Utah Judge Faces Complaints; Called Rapist a ‘Good Man’

Judge Thomas Low got emotional while sentencing Keith Vallejo, a former Mormon bishop who had been convicted of 11 counts of sexual abuse. “The court has no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinary, good man,” Low said. “But great men sometimes do bad things.”

Complaints are mounting against Utah County Judge Thomas Low, who praised a former Mormon bishop  as “extraordinary” before sending him to prison for sexually abusing two women, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Low got emotional last week as he sentenced Keith Robert Vallejo, whom a jury convicted of 11 counts of sexual assault charges. “The court has no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinary, good man,” Low said. “But great men sometimes do bad things.” Two women testified that Vallejo had inappropriately touched them during separate stays at his Provo home in 2013 and 2014.

Julia Kirby, who was 19 when Vallejo, her brother-in-law, abused her, said she was shocked by Low’s words to her abuser and plans to file a judicial complaint against him. Restore Our Humanity, an advocacy group for sexual assault victims, said it too will file a complaint. Director Mark Lawrence said Low’s comments showed “absolute disregard” for Kirby, who was sitting in the courtroom. Criticism of Low began in March, when he allowed Vallejo to remain free on bail pending sentencing–and return home to his wife and eight children–even a jury convicted him. Kirby said she felt the decision indicated that Low did not believe that she and the other woman had been abused.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Elite Connecticut School Admits to Decades of Sexual Abuse

A report names a dozen former educators of Choate Rosemary Hall who allegedly sexually abused students at the boarding school since the 1960s. It graphically recounts the experiences of 24 survivors of sexual misconduct and says school officials failed to report sexual misconduct to the authorities and quietly fired teachers or allowed them to resign.

A scathing report Thursday named a dozen former educators of Choate Rosemary Hall who allegedly sexually abused or assaulted students at the elite Connecticut boarding school since the 1960s, including a Spanish teacher who forced a female student to engage in sex in a swimming pool while on a school trip in Costa Rica, reports the Boston Globe. The report, by an investigator hired by the school, graphically recounts the experiences of 24 survivors of sexual misconduct and cites a consistent pattern: In almost all of the cases, school officials failed to report sexual misconduct to the authorities when the accusations first surfaced and quietly fired teachers or allowed them to resign. The abuse occurred from 1963 to 2010.

The New York Times says Choate, in Wallingford, Conn., is a blue-blooded school whose alumni include President John F. Kennedy and his brother Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. It is the latest in a string of prestigious private academies that have faced accusations of sexual abuse by faculty members, including St. George’s School, in Rhode Island, and Horace Mann and Poly Prep in New York City. Choate said it had been compelled to examine this ugly history in 2013, after two alumni alerted the school to sexual misconduct they had experienced as students. In 2016, The Boston Globe published an article that described abuse at the school, and shortly thereafter, Choate announced that it had appointed an investigator from the law firm Covington & Burling.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Missing White Woman Syndrome: It’s Not a Media Myth

A Northwestern University researcher finds evidence to support accusations of racial bias in coverage of girls and women who have gone missing–and he says that raises larger questions about how the public perceives victims of crime.

What seemed a shocking statistic out of Washington D.C last month spurred an outcry over the attention (or lack thereof) to missing-persons cases that involve girls and young women.

The statistic, which suggested 14 girls had gone missing in the span of 24 hours, was wrong.  In fact, according to Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department,  which called the figure exaggerated, the number of cases of missing children has actually declined slightly so far in 2017—compared to previous years.

But not all of the criticism is misplaced.  Many observers were troubled by the fact that the girls who were missing  did not seem to be garnering much media attention, given that all of the them appeared to be African American.

Commentators and academics have long targeted perceived disparities in coverage of crime tied to gender and race.  In the specific context of missing persons, the critique has been dubbed “Missing White Woman Syndrome” or “Missing White Girl Syndrome.”  And as the name suggests, the argument is that missing white women and girls—in particular young, wealthy, attractive white women and girls—garner a disproportionate share of the news coverage dedicated to missing-persons cases.

