Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another high profile sex crime that didn't happen

Another high profile sex case was dropped, and this one affirms, yet again, that when it comes to supposed sex offenses, it's all too easy to arrest and to charge men for criminality in-the-air; in this case, a high profile "grope" that never was. Still, for the better part of two months, an American football player was put through hell for doing nothing more than making fleeting contact with a woman's hand in a nightclub. This story is a wake-up call to all young men in the bar and nightclub scene.

Last Halloween, Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots was arrested for groping at night club. In a police report, his still unnamed accuser stated that "she felt the suspects (sic) hand come in contact with her vagina in what she described as 'a purposeful squeeze or swipe.'" She said he groped for two seconds. The woman informed nightclub staff about the incident and requested that Edelman be removed from the club.

According to Prof. KC Johnson, whose chronicling of the Duke lacrosse case helped expose the accused players' innocence: "Early press coverage, especially from the tabloid-ish Boston Herald, presumed if not guilt at the least a demonstration of extremely poor character."

You can watch an actual video of the incident here. You will need to avoid blinking when the alleged "grope" occurs. Edelman, wearing shorts as part of a Reno 911 costume, does not appear to make contact with the woman for the two seconds she alleges. Although the video is difficult to see, you can see Edelman reach out his hand, then look back.  Prosecutors say that Mr. Edelman took her hand briefly, that the physical contact between the two was fleeting and did not meet the elements of any crime.

In the video, the woman's face was blurred by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office to protect her identity.  The DA issued a statement: "[A] review of both witness statements and video surveillance has revealed that the Commonwealth would be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally engaged in a harmful or offensive touching of the complainant that would be regarded by society as immodest, immoral, and improper."

According to David E. Frank, writing for the news blog of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly: "Edelman’s lawyer, Amy McNamee, said that his client has maintained from the beginning that he is innocent. Today’s court action, she added, confirms that he was telling the truth. 'Everyone was very quick to immediately accuse him of being some kind of pervert,' McNamee said. 'It’s not easy to have to walk around holding your head up when you know you didn’t do it.'” The video, according to Mr. Frank, "seriously called into question the alleged victim’s account of the incident."

Prof. Johnson noted that the newspapers covering the story have declined to reveal the woman's identity:  "Perhaps, as occurred initially when the New York Times refused to identify [Duke lacrosse false accuser] Mangum after the exoneration, the papers didn’t want to do anything that might deter false-grope accusers from coming forward in the future."