.

The attackers were said to have filmed the ordeal on a mobile phone as she was tied with ropes, cut with a knife, burnt with a cigarette lighter and injected with drugs.

The medic claimed she was left pregnant after the attack and said two other men at the hospital – both doctors – were not responsible for the alleged rapes but ‘knew about’ them.

But after making a statement to police, she confessed that she had lied. Dr Farnsworth now admits the rape claims were false, but instead insists she was physically attacked on the two occasions.

Yesterday she appeared before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal, which will decide whether she can continue with her career.
The panel heard the alleged sex attacks happened at Bassetlaw District General Hospital in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

Simon Jackson QC, for the General Medical Council, said the junior doctor was never assaulted.

‘As a result of these false complaints of rape, the trust undertook an investigation and spent in the region of £10,000 to increase security and two police forces investigated these false allegations of rape.

'The doctor’s conduct in making these false allegations was dishonest and misleading.’

The allegations came to light when the newly-qualified doctor told a colleague and friend she had been first attacked in April 2011, the panel was told.

‘It was plain that at the time this first account was given she was upset and distressed,’ Mr Jackson said.

‘She said two men, one of whom had tattoos on his arm, followed her into the room, produced a knife and used that knife to threaten her.

‘As a result of being taken hold of she had struggled.

‘The two men tied her up and she had banged her head. She said it was sexually motivated and that was all the detail that had been given on that occasion.’

The doctor was said to have later told a colleague, Dr Jen Middleton, she had been cut with a knife, suffered a back injury and was burned by one or both of the men using a cigarette lighter.

Dr Middleton was concerned and spoke to another colleague, Dr Laura Smy, about the alleged attack.

Mr Jackson added: ‘In the days that followed those initial declarations, the doctor then made further, now admitted false declarations to a senior manager, Mr Peter Wilson. Those false declarations were made to a number of people.’

After the alleged attack the doctor – who qualified in 2010 – reported receiving mysterious bleeps on her pager, threats over the phone and indicated two doctors may have known about the claimed attacks.

She eventually contacted South Yorkshire Police to report the first alleged assault on June 2.

However, the next day she told Dr Smy that she had been attacked again earlier the same day in a hospital car park.

Dr Smy told the hearing she invited the junior doctor to her house, where she arrived with a nosebleed and a cut behind her ear.

‘She said she had been threatened by two men with a knife, that she was taken into the postgraduate medical education centre, where she had been raped again and cut with a knife in the course of what would have been the second rape,’ said Mr Jackson.

‘The police were now involved and in the course of the investigation the doctor was expected to provide a statement,’ he added.

‘She admitted she had not been raped or sexually assaulted in either incident.

‘She felt she would not have been taken seriously if the allegation was not a serious assault.’

Dr Smy said she was told that two doctors at the hospital may have watched the mobile phone footage of the alleged rapes.

‘[She said] that they had watched the film, that she looked like she had enjoyed it and then threatened her with a repeat attack if she told anybody,’ she said.

Dr Farnsworth admits charges including making false declarations to colleagues and police that she had been raped on two occasions.

She denies lying about certain details, which she maintains did occur, and denies dishonest and misleading conduct.

Police have to refused to say if she will be charged with wasting police time. The hearing continues.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When rape charges are dropped, it's not appropriate to call the accuser 'the victim'

Rape charges were dropped against a University of North Alabama football player, but the Associated Press still refers to the young man's accuser as "the victim."

Words matter, especially in newspapers. If the accuser is a "victim," the accused must be a rapist, but that's simply not an appropriate description in this or in many similar cases where the same mistake is made. The word choice is unjust to the young man accused of rape. It is not a valid excuse to parrot terminology used by the police -- and law enforcement is notorious for referring to accusers as "victims" -- if it isn't appropriate. Reporters are not stenographers for law enforcement. Calling the accuser a "victim" is no more appropriate than calling the young man she accused "the falsely accused student." Our guess is that the Associated Press would never do that. So why does the Associated Press happily adorn the accuser with the mantle of victimhood even after charges are dropped, without furnishing a scrap of evidence demonstrating the description is accurate? The AP's reporters are not that stupid.

Once, we caught the New York Times making the same kind of error. The Times ran a story on-line about the rape charge against Lawrence Taylor. The story initially included this sentence: "The Journal News reported that the victim was a runaway from the Bronx . . . ." We complained to the Times reporter credited with writing the story, and immediately the line above was changed to the following: "The Journal News reported that the girl was a runaway from the Bronx . . . ."

Some sexual assault victims' advocates openly encourage calling accusers "victims." Jackson Katz once penned a carnival curiosity of a piece advocating that we stop referring to Nafissatou Diallo, who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of rape, as exactly what she was, DSK's "accuser." Katz declared: "Every time someone calls her an 'accuser' they undermine her credibility and bolster his."  Katz's rationale for this fantastic epiphany was nothing more than a cavalcade of worn out, politicized incantations, proving once more that it is possible to say nothing with words. Katz's solution to the "problem" he manufactured from whole cloth? "It's simple: refer to the complaining witness in a rape case as 'the victim.'"