Examples abound.

The disappearances of Elizabeth Smart, Laci Peterson, Natalee Holloway, and Lauren Spierer—all of them young white women—have dominated American news cycles. However, less clear is whether empirical evidence supports the “syndrome” on a broader scale.

Surprisingly, despite the substantial amount of time and energy spent trying to explain “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” very little empirical work involving a broad examination of news coverage of missing-persons cases has been done.

In a recent study, I found that disparities do, in fact, exist at two different stages of news coverage of missing-persons cases.

I examined every missing-person news story published on four major news sites (CNN.com, ChicagoTribune.com, AJC.com (The Atlanta Journal Constitution website), and StarTribune.com (The Minneapolis Star Tribune website) in 2013.When I compared the data to the national rates compiled by the FBI, African-American missing persons were significantly underrepresented in the news.

Girls and women were significantly overrepresented.

But these disparities are also compounded by a second factor.

Among those individuals who do receive news coverage, there are additional differences in terms of the amount of coverage—its “intensity”—that each missing individual receives.  Gender and race disparities are actually magnified when considering the quantity of news coverage.  To illustrate, about 33% of the missing persons appearing on the four websites were white women and girls, but stories about those individuals comprised almost 50% of the total coverage.

As a result, there seem to be two different stages of disparities, which are likely driven by editorial decisions about the news value of the story.

Such inequalities in the determination of “newsworthiness” have important implications.  Consumers’ views about crime in general are influenced by news reports.  A disproportionate focus on missing white women reduces public pressure on authorities to focus on minority groups who are seen to somehow matter less.

More research is needed in this area, but if coverage disparities are indeed directly contributing to a fundamentally unfair allocation of police resources, that affects the chances of discovering the fate of the missing individual.

So what can be done to address Missing White Woman Syndrome?

The most obvious changes must come from the newsroom.  News agencies need to make a concerted effort to present a more demographically representative population of missing persons in their coverage, while also ensuring that there are not systematic differences in coverage intensity.

They also must be cognizant of how they represent different types of missing persons.  Previous studies have found evidence that people of color are more often presented in a negative light in news stories on crime.  Factors such as the type of pictures shown of the missing persons or the kinds of descriptors used to characterize them or their cases can unfairly prejudice audiences’ views of these individuals.

Zach Sommers

Increasing awareness of these potential pitfalls can help reduce these harmful disparities.

Going missing, after all, is a tragedy that affects all ethnic groups and genders.  Media coverage should make that clear.

Editor’s Note: For another view, see TCR columnist Robin Barton’s  Op Ed

Zach Sommers is a Law and Science Fellow at Northwestern University.  His research focuses on criminal law and perceptions of crime, and he is the author of Missing White Woman Syndrome: An Empirical Analysis of Race and Gender Disparities in Online News Coverage of Missing Persons. Your comments are welcome.


from https://thecrimereport.org

Boy, 14, Arrested In Sex Assault Shown on Facebook Live

Police arrested the first of several juvenile suspects on Saturday night. The Facebook Live recording had as many as 40 viewers at one point.

A 14-year-old boy, one of several suspects in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that was carried on Facebook Live, has been cited as a juvenile with several felony charges, reports the Chicago Tribune. Police arrested the first of several juvenile suspects in the attack Saturday night, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. The boy faces juvenile felony charges including aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacture of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography.  The girl had stayed over with family the evening of March 18, gone to church with them the next day, then was dropped off near home before disappearing until being found March 21.

Sometime during the time she was missing, she was sexually assaulted. In the Facebook Live recording — which had as many as 40 viewers at one point — the girl was sexually assaulted by as many as six attackers. The girl was reunited with her mother and taken to a hospital, where she was examined for injuries. Since the assault was reported and police began looking for suspects, the girl’s family has been relocated with the help of authorities because of threats and taunts. One of the girl’s relatives, Reginald King, said a teenager alerted him to the assault on Facebook Live. “This is one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen a kid do,” King said. “There were adults who saw this. None of them had the wherewithal to say, ‘Hey, I gotta call someone.’ “

from https://thecrimereport.org

How The Houston Justice System Failed Rape Victims

It took a decade for Keith Edward Hendricks, who had been convicted of rape in Indiana in the 1970s, to be convicted of raping homeless women in Houston. The Houston Chronicle tells how the justice system failed the victims.

