It’s disappointing, from a I-want-to-know-the-truth perspective, that there are no recordings or transcripts. But under the circumstances, a completely new trial seems like the best thing. Unless there’s a lot more to this case than The Oregonian reported, I don’t see how a fair court could possibly find guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
I’ve repeated my original post (edited somewhat) on Blue Oregon, a blog for lefty (but not necessarily feminist) Oregon bloggers. It’ll be interesting to see what the reaction is there, compared to the mostly feminist blogs on which this story has played so far.
Also, I’ve sent a letter to the Oregonian (text below). If you’d like to send a letter to the big “O” (and I encourage everyone to! Let’s flood the op-ed page, if we can!), the instructions are here – basically, be polite and keep it under 150 words.
Since when must alleged rape victims “act traumatized” or risk jail? In effect, the Judge’s decision criminalizes failure to conform to stereotypes of how rape victims behave.
Rape is already an extremely unreported crime. How much less often will rape victims report if they risk being branded a false accuser for not acting traumatized enough?
Judge Ackerman and DAs Alan Rappleyea and Ted Naemura have acted disgracefully. False and sexist stereotypes about how rape victims behave should not be used to justify a guilty verdict.
Finally, since Oregonian articles expire after 14 days, below I’ve reproduced the text of their December 3rd article, so it isn’t lost down the memory hole.
Four stories – Teen never recants, and her lawyer says the verdict may stop others from reporting sex crimes
Saturday, December 03, 2005
DAVID R. ANDERSON
BEAVERTON — 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 woman’s lawyer, Jeff Napoli, said he plans to appeal the case to Washington County Circuit Court, where a new trial would be held.
The woman, who was 17 at the time of the April 30, 2004, incident, testified Friday that she was attacked by an 18-year-old boyfriend and his two friends. She said she was in the boyfriend’s bedroom preparing to go to a party when she was sexually assaulted by the men.
The three men testified Thursday that the acts were consensual and at the girl’s initiation.
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.
The Washington County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case against the men. Robert Hermann, the county’s district attorney, said prosecutors reviewed all the information and statements but didn’t think they could prove a rape allegation.
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.
Beaverton has no policy about prosecuting such cases, but reviews each one on its merits, Naemura said. The city prosecuted a similar case a year ago in which a judge ordered the woman to pay $1,100 in restitution for the city’s investigation costs, said Officer Paul Wandell, a Beaverton Police Department spokesman.
The bottom line, Naemura said, is that people can’t use the criminal justice system to further their own ends.
This case should not deter legitimate victims from reporting crimes, he said.
Ellis of the Sexual Assault Resource Center disagreed. She said this case could make others think twice about reporting sex crimes.
Ellis, who provided peer support for the woman during the trial, said she was especially disturbed by the judge’s comments about the woman’s believability.
“There’s no typical response for a rape survivor,” Ellis said.
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.”
False accusations of sex crimes, while rare, are not unheard of, said Heather J. Huhtanen, Sexual Assault Training Institute director for the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force.
Huhtanen said about 10 percent of Oregon victims of sex crimes file reports with police.
A Portland Police Bureau study estimated that 3 percent of its rape cases were classified as unfounded, she said. Portland police, Huhtanen said, found that 1.6 percent of sexual assault cases were falsely reported, compared with 2.6 percent of auto theft reports.
The Beaverton case has raised concerns among groups who assist victims of sexual assault.
Keri Moran-Kuhn of the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said the case may discourage victims of sexual assault from reporting crimes.
“The message it gives to other victims is they’re not going to be believed,” Moran-Kuhn said. “It can deter victims from coming forward.”
Napoli, a former Washington County deputy district attorney, said he understands the district attorney’s decision to not charge the three men in the rape case because of disputes over the facts. But for the same reason, he said, it didn’t make sense for Beaverton to turn around and charge the woman.
“I think it’s shocking to most people that a victim would be prosecuted for this,” Napoli said in court.
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.
The woman is scheduled to be sentenced in municipal court Dec. 16. The sentence would be suspended until the appeal is resolved.
John Snell and Amy Hsuan of The Oregonian staff contributed to this report. David R. Anderson: 503-294-5199; [email protected]