But even Katz grudgingly accepted a "compromise" term between "accuser" and "victim": "alleged victim."

That's more than the Associated Press is willing to do, even after rape charges are dropped.

Thankfully, a lot of reporters get it right. In this morning's news, reporter Nick Bechtel, writing about a sex-felony case for a Marion, Ohio paper, called the alleged victim "the alleged victim."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Yale's sex policy illustrates the problem

Yale University has released a document this week including short sketches in which fictional characters navigate sexual encounters. These sketches are intended to illustrate when consent is present and when it is not.

The Yale document illustrates something the college didn't intend to illustrate: the disarray in our campus sexual assault policies.

One of Yale's examples illustrates sex procured after verbal pressuring. Some readers may be surprised to learn that colleges across America punish students for sex procured after “unreasonable” verbal or emotional pressuring. NCHERM, the organization that advises colleges across America on their sexual misconduct policies, says that sex obtained after such pressuring is sex without consent, and -- believe it or not -- numerous colleges have adopted the NCHERM model. We have raised concerns that NCHERM's policy is legally infirm and impossible to fairly enforce.

Yale's take on sex obtained by verbal pressure illustrates the problem. Read the Yale example below, and compare it with NCHERM's example below. We don't think Yale and NCHERM can both be right. What does it say about the state of college sex policies when Yale can come to a conclusion that is difficult to reconcile with NCHERM's?

Here is Yale's take on it:
Alexis and Riley are studying together in Riley’s room. During a break in their studying, they rub each other’s shoulders. Alexis then introduces some intimate touching. Riley moves closer and says “Okay, but I don’t want to go too far – we still have a lot of work to do.” Alexis continues to touch Riley in an intimate way. Riley willingly agrees to some contact, but mostly sets boundaries. Alexis jokes that they deserve to have sex as a reward for their hard work studying; Riley laughs. After their studying is done, Alexis suggests again that they should have sex. Riley responds they should probably get some sleep but continues to touch Alexis. After a few more minutes, Alexis asks once more. Riley pauses, then says okay and pulls Alexis closer. They have sex.

This is consensual sex. Despite initial hesitation, the ultimate agreement to have sex was voluntary and unambiguous. There is no violation of the sexual misconduct policy. The UWC would likely counsel Alexis about the inappropriateness of sexual pressure, and recommend SHARE’s sensitivity training program.
In words or deeds, Alexis tries five times to get a reluctant Riley to increase the intimacy of their sexual contact. Even when Riley finally caves in, his acceptance comes only after a pause, and only after he had repeatedly refused her previous entreaties.

Now, compare Yale's take on sex obtained by verbal pressure with NCHERM's:
Amanda and Bill meet at a party. They spend the evening dancing and getting to know each other. Bill convinces Amanda to come up to his room. From 11:00pm until 3:00am, Bill uses every line he can think of to convince Amanda to have sex with him, but she adamantly refuses. He keeps at her, and begins to question her religious convictions, and accuses her of being “a prude.” Finally, it seems to Bill that her resolve is weakening, and he convinces her to give him a “hand job” (hand to genital contact). Amanda would never had done it but for Bill’s incessant advances. He feels that he successfully seduced her, and that she wanted to do it all along, but was playing shy and hard to get. Why else would she have come up to his room alone after the party? If she really didn’t want it, she could have left. Bill is responsible for violating the university Non‐Consensual Sexual Contact policy. It is likely that a university hearing board would find that the degree and duration of the pressure Bill applied to Amanda are unreasonable. Bill coerced Amanda into performing unwanted sexual touching upon him. Where sexual activity is coerced, it is forced. Consent is not effective when forced. Sex without effective consent is sexual misconduct.
(Emphasis in original.)

NCHERM gets it wrong. Even NCHERM admits that Bill “convinced” Amanda to give him a hand-job — he asked, and she agreed. That's consent. To realize the absurdity of NCHERM's conclusion, remember that she willingly stayed in his room for FOUR HOURS, listening to his boorish and pathetic entreaties. No one held her against her will. Amanda had a reasonable alternative to engaging in the sex act but chose not to exercise it: at any time she was free to say “good night” and to get up and leave, but she didn’t do it. Yet, in NCHERM's example, Bill is responsible for Amanda’s choice.

Giving a horny college guy a hand-job because he wants it, or to shut him up, or because the woman wants to foster a relationship with him and sees that as a way to do it, is not sexual misconduct in any setting other than the academy.

Now try and reconcile Yale's example and NCHERM's. How are they different, aside from the fact that the aggressor in NCHERM's example is male and a lot more boorish about his desire for sex than the female aggressor in Yale's example?

In BOTH the Yale and the NCHERM examples, the reluctant party could have ended the pressure at any time by terminating the encounter. In NCHERM's example, Amanda could have got up and left Bill's room; in Yale's example, Riley could have asked Alexis to leave his room. End of story.  Read the legal analysis for why NCHERM's policy is unjust here.

