Friday, March 30, 2012

Suit alleges police encouraged vigilante justice

We've often spoken about the damage done by a false accusation, both here and on our old site. We've documented many instances of beatings and even death (as noted HERE) from a false allegation. Unfortunately, this is a much overlooked byproduct of a false claim of sexual assault or rape.*

It's all the more heinous when the harm is officially condoned. The following is a piece out of Philadelphia (LINK), and it is an update of this story

The hanging trees from the Old South have been figuratively replanted in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood. On a steamy day in June of 2009, an innocent man named Michael Zenquis was beaten by an angry mob after he was wrongly accused of raping an 11-year-old girl. A female onlooker yelled, "Rapist!"  He heard someone say he deserved to die while others shouted, "Kill him, kill him!"  Michael was beaten with sticks and a baseball bat. Michael was stomped. Michael was bleeding, but he kept yelling, "I'm innocent, I didn't do anything."  When the vicious attack finally ended, Michael had sustained injuries to his back, his eye, his shoulder, and his foot.

The police took Michael away but quickly discovered they had picked up the wrong guy.  So what do you think they did?  They dropped him right back in the neighborhood where the animals had beaten him. Getting out of Kensington alive became a terrifying ordeal for Michael.

In light of this despicable atrocity to an innocent man, what did the Mayor do?  What did the police commissioner do?

I'll tell you what they did: nothing.

Worse. The next day, a different mob caught up with the actual rapist, named Jose Carrasquillo. What do you think happened?  The mob gave him a brutal beating that lasted several minutes until the police got there.

So, did the mayor or the police condemn the vigilante justice? 

Exactly the opposite. The police gave two of the men who helped "apprehend" Carrasquillo $5,750 each. 

Further, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced he would not pursue criminal charges against the mob. Ramsey explained that the man's injuries were not life-threatening (the new test for assault in Philadelphia?), and, after all, emotions were running high. "From what I've seen so far," Ramsey smugly declared, "we have one victim and that's an 11-year-old girl.''

And the message this sends to people predisposed to vigilante justice is -- what, exactly?

Michael Zenquist filed suit against Philadelphia, alleging that the Philadelphia police told people in the Kensington neighborhood that Zenquist was a child rapist even though he wasn't, and that the neighbors were free to assault Mr. Zenquist.
The city of Philadelphia moved to dismiss the complaint, but U.S. District Judge Louis Pollack stated that allegations in the complaint are "adequate to state a claim for conspiracy."

     "To support the inference of an agreement among the officer defendants and the private individuals who assaulted him, Zenquis relies principally on the allegation that the private individuals had spoken to at least one or more of the individual [police] defendants, and were told ... that they should detain [Zenquis] and that they would be permitted to use force against [Zenquis]," Pollack wrote (brackets and ellipsis in original). "This is consistent with and buttressed by the allegations, earlier in the amended complaint, that at least some of the officer defendants were canvassing the Kensington neighborhood for several hours prior to the assault."
Allegations of the rewards that civilians received for detaining Carrasquillo also support the claims for municipal liability, the decision states.

*How do we protect people from such harm? Anonymity for all involved until such time as a conviction is obtained would go a long way toward protecting the innocent. After all, for no other crimes except those related to sexual assault do we allow anonymity for the accuser (with the exception of children). Rape is considered a special crime because it carries inordinate shame and stigma; that same shame and stigma affects those who are branded rapists. Justice, and fidelity to the principles of presumption of innocence, argue for anonymity for the accused.