The rape of a woman named Jenny by a man named Keith Edward Hendricks became a national scandal and dominated the Houston District Attorney’s race last year after she filed a federal lawsuit claiming that her jailing to ensure her testimony amounted to being “re-raped.” Prosecutors defended the tactic as necessary to protect Jenny and finally put Hendricks away. Jenny had been raped because the Harris County criminal justice system failed her, and a long line of other women, over and over, reports the Houston Chronicle. Houston police sex crimes investigator Pedro Moreno knew that Hendricks should have been locked up years earlier.

In this case, Moreno, who has filed charges against 30 other repeat offenders, analyzed other rapes in a two-mile area and found that the victims all were homeless women.In many instances, the assailant was friendly at first, usually offering the women drugs, persuading them to go with him. Then he took them to vacant homes, behind bridges or other areas shielded from view. Some victims called him “Slim” or “Chicago Slim.” Moreno entered the names into a database HPD maintained for suspects’ aliases. One of them came back and named Hendricks, a convicted rapist from Indiana. The Chronicle details how Harris County finally managed to convict Hendricks, more than a decade after he’d come to Houston and been accused of several violent rapes. District Attorney Devon Anderson was defeated for re-election, in part over how the case was handled.


from https://thecrimereport.org

How States Are Stepping Up Fight Against Sex Trafficking

States are making new moves to enlist the public’s help in combating sex trafficking where it’s likely to occur: at highway truck and rest stops and in hotels and motels, or in hospitals, where victims sometimes end up.

Ohio in July began requiring that commercial truck drivers be trained in how to spot telltale signs of sex trafficking and how to report it. Last week, the Arkansas House approved a bill that would require training for truckers. Kansas, Kentucky and Texas also are considering similar bills. The Kentucky bill goes a step further and would make it a crime for licensed truckers to use their rigs to facilitate trafficking, engage in prostitution or transport minors, Stateline reports. The legislation represents a new attempt by states to enlist the public’s help in combating sex trafficking where it’s likely to occur — at highway truck and rest stops and in hotels and motels — or in hospitals, where victims sometimes end up.

In January, Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut announced that state officials, law schools and hotel industry executives would train hotel and motel employees on how to be on the lookout for and report trafficking. In New York, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin introduced a bill this month that would require training for hotel workers. It’s along the lines of a law approved last year that requires New York hospital workers to be on the lookout for victims of trafficking. Educating and enlisting occupations that are likely to witness trafficking only makes sense to lawmakers like Paulin. Victims are often transported across state lines and show up in bus terminals or at truck stops, or they are put to work around truck stops, sports arenas, hotels, motels and convention centers.


from https://thecrimereport.org

15% of Women Report Being Raped at University of Texas

Seventy-two percent of those who said they were victims of assault at eight institutions in the university system said they didn’t tell anyone.

At the University of Texas at Austin, 15 percent of undergraduate female students said they had been raped, says a new survey of 28,000 students’ experiences with stalking, harassment and sexual violence at 13 institutions in the UT system, the Wall Street Journal reports. The study  was done by UT Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. “Unfortunately, higher education has too often fallen short when it comes to addressing the epidemic of sexual assault and misconduct on campus. That includes the University of Texas,” said UT system chancellor William McRaven.

A 2015 survey of 150,000 students at 27 schools sponsored by the Association of American Universities found that 23.1 percent of undergraduate women reported experiencing some form of nonconsensual sexual contact. About 11 percent said they had been raped. At the eight academic institutions in the UT survey, 72 percent of those who said they were victims of assault also said they didn’t tell anyone.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Ex-Penn State President Guilty in Sex Abuse Case

Prosecutors said that despite knowing about a 1998 police investigation into a claim that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky showered with a boy, president Graham Spanier agreed not to report a similar claim from coach Mike McQueary that he saw Sandusky assault a young boy in a campus locker-room shower.