We wonder if NCHERM would approve of Yale's example, drawing some fine-line distinctions about how how the guy in NCHERM's example crossed some line that the woman in Yale's example didn't -- emphasizing the "degree and duration of the pressure," etc.  If so, then we've really got a problem. Who is to decide when the line is crossed? What, exactly, does “unreasonable pressure” mean in a culture where sex roles of pursuer and “hard to get” have been fairly divided along gender lines for eons?  Apparently, the guy can ask for sex, but he can’t ask too much or too boorishly, and he might be expelled if he crosses some indistinct, blurry line that’s about as clear as a dense New England fog. Does a “no” at 7:00 o’clock mean the topic of sex is off-limits? For how long? Until 7:30? 10:00 o’clock? Midnight? The entire night? When does asking become nagging? Does the policy prohibit any nagging for sex whatsoever? Is a little nagging acceptable? At what point does a little nagging become excessive nagging? When will one more nag cross the line and be enough to expel a young man? When does “seduction” magically turn into “coercion”? There is no mistaking midnight for noon, but at what point does twilight become night?

To say that the contours are fuzzy is an understatement -- and that's the problem. No one — no one — can be sure at what point the line is crossed. As a law and as a policy, it is unworkable. Yale's example, coupled with NCHERM's, only proves it.

While Yale concedes that in its example, there was consent, it also says that sexual pressure is inappropriate and that Alexis must get sensitivity training.

I am lost. If there was consent, why were her actions inappropriate? And what offense is Alexis guilty of that warrants sensitivity training?

Colleges ought to get out of the business of enacting criminal codes and pretending to know how to police serious crimes. Here's a novel thought: colleges ought to go back to doing what they're supposed to do. It's been so long, it's difficult to remember what that was.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Loons over London: Writer says the wrongly accused should stop "noisily fostering a sense of grievance" since they aren't the real victims

Deborah Orr, writing in the Guardian, has penned an other-worldly piece that takes to task men wrongly accused of sex crimes and their defenders because, she says, they are "noisily fostering a sense of grievance."

Read it for yourself, but not an empty stomach.

Orr wants the wrongly accused to suck it up and "declare that despite their personal suffering, they are proud to live in a society that takes people seriously when they say they have been sexually abused . . . ." The wrongly accused should be grateful that the system gives credence to false rape accusers and should serenely declare "so be it" -- Orr's words -- when it happens to them. To Orr, the "real" victims aren't the wrongly accused, they are rape victims who find it traumatic to report their ordeals. The ordeals of men and boys who've been wrongly accused, on the other hand, are righteous sacrifices "to a cause much bigger than them – the fight for justice for [real] victims."  The wrongly accused are necessary collateral damage in the much more important war on rape. Men and boys should bend over and quietly accept their undeserved punishment.

The mind reels. What other group of victims is told to be grateful for their victimization? To be quiet about it?  To think that it somehow serves a greater good? Does Orr have even a glimmer of realization that what she is saying is bizarre, unjust, and hateful, all at once?

All due respect, Ms. Orr, but we can be grateful to live in a country where police officers take reports of crime seriously, while also being damn angry when we've been falsely accused. The two are not mutually exclusive, and you probably would be shocked to learn that the community of the wrongly accused is capable of simultaneously harboring both feelings.

Beyond all of that, Orr's vitriol does no favors for rape victims. Every rape lie diminishes the integrity of every rape victim. Rape victims have expressed support for the work of this blog for that very reason. When the public hears prominent voices in the town square declare that false rape claims are not merely acceptable but should be celebrated, when it thinks that the system does not adequately safeguard the innocent, jurors are all the more wary about convicting men and boys accused of rape, even when the evidence supporting guilt is compelling. While the public insists on harsh punishment for rapists, it does not tolerate a system that allows the innocent to be destroyed lightly. If we want to take sexual assault seriously, we need to take false accusations of sexual assault seriously. After all, a society that doesn't think falsely "crying wolf" is a serious matter must not think the wolf is such a bad thing after all.

But all of that is lost on Orr. Whatever her motives might be, she's not helping anyone, including rape victims.

To twisted Deborah Orr and the devotees of Deborah Orr's twisted mindset, we say: victims of false rape claims are entitled to the mantle of victimhood the same as victims of rape, and we will never, ever, declare "so be it" to injustice of any kind. Apologists for false rape claims should not be writing for major newspapers.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sign on frat house: "Dads: Winter isn't the only thing coming" branded "undoubtedly misogynistic"

At Queen's University, the above sign appeared on a frat house. It's crude, it's disgusting, and it's emblematic of a hedonistic culture that is all too prevalent on our college campuses. But it does not suggest non-consensual sex.

Yet, The Journal at Queen's University says that the sign is "undoubtedly misogynistic . . . ." And: ". . .the sign could be interpreted as fairly predatory." And: ". . . it encourages sexist social relations and could even help those who commit sexual assault justify their actions."

