No Sex-Abuse Charges Against NY ex-AG Schneiderman

“I believe the women who shared their experiences with our investigation team,” wrote a prosecutor, “however legal impediments, including statutes of limitations, preclude criminal prosecution” of former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

After a six-month investigation, prosecutors said that they would not pursue criminal charges against former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in May after four women accused him of assaulting them, reports the New York Times. The decision was announced by Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, who was asked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate the case. Singas said the women who accused Schneiderman were credible, but there were legal hurdles to bringing charges. Some of the accusations were too old to pursue under state law. “I believe the women who shared their experiences with our investigation team,” Singas wrote, “however legal impediments, including statutes of limitations, preclude criminal prosecution.”

Singas proposed a new state law that would protect victims of sexually motivated violence by making it illegal to hit, shove, slap or kick someone without their consent for “the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.” Schneiderman’s resignation, which took place after the accusations against him were published in The New Yorker, was a stunning fall for a politician who had not only risen to prominence as an antagonist of the Trump administration, but who had played a forceful personal role in the #MeToo movement. Women who had been romantically involved with him accused him of choking, hitting and slapping them, sometimes during sex and often after drinking. They said the violence was not consensual. Schneiderman said Thursday that he had apologized to the women and spent time in “a rehab facility.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Federal Judge Calls CT Child-Porn Charge ‘Shocking’

U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill says a jury should be allowed to throw out a case in which a man saved and then deleted a sexual video. The defendant would face a mandatory 15-year prison term if he is convicted.

“This is a shocking case. This is a case that calls for jury nullification.” So said U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill in Connecticut about a case over which he presided, reports Reason. The prosecution that shocked Underhill involves Yehudi Manzano, who was charged with producing and transporting child pornography after saving, and then deleting, a video of his teenage sex partner to and from his own phone and its associated Google cloud account. “The only people who ever saw it were the guy who made it, the girl who was in it, and the federal agents,” said Manzano’s attorney. Norman Pattis. Prosecutors said that was enough for the federal government to proceed with charges involving a “visual depiction” transmitted in interstate commerce. The mandatory minimum sentence for recording video of sex with an underage partner is 15 years.

Underhill said, “I am absolutely stunned that this case, with a 15-year mandatory minