Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Atrocity: Young Man's Life Destroyed By Unreliable Rape Claim

The Duluth News Tribune has a  follow-up to a very disturbing three part story it reported last March. It was a story that furnished a rare, microscopic look at the unfathomable power women have to cause men and boys to be arrested just on their say so whenever they cry "rape." It was a frightening tale about what a 34-year-old woman did to a 17-year-old boy, and one that is sure to get your blood boiling if you care a whit about justice.

The latest follow-up news report tells us that the uncertainty still hangs over the young man's life. The latest story doesn't do an adequate job describing what really happened. It makes it look as if there really may be two sides to the story. There aren't. There is an unsubstantiated and unreliable claim that has destroyed a boy's life on the one side, and a boy's denials on the other.  The evidence supporting the accuser's claim makes gossamer look like armor plate.  The unreliable accuser is still cloaked in anonymity while the boy's good name has been destroyed. Neither the police nor the Duluth Tribune News should be treating this as a legitimate claim at this stage, and the police ought to come out and say that there is no reliable evidence that young Andrew Lawrence committed a crime, because there isn't. If that sounds too harsh, too anti-"victim," too un-PC, read the latest story and the earlier three-part report yourself, and you decide. Don't trust me. All of the stories are linked below. Based on the information contained in the news reports linked below, the boy is the likely victim here.

All of the dates referenced below refer to 2010. To recap: A 34-year-old woman, who, it turns out, claimed she had been raped some years earlier when she lived in Florida, alleged that on July 20, 2010, two men broke into her home, and that one put a gun to her throat and raped her. Police arrested 17-year-old Andrew Lawrence without bothering to corroborate the alleged victim's story, or his alibi.

Listen to this litany of horrors and tell me whether you think an injustice has been done to a 17-year-old kid. And don't just rely on me: read the three-part horror show linked below.

▲The accuser claimed she would remember forever the horror of her rape -- the day it happened and the events. Yet, in her very first interview with the police, she told them she was raped one week earlier than the day it supposedly happened. Specifically, she told them she was raped on July 13, not July 20.

▲She said she told no one about the alleged rape until July 31 — 11 days later — not even her boyfriend. What prompted her to tell was a supposed nightmare about the assault. She was yelling in her sleep and woke up screaming. Her boyfriend convinced her that it would be safe to go to the police, he said, “to protect others from this.”

▲The woman initially described her attacker as someone with “long, brown, wavy hair (surfer type or moppy),” according to a police report. When he was arrested, Andrew had short brown hair. A photo taken of him earlier that summer showed . . . he had short hair.

▲The woman initially identified someone else as her attacker, saying she was “70 percent sure” that a friend of Andrew’s was the person who attacked her. That person had long, surfer-style hair, and he doesn’t resemble Andrew. 70 percent sure it was someone other than Andrew.

▲Andrew was arrested despite the fact that the woman never identified him in a photo lineup. When she did identify him, it was from at least a half-block away at 8 p.m. She saw him skateboarding outside and said, "That's the guy."

▲Andrew was nervous during a four-hour police interrogation in which a cop with a spotty record yelled and swore at him and accused him of lying. During the interrogation, the police asked Andrew about his whereabouts on July 13, Andrew claims, the day the woman first claimed she was raped. (The police claim that they didn't mention July 13, but won't release the tape of the interview.) Andrew told them his whereabouts in detail for the 13th. The police checked with his mother's partner, who told them a different story. It turns out the police asked the mother's partner about Andrew's whereabouts on July 20.

▲Despite inconsistencies in the woman’s story, police did not interview potential witnesses about the inconsistencies, nor did they perform a background check on the woman, according to reports and interviews.

▲Before they arrested Andrew, police apparently did nothing to corroborate the woman's story. They never interviewed the woman’s boyfriend about the alleged assault to corroborate her story. Police also never questioned her neighbors or a friend the alleged victim said she called the night she was raped.