Actually, the sign is a twisted, in-your-face, celebration of the sort of barnyard rutting that is part and parcel of the no-consequence-sex, "hook-up culture" that too many college men and women happily practice. The prevailing views on campus -- that promiscuity is not something to be shunned, and celibacy is not something to be applauded -- are gender neutral. Sorry, Journal staff: not every childish celebration of teen horniness is predatory, even when it's practiced by frat boys.

Ah, but the Journal can't help but show it's true colors. The following statement in that article suggests it's not to be taken seriously: ". . . the fact that the sign was addressed to 'dads' is patriarchal. At worst, it implies that fathers own their daughters."

Oh, puh-lease!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

False accuser who sent man to prison for 11 years can't be prosecuted because the statute of limitations on perjury has run

Statutes of limitations in criminal cases are designed to protect the innocent. The longer an accuser waits to report a crime, the longer a prosecutor waits to bring a charge, the more difficult it is for the accused to fairly defend against it. Memories fade; witnesses and all manner of alibi evidence disappears. That's why for most crimes, there is a limitation on how long the prosecution can wait before the accused is charged. The horror stories of repressed memories cases -- witch hunts is a better way to put it -- are examples of what can occur.  It should come as little surprise that in rape cases, there is a national trend to lengthen or eliminate statutes of limitations entirely. While the public happily embraces a get-tough-on-crime stance when it comes to sex crimes, the public isn't concerned with stories like this one:

Carl Chatman has been behind bars for eleven years. He was wrongfully convicted of rape in 2004. His false accuser not only sent Mr. Chatman to prison, she settled her civil suits against two companies, and two government entities, including Cook County, for an undisclosed amount of money because of the "rape."

Sadly, she can't be prosecuted due to the four-year statute of limitations on perjury.  “There is nothing criminally we can do and there is no other real charge we can bring,” said a spokesman for the Cook County state’s attorney.

Oh, did we mention that the woman made a similar claim 20 years earlier against a Polish immigrant?

The bottom line for false rape claims: the better the lie, the more likely it is that a false rape accuser will beat the statute of limitations because her lie won't be unraveled before the statute runs out. There's something terribly wrong with that.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rape conviction set aside because, his lawyers argued, the 'victim' fabricated the assault in a scheme to sue the county

Story reported here.

A homeless man in prison for raping a clerk at the Daley Center will have his conviction set aside in a case in which his lawyers argued on appeal that the alleged victim fabricated the assault in a scheme to sue the county.

Carl Chatman, 58, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the purported May 2002 assault after Chicago police said the alleged victim identified Chatman and that he confessed. Chatman, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has a low IQ, is in custody at Dixon Correctional Center.

Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, said Monday that the decision to vacate Chapman's conviction followed a lengthy investigation by the office's Conviction Integrity Unit, which was launched in an effort to root out wrongful convictions.

"It's the result of a reinvestigation by our office that looked at everything, all of the evidence," Daly said.

The alleged sexual assault is one of two cases in which the woman claimed to be a victim and later sued for monetary damages.

The assertion that she had fabricated the Daley Center rape was central to the appeals by Chatman's attorney, Russell Ainsworth, who argued that the rape claim was prompted by thousands of dollars in casino losses and an Internal Revenue Service notice of an audit just weeks before the supposed attack.

"There was no rape. This never happened," Ainsworth said. "This was fabricated by a vindictive woman who did this for monetary gain."

Prosecutors also plan to dismiss another case Tuesday: The conviction of Lathierial Boyd in 1990 for a shooting that killed one man and seriously wounded another outside a bar in Wrigleyville. Boyd was sentenced to 82 years in prison.

His lawyers had argued that the conviction rested primarily on the testimony of the wounded man, Ricky Warner. They contended Warner initially told police he did not know who shot him, but during the trial Warner testified that Boyd has shot him and the other man over a drug debt.

The attorneys also noted that nine witnesses viewed a line-up that included Boyd and none of them identified Boyd as the shooter.

In the Daley Center case, it is not clear what prompted prosecutors to dismiss charges. But a recently disclosed sheriff's office report of an internal investigation done in the weeks after the alleged rape might have been a factor. That report, which prosecutors did not have at trial, disclosed that a sheriff's deputy was sleeping in the courtroom next to where the rape allegedly occurred and did not wake despite the woman's claim she fought loudly with Chatman and screamed for help.

Prosecutors, according to sources, came to doubt the woman's claim that she had been sexually assaulted.

The woman's husband was outraged by the decision and said that he and his wife were exploring their legal options.

"To let this man go is wrong. He was convicted and he deserves to be in prison," said the husband, who the Tribune is not identifying to avoid identifying his wife. "It's infuriating when you have a victim who's been assaulted more than once. This is absolutely infuriating."