Graham Spanier, the former Pennsylvania State University president, was convicted Friday of endangering children by failing to act on signs that Jerry Sandusky was a serial sex predator, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. After nearly 12 hours of deliberation, a Dauphin County jury found Spanier guilty of a misdemeanor count of endangerment. He was acquitted of a second endangerment count, as well as a felony conspiracy charge. The verdict was a stunning blow to Spanier, 68, who had proclaimed his innocence, and to his supporters, who fiercely defended him and accused prosecutors of overreaching and unfairly staining the university. His lawyer promised an appeal.

The trial seemed an opportunity to settle an issue that for more than five years divided the Penn State community: whether university leaders deserved blame for not recognizing or stopping Sandusky’s assaults on children. Prosecutors said that despite knowing about a 1998 police investigation into a claim that Sandusky showered with a boy, Spanier agreed not to report a similar claim from assistant coach Mike McQueary: that he saw Sandusky assault a young boy in a campus locker-room shower after hours. That inaction, prosecutors argued, was one step that enabled Sandusky to sexually abuse at least four more children in the years to come. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who this year took over the office that spent nearly a decade investigating and prosecuting the Sandusky case, said the verdict showed no one is above the law.ing to report the abuse of children to authorities,” he said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Campuses Lack Seasoned Sex Crimes Investigators

The fates of accusers and victims at Michigan public universities — both their academic careers and their lives moving forward — are in the hands of staff members how may be inexperienced in probing such allegations.

Hundreds of college students have been shaken and confused about how to report a sexual assault. When they do report it — and many of them don’t — the process for getting justice can be just as troubling as the crime itself, reports the Detroit Free Press. In Michigan, the responsibility for trying to figure out whether the allegations are true falls on fewer than 50 investigators spread out across the state’s 15 public universities. Many are lawyers with experience in employment law matters; others are higher education administrators or professors, but none is a seasoned sex crimes investigator.

Many cases have exposed a flaws and inconsistent system of campus justice for responding to claims of sexual assault, with campuses taking widely differing approaches. Victims and the accused are often left hanging. “These offices are not equipped for this significant of an investigation,” said attorney Deb Gordon, who has represented clients in sexual assault investigations at Michigan universities. “You have both sides (the accuser and the accused) who at the end of the day aren’t happy with how the investigation is run.” Their fates — both their academic careers and their lives moving forward — are in the hands of a staff member who is tasked with figuring out what exactly happened. That means three Michigan State football players accused of sexual assault and the alleged victim are waiting for an investigator to figure out whether the accusation is true.

from http://thecrimereport.org

White House Cities MD Rape in Immigration Debate

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cites the of a high school student in Rockville, a suburb of Washington, D.C., allegedly by two undocumented immigrants, as a reason for local officials to re-examine their policies.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer landed Maryland in the middle of the nation’s emotionally charged debate over immigration policy, decrying the rape of a high school student in Rockville, a suburb of Washington, D.C., allegedly by two undocumented immigrants, the Washington Post reports. Spicer urged state and local officials to reexamine laws and procedures to reduce the likelihood of such an incident happening again. “I think [Rockville] should look at its policies, and I think that this is something authorities are going to have to look at,” Spicer said

Spicer called the rape of the 14-year-old girl in a boys bathroom last week “shocking, disturbing, horrific and whatever other words that someone can think of.” He characterized the victim as an immigrant who had come to this country legally. Officials said she had no immigrant status of any kind. The two suspects, Henry Sanchez-Milian, 18, and Jose Montano, 17, who was charged as an adult, are being held without bail. Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Jack Smith told reporters that both suspects had been in a special program for non-English speakers at the high school. Smith pushed back hard against questions about whether the rape case should affect local efforts to comply with federal law, which guarantees a free public education to any child living in the U.S., regardless of citizenship status.


from http://thecrimereport.org