▲Police waited for more than a week before they bothered to check out Andrew’s alibi after he was arrested. By that point, he had already been released on $2,500 bail. Andrew corrected his initial interview and told police that on the evening of July 20 he played video games with his longtime friend, Steven Brown, who lives across the street from the woman who accused Andrew of rape. Brown, along with his brothers, Daniel and Mark Haworth, confirmed Andrew’s story to both police and the Duluth News Tribune, saying they played a video game with him. After their interviews with Steven Brown and his family about Andrew’s alibi, Superior police did no further investigating, records show.

▲The alleged victim didn’t get a rape exam until four days after she reported the assault, saying that’s when Superior police directed her to do so. That exam, performed 15 days after the alleged rape, found no evidence of an assault.

▲Though the alleged victim said two people were involved in the rape, there’s no indication that police searched for a second suspect. For people concerned about public safety, that seems like a major gaffe, doesn't it?

▲The woman told police and later testified to a judge that she clearly saw her attacker holding a gun. Though police found no gun in Andrew’s possession or at a search of his home, they found a skateboard wrench in his room. An officer wrote: “I believe the wrench could easily be mistaken for a small pistol.” (The fact is, cops could find something that supposedly could be mistaken for a gun in almost anyone's home.)

▲On Oct. 7, police received the DNA report from the Wisconsin Crime Lab. Samples they had taken from the living room where the alleged victim said she was raped showed no match to Andrew. Samples taken from Andrew’s clothes and the wrench that police theorized might have been used as a weapon didn’t contain the alleged victim’s DNA. Results of the rape exam showed no evidence of a sexual assault, according to records, though the exam was taken about three weeks after the assault was alleged to have occurred.

▲After receiving DNA test results that failed to tie Andrew to the crime scene, the district attorney’s office waited two months to drop charges. Two more months of hell for Andrew.

▲In retrospect, the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office charged Andrew with rape based on two pieces of evidence: the woman’s eventual identification of him as the suspect (the identification made from a distance, after she had described someone who didn't look like Andrew, and and after she was initially 70 percent sure it was another young man), and the fact that Andrew’s first account of his whereabouts on the night of the alleged assault (when they asked him about the wrong day) differed from his stepmother’s.

▲Before charges were dropped, the alleged victim was granted a restraining order against Andrew, claiming he repeatedly harassed her and that she feared for her safety. The restraining order is still in effect despite charges being dropped, and it will last for four years, requiring Andrew to vacate any home or building the woman is in. Andrew denies ever harassing the woman. In her request for the order, the woman wrote that she saw Andrew drive by her home on Aug. 2. Records show, however, that Andrew was in jail that day. On Sept. 30, she wrote that she saw Andrew sitting in the back of a vehicle at the Superior library parking lot. Again, a contradiction: One of Andrew's teachers signed a statement saying that he was under her direct supervision at that time. The woman said that her sexual assault advocate, who filled out the restraining order application on her behalf, probably made the mistakes. (Who is Andrew's advocate in all this?) Police records make no note of the discrepancies.

▲Former Duluth Police Lieutenant of Investigations John Hall questioned why police never worked to corroborate the alleged victim’s story by interviewing the woman’s boyfriend or neighbors. Those are “the sorts of things sex crime investigators do routinely,” he said.

▲Andrew's mother's partner, shocked about what happened, rhetorically asked a newspaper reporter: “Does that mean I can say that you came in and touched my breasts, I’m putting you in jail, dammit?” she said. “I don’t know you. But if I said you raped me … all I would have to say is you did it, and not prove anything?”

▲Andrew, who works as a line cook at a local restaurant, said he’s forgiven the woman who accused him of rape, but he is still angry with her and with the police. Since he was arrested, Andrew said he’s dropped about 20 to 25 pounds. Andrew will probably move away. "Even if my name is wiped clean, I think this will always be an area where people see I’ve been charged,” he said. “I just hope it doesn’t give me a bad reputation wherever I go.”

▲The case, which was the only reported home invasion and sexual assault in the city in 2010 is classified as still open. And while Andrew isn’t a suspect, when charges were dropped they were done without prejudice, meaning he could be investigated again.