Cook County prosecutors, according to sources, also investigated the woman's claim that she was raped in October 1979 at an office building at 625 N. Michigan Ave., where she worked. But, the sources said, they could not come to any conclusion regarding that claim.

In both instances, the woman said she arrived at work early and was sexually assaulted by a man. In the 1979 case, the suspect, Edward Szymczak, was a janitor in the building and allegedly confronted her in a bathroom and threatened her with a knife. A Polish national, he fled before trial but wrote a letter to the judge in his case asserting his innocence and saying he was fleeing only because he had no money to mount an aggressive legal defense.

"If she only made this whole thing up to make some money, she should earn money honestly and not like this," Szymczak's letter said.

His sister, Janina Hapaniewski, said in a recent interview that the rape charge against her brother, who was 31 and had not been in America for long, devastated the family.

"We went through hell," she said.

Chatman was arrested May 24, 2002, just after the woman said she was raped on the 21st floor of the Daley Center. It was there, on the Friday before Memorial Day, that she said she came in early to work on scheduling, even though the judge she worked for had been away. Chatman, she said, had been in the courtroom earlier in the week. She said he came back and threatened her with a pair of scissors, then brutally sexually assaulted her.

No physical evidence tied Chatman to the crime. Although the woman said she bit Chatman's Chicago Blackhawks jacket, no DNA was recovered. Foreign hairs on him did not belong to her, Ainsworth said, and Chatman's DNA was not recovered from the woman.

The alleged victim, now 62, identified Chatman after he was arrested walking near the Daley Center. Chicago police obtained a confession from Chatman, although with his low IQ and significant mental illness he was susceptible to making a false confession.

The case raised questions about security because Chatman, who supposedly slept in the building overnight and committed the assault before the building opened, walked out of the Daley Center and was not seen by deputies or caught on a video camera.

"He smelled. He smelled terribly," said Ainsworth, who is with the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School. "And nobody noticed him. He's supposed to be there all night, and none of the guards or the janitorial staff ever noticed him."

The woman sued the county building commission and a private security firm that guarded it at night. Attorney Daniel Gallagher, a lawyer on the defense side of the case, said the woman sought millions of dollars but settled for less — several hundred thousand dollars, according to sources. Gallagher said the attorneys concluded the woman made a false accusation but were never able to prove it. "It's possible that she could be the unluckiest woman in the world," he said.

"It just seemed odd that both rapes were under almost identical circumstances," he said.

Chatman's sister, Theresa, said she was excited but a bit overwhelmed by the news that he will soon be coming home.

"My brother's a strong man," she said. "He stuck it out. He is my hero, and I love him."

When her brother gets to her house, she said, he will have to resume his old chore of cleaning her stove. But, she said, it will be worth it.

"You know how you have everything on the table at Christmas? Rolls, dressing, macaroni and cheese — the whole thing," Chatman said. "We're going to cook and eat like it's Christmas, and we'll have all our friends and family and anybody over."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Duke student government president Stefani Jones may need a lesson about the Duke lacrosse case

Duke University, forever synonymous with the false rape hysteria of the infamous lacrosse case, has stiffened the penalty for students who are found guilty of sexual assault. A board that sets the standards for the Office of Student Conduct has revised the university policy so that expulsion is the “preferred sanction” in cases of sexual crimes.

Contrary to the intentions of the people behind the policy, it actually may make it less likely that students accused of sexual assault will be found responsible for sexual offenses. That doesn't stop the get-tough-on-rape crowd.

". . . [S]tricter sanctions are a critical aspect of gender-violence prevention,” said Duke’s student government president Stefani Jones, who pushed for the stiffer sanction. Today in an article in the Duke Chronicle, Jones discussed her understanding of how the new standard is to be applied: "The understanding is that the new standard is going to always be expulsion for sexual assault," said Jones, "and we don't expect anything other than that."

It goes without saying that a strict application of the new Duke policy could impose a terrible injustice on innocent men wrongly accused of sex offenses. Must Duke, of all places, be reminded of the destruction of a false rape claim? In light of the mandate of Department of Education's April 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter lowering the standard of proof to find students responsible for sex offenses to a mere preponderance of the evidence, if the Duke lacrosse case happened today, the falsely accused men likely would be found responsible for rape. See, e.g., D. Subotnik, The Duke Rape Case Five Years Later: Lessons for the Academy, the Media, and the Criminal Justice System 45 Akron L. Rev 883, 919-20 (2012).

That means that, under Ms. Jones' reading of the new policy, the wrongly accused lacrosse players would have to be expelled. (If Stefani Jones is not familiar with the terrible injustices of the lacrosse case -- and it is unfathomable that a Duke Student Government President would not be familiar with the lessons of that atrocity -- she would do well to spend a few weeks reading through the landmark blog devoted to it, Durham-in-Wonderland.)

Cornell's Prof. Cynthia Bowman cautioned about the terrible price the innocent pay when they are wrongly expelled: “The consequences for someone expelled for sexual assault are enormous and will follow him throughout his life, leading to rejection by other schools, inability to qualify for the bar and a great deal of stigma. To impose those consequences on someone requires a rigorous standard of proof and many due process protections to ensure fairness.”

