Oregon Teen Sentenced for False Rape Charge
The blogosphere is abuzz with controversy over a Beaverton, Oregon’s judge’s sentencing of a 19-year-old woman for filing false rape charges.
The only non-blog account of the story on Google News so far is the account in The Sunday Oregonian:
A municipal judge found a 19-year-old woman guilty Friday of filing a false police report after she said she was raped by three young men. Even though the woman never said she lied or recanted her story, city prosecutors say they took the unusual step of filing charges against her because of the seriousness of her accusations.
The woman’s attorney and advocates for rape victims say the prosecution sets a dangerous precedent and could discourage others from reporting sexual assaults.
“This will have a huge chilling effect on men and women across the board,” said Erin Ellis, executive director of the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Washington County. “We’re sliding backwards.”
After a day-and-a-half trial, Municipal Judge Peter A. Ackerman on Friday convicted the woman of filing a false police report, a class-C misdemeanor. Ackerman explained his decision, saying there were many inconsistencies in the stories of the four, but that he found the young men to be more credible. He also said he relied on the testimony of a Beaverton police detective and the woman’s friends who said she did not act traumatized in the days following the incident.
The Oregonian is not publishing the names of the woman or the three men because the case remains unresolved and involves allegations of sexual assault.
Since when do newspapers not publish the names of adults in criminal cases? Yes, it is customary to shield the names of alleged victims in rape cases, but never adult defendants. And the case has been resolved: The accused men have been released because the charges were deemed false and the accuser has been convicted of the crime of false accusation. The fact that there are still appeals left is irrelevant. Trial courts are the triers of fact in our system; appelate review is only about process.
This obscure case has created a blogstorm because Kevin Hayden has known the convict “since she was a baby” and attended her trial. His account:
The judge found inconsistencies in all of the stories, thus establishing reasonable doubt in every story. Yet he convicted the victim. Ã¢€˜BoysÃ¢€™ will be Ã¢€˜boysÃ¢€™.
The young womanÃ¢€™s friends were a classmate at high school and her mother. The mother a) has always been seen with an alcoholic beverage or high on prescription pills by all who know her, b) provided the 17-year old with the alcohol sheÃ¢€™d had that evening, which she stole from the store she cashiers at and c) was awaiting her boyfriendÃ¢€™s return to her home within two months of the rape. That boyfriend was in prison for molesting his own daughter. ThatÃ¢€™s hardly a credible witness with any sympathy for victims of sexual assault. But none of this could be introduced into evidence. Only the 17 year oldÃ¢€™s sexual history could be exposed.
Additionally, the two Ã¢€˜friendsÃ¢€™ were the ones who convinced the 17 year old that she should report it to the police. So if the young woman is guilty, the instigating accessories to her Ã¢€˜crimeÃ¢€™ are considered credible experts about how a rape victim should act.
Rape is underreported. Reporting a rape is difficult, and can be embarrassing, shameful, hurtful, frustrating, and too often unfulfilling. Quite bluntly, there is very little incentive to report a rape. ItÃ¢€™s a terrible experience, and the likelihood of seeing justice served is a long shot. Even if it is, it usually comes at great personal cost, with oneÃ¢€™s sexual history put on public display amidst the dismay of reliving the attackÃ¢€”and an extended trial can necessitate living in a state of suspended animation, where moving on from that moment is all but impossible. The only real incentive one has is knowing the sacrifice might prevent the same thing from happening to someone else. Not a small thing, but a big personal investment.
And now, women have one less reason to come forwardÃ¢€”the possible horror of watching their attackers go free while they are found guilty.
Arthur Silber sees it as evidence of the patriarchy run amock:
I think the ultimate root is the prevailing view of women that still dominates and saturates every aspect of our culture: that, in essence, women are the root of all evil. […] The central point is simple: with regard to evil in the world, in all its manifestations and no matter what the evidence might suggest about other causes, women are the ultimate source of all evil. All of it, bar none.
When you consider that throughout history and into our own time, men have held all the positions of power and that men, and only men, control all major events, one might well wonder why men are so fragile and insecure that they cannot bear even to contemplate that anything might be their own fault. But no matter what happens, it is never their fault. It’s always someone else’s. If no other man is available to take the blame, then pick a woman — any woman. They’re inherently evil, so they can fit any bill of particulars.
Kevin Drum is confused by the report but takes a more even approach:
Phrases like “more credible” combined with specious reasoning like “did not act traumatized” seem more suitable to a civil lawsuit Ã¢€” or a dorm room bull session Ã¢€” than to a criminal prosecution. […] This prosecution sounds pretty outrageous Ã¢€” though it’s impossible to say for sure given the small amount of information at hand. I’d sure like to hear more from the judge about exactly what evidence convinced him beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim maliciously made up her story.
So would I. But Kevin is right: we don’t know much about the facts of the case. We do have, however, the fact that the prosecutor, who initially thought there was enough evidence to go to trial for rape, became convinced that the charges were made up. We have the fact that the judge weighed the evidence and concluded that she was guilty. Absent, then, evidence that the judge and prosecutor are corrupt or incompetent, one would think the natural reaction would be to believe that the woman is guilty of filing false charges or, at a minimum, “wait and see.”
It’s worth noting, too, that municipal judges in Oregon are elected or appointed by their city council. Given the sympathy the general public has for rape victims and antipathy it has for rapists, the idea that a judge whose fate is in the hands of an electorate would lightly sentence a woman for filing false rape charges is hard to swallow.
Also, from the Oregonian report, is this:
Kevin Neely, spokesman for the Oregon Attorney General’s Office, said it was rare for alleged sex crime victims to be charged much less convicted of filing a false police report. “Our concern is always with the underreporting of sexual assaults,” he said, “not with false reporting. It’s a safe bet that prosecutions for false reporting are rare.”
So, absent other evidence, wouldn’t that lead us to believe those “rare” cases are ones where the prosecutors and judges find the accuser’s conduct particularly heinous?
Ted Naemura, the assistant city attorney who prosecuted the case, said the woman’s false accusations were serious enough to lead to charges. The young men faced prison sentences of at least 7 years and a lifetime labeled as sex offenders. In addition, police spent considerable resources investigating the accusations. […] The woman faces a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and $1,250 fine, Naemura said. He would not say what sentence the city would seek.
So, basically, a woman falsely accused three men of felonies for which conviction would have ruined their lives. She gets convicted of a Class C misdemeanor for which she faces a maximum sentence that amounts to a slap on the wrist. And people think she’s the victim?