Does any of this matter to Stefani Jones?

Beyond that, ironically, the new Duke policy does no favors for rape victims. According to the Duke Chronicle article: "Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said she was concerned that the guideline change could deter victims from reporting an attack."

But it goes beyond that. Where schools mandate extreme punishments for sexual assault, triers of fact are often less likely to find guilt in doubtful cases because they know the consequences for the accused are extreme. In A Separate Crime of Reckless Sex, 72 U. Chi. L. Rev. 599, 655-56 (2005), Professors I. Ayres and K. Baker explained:
. . . if the . . . sanction is too strong, there is not likely to be widespread enforcement. . . . attempts to change a norm by severely punishing that which has previously been unaddressed or underenforced are often unsuccessful.
The simple fact is that the public at large often refuses to see the "nontraditional" [acquaintance] rapist as a rapist at all and therefore refuses to either mark him or punish him as such. After an acquittal in a well-publicized college gang rape, one juror explained that the main concern of some jurors was not wanting "to ruin the boys' lives." Decisionmakers may be willing to ruin the life of a "real rapist," but they will not impose comparable punishment for what they see as a less severe crime.
Thus, where schools mandate expulsion for sex offenses or make expulsion the norm, even in cases where, technically, it is more likely than not that the accused is guilty, if there exists reasonable doubt about his guilt, or a very real chance that he's innocent, many if not most triers of fact will withhold the "death penalty" of expulsion and will think they have no choice but to find the accused "not guilty." This means that some rapists will beat the rap because the mandated punishment is too extreme, and some innocent men will also be spared the ultimate sanction. Expulsion generally will only be ordered where it is clear, not just "more likely than not," that rape occurred.

That's not the result the people behind the new Duke policy likely are seeking, but that's what's going to happen, and that's exactly how it should be. Duke and Vassar (which immediately expels any student found responsible for rape) and schools with similar policies have institutionalized a sort of jury nullification for doubtful sex cases. This could be a positive, but unintended, antidote for the harsh "Dear Colleague" letter. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Even a prince can be wrongly suspected of a crime

Story reported here:

The Duke of York has said he is "grateful" for an apology from police after officers challenged him in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

In a statement, Prince Andrew said the police had a difficult job and sometimes they "get it wrong".

Scotland Yard confirmed it had stopped the prince and said the force had "apologised for any inconvenience".

The incident happened two days after a man was arrested on suspicion of burglary inside the palace.

The duke said: "The police have a difficult job to do balancing security for the Royal Family and deterring intruders, and sometimes they get it wrong.

"I am grateful for their apology and look forward to a safe walk in the garden in the future."

'No weapons drawn'

Police said no weapons were drawn in the incident involving the duke, who is the Queen's second son and has an apartment and office at Buckingham Palace.

The Sunday Express earlier reported officers pointed their guns and ordered him to "put your hands up and get on the ground" after mistaking him for an intruder.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: "In light of media reports we can confirm that the man spoken to by officers was the Duke of York. We are making this public with HRH's permission.

"We are grateful to the duke for his understanding and have apologised for any inconvenience caused."

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the best known of the Queen's three official residences
The Express said an internal inquiry into the incident was being carried out, but the palace has made no comment.

The duke had earlier attended an engagement in Piccadilly, central London, supporting new business ventures.

Scaled fence

Security is being reviewed at the palace after Monday's suspected break-in, in which an intruder was able to scale a fence and get inside the palace.

Police said a man was arrested inside the palace on suspicion of burglary, trespass and criminal damage at about 22:20 BST.

He was found "in an area currently open to the public during the day".

A second man was arrested outside on suspicion of conspiracy to commit burglary. Both men were bailed.

"A review of the specific circumstances of this incident is being carried out," a Met spokesman said.

The Queen and Prince Philip have been at Balmoral Castle since the beginning of August and they are not expected to return to the palace until October.

Buckingham Palace is the best known of the Queen's three official residences, serving as a family home and the administrative headquarters of the monarchy.

Security has been breached on a number of occasions at the palace, most famously in 1982 when Michael Fagan broke into the Queen's bedroom.

The monarch woke to find Fagan, 30, sitting on her bed, and the pair reportedly chatted for half an hour before he was arrested.

Friday, September 6, 2013

It's easy to condemn the appalling rape chants at Saint Mary's (and we do), much harder to condemn the appalling chants that unjustly accused Dez Wells of rape

At Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, students engaged in an appalling frosh-week chant:

“SMU boys we like them young. Y is for your sister. O is for oh-so-tight. U is for underage. N is for no consent. G is for grab that ass.”

The public discourse is replete with condemnations of this behavior. A newspaper editorial explained that Dalhousie Student Union president Sagar Jha said in a radio interview with the CBC that "we must recognize that systems of oppression place good people in positions of complicity." The editorial continued: "The leaders immediately involved in the chant are not the only people responsible for a social situation in which violence against women has been so normalized that chanting 'N is for no consent!' met with no immediate disapproval. . . . . We all need to take responsibility for ending violence against women. Turning issues of rape into entertainment, whether it manifests as a frosh week chant or a rape joke at the dinner table, needs to stop. Take this as a teaching opportunity—and let’s work to make sure we never have this opportunity again."

Professor Todd Pettigrew had an interesting take on the reaction -- hold the individuals accountable, don't blame everyone: "Making every rape, or indeed every tasteless mention of rape, an effect of “rape culture” is short-sighted and mean spirited because it makes everyone guilty or everything, regardless of their particular actions or beliefs. It judges all for the actions of a few. And that, in short, is the definition of prejudice."

We can't even fathom the mentality that would tells a student it's somehow okay to engage in such insensitive behavior. Thankfully, we think the overwhelming public reaction condemning the chant says more about our culture than the chant itself.

We do wish society would condemn"jokes" about prison rape of defenseless male prisoners with the same zeal. Many victims of prison rape are very young and in prison for non-violent offenses.

And then there are the chants that are unjust but politically correct. At a Northwestern-Maryland basketball game on Northwestern's home court last season, Maryland guard Dez Wells was showered the full 40 minutes with “no means no” chants. The chants were in reference to a sexual assault allegation that resulted in Wells' expulsion from Xavier University. Mr. Wells called the comments hateful, but he had a spectacular game nonetheless.

Unjust? Yes, unjust. It is true that Mr. Wells was expelled from Xavier University, but that's not the whole story. Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters not only declined to pursue a sexual assault case against Mr. Wells, he outright excoriated Xavier officials for the process they used to expel Mr. Wells. In words that should be chilling to all persons of good will, Mr. Deters called the system “fundamentally unfair” and “seriously flawed.” (Mr. Deters, it should be underscored, is not an ACLU attorney or a men's rights activist. He's a prosecutor whose effectiveness is determined, in part, by how well he prosecutes rapists and other felons.)

But wait, he wasn't finished. The Wells case, Mr. Deters said, “should never have gotten to the point where someone’s reputation is ruined.” The university's panel was "untrained" to deal with sexual assault allegations, he said. In contrast, Deters took the allegation seriously and assigned two assistant prosecutors “who are highly skilled at assessing these kinds of cases.” The Grand Jury declined to prosecute, and Deters said that, based on the evidence that was presented, “It wasn’t even close...." (And, dear readers, you should know this: the standard of proof at Grand Jury indictments -- preponderance of the evidence -- is the same as the standard of proof on college campuses for sex offenses.) Mr. Wells is now suing Xavier, and if Mr. Deters is correct, we hope Mr. Wells gets a very substantial verdict.

Despite all of that, the fine students at Northwestern treated Mr. Wells like a rapist, and that was somehow acceptable. Their chants were not subjected to widespread condemnation. Officials at Northwestern did nothing to express their disapproval of the students' reaction to Mr. Wells. It is no stretch to suspect that either they didn't care or, worse, they tacitly approved.

Alex Putterman, a reporter for the Daily Northwestern, defended that taunts (and, yes, Putterman was one of the taunters). Putterman said that the taunts "mock[ed] someone for a serious legal and moral crime."

The assumption that Mr. Wells committed "a serious legal and moral crime" was unjust, but aside from this blog, few people cared about it.

Mr. Wells received the same taunts at Duke, and a writer condemned the taunts -- not because they were unjust to Mr. Wells but because they "trivialize[d] a trauma" for "the victim."

It's the same old story. An accusation is as good as a conviction, due process be damned. It's the same mentality that allowed crowds to pose in the famous lynching photos of the Old South.

If the taunting students want something truly worthy to chant about, its a collegiate disciplinary system that puts college men at serious risk -- a system that a seasoned prosecutor has called “fundamentally unfair” and “seriously flawed.”

This blog isn't going to trivialize the sexist chants, or the barnyard rutting mentality behind them, at St. Mary's. We just long for the day when chants that unjustly assume guilt are condemned with equal zeal.

A couple of Aesop's Fables about lies and injustice . . .

A wolf once saw a lamb who had wandered away from the flock. He did not want to rush upon the lamb and seize him violently. Instead, he sought a reasonable complaint to justify his hatred. 'You insulted me last year, when you were small' said the wolf. The lamb replied, 'How could I have insulted you last year? I'm not even a year old.' The wolf continued, 'Well, are you not cropping the grass of this field which belongs to me?' The lamb said, 'No, I haven't eaten any grass; I have not even begun to graze.' Finally the wolf exclaimed, 'But didn't you drink from the fountain which I drink from?' The lamb answered, 'It is my mother's breast that gives me my drink.' The wolf then seized the lamb and as he chewed he said, 'You are not going to make this wolf go without his dinner, even if you are able to easily refute every one of my charges!'

There was a boy tending the sheep who would continually go up to the embankment and shout, 'Help, there's a wolf!' The farmers would all come running only to find out that what the boy said was not true. Then one day there really was a wolf but when the boy shouted, they didn't believe him and no one came to his aid. The whole flock was eaten by the wolf.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Can justice be done in the Naval Academy case?

This past June, Fred Van Valkenburg, the Missoula Montana County attorney made a startling comment about the sexual assault case lodged against University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson that shouldn't be ignored. Van Valkenburg was asked if he felt pressure to file a rape charge against Johnson, given the ongoing federal investigation and the results of an outside investigation that found 11 cases of sexual assault at UM between September 2010 and February 2012. Van Valkenburg gave the expected response: his entire staff had reviewed the case and felt there was enough evidence to proceed. “I honestly do not think we filed charges because of the DOJ investigation was pending,” Van Valkenburg said.

But Van Valkenburg added this: “I can’t say the atmosphere in Missoula didn’t operate in my mind somewhere” as he considered whether to file the charges.

Those words are chilling. While Mr. Van Valkenburg seems to believe that charges were appropriate, he is wise enough, and candid enough, to acknowledge that the public outcry against rape could have influenced his decision.

Innocence Project guru Mark A Godsey has said that "the risk of wrongful conviction is the highest when there’s public outcry. Most of the exonerations and wrongful convictions have occurred in rape cases." One need not look back to the hanging trees of the Old South for such injustice. This blog, and our predecessor blog, have chronicled a veritable cornucopia of it in recent years.

It is for this reason that we worry whether justice can truly be done in the U.S. Naval Academy case, given the public outcry over rape in the military. A news report aptly stated: "The case has drawn attention as the White House, Congress and the Pentagon have been focusing on the issue of sexual assault after a string of cases in the military this year. President Barack Obama highlighted the importance of the issue at the Naval Academy's graduation ceremony in May."

In fact, President Obama's unfortunate attempt to politicize the issue has already potentially harmed rape victims.

Justice needs to be blind to such external pressures. The facts of each case need to be dealt with on their own merits. No one should ever be charged with or convicted of a crime based on what has happened in other cases, or because "he's the type who would do it," or because false claims supposedly are rare, or because a conviction is the "preferred outcome," or because of a public outcry. To the extent such considerations enter into the decision to charge or convict, justice is not done. To the extent that such external pressures exist, even a conviction that is otherwise proper will be suspect.

Police: Woman recants rape claim

Charges have been filed with District Judge Ronald Haggerty Jr. against a South Connellsville woman who allegedly told police that she was raped, only to admit later she wasn't.

Sheena Anne Housel, 20, of 1425 S. Pittsburgh St. was charged with making a false report and incriminating another.

Police said on Aug. 25, Housel contacted the South Connellsville Police to report that she was raped.

She told police she and a man known to her were standing on her porch when they decided to go inside and watch a movie in her living room on Aug. 24.

She said he inappropriately touched her and that she tried to get away and scream but the man punched her in the side and covered her mouth before they had sex. She said the man left around midnight.

The police informed Housel that she would have to be taken to Highlands Hospital to have a rape kit performed. Housel agreed.

When police arrived to take her to the hospital and gather her clothing, she was with a person described as her boyfriend. She said she had consented to the sex.

A preliminary hearing has not been scheduled.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

R&B star cleared of wrongdoing in rape investigation, but college pulls the plug on his show

At the University of Western Ontario, zero tolerance for sexual assault means zero tolerance for men and boys merely accused of rape even after they've been cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

According to this news report, R&B star Sean Kingston was supposed to perform a concert at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, but the show has been axed after Kingston settled a lawsuit over allegations of rape. News sources say the settlement amount is undisclosed.

Here's the story about the rape claim. An unidentified female claimed Kingston and two other men attacked her at a party at the singer's hotel suite in Seattle, Washington in 2010. Kingston admitted having sex with the woman, but insisted it was consensual.

Kingston was cleared of any wrongdoing following a police investigation at the time of the alleged incident three years ago, when cops ruled the alleged victim (the news report left out the "alleged" -- we've inserted it) was not a credible witness and declared there was doubt over her version of events.

The woman sued Kingston for monetary damages. Despite protesting his innocence, Kingston recently agreed to hand the plaintiff a financial settlement to avoid a court showdown in November.

The controversy has prompted officials at the University of Western Ontario to pull the plug on his show during the school's Orientation Week next Saturday (07Sep13). A representative claims "having Mr. Kingston perform could cloud the values surrounding O-Week," adding that college bosses have "zero tolerance for sexual assault."

This is troubling on a host of levels. The vast majority of civil actions settle prior to trial, for any number of reasons. Litigants often weigh the risk of a possible verdict against the cost of proceeding. A civil settlement, in and of itself, means nothing. In this case, the singer might have settled for a nominal amount, and most litigants would jump at that.

At the University of Western Ontario, an accusation of rape is as good as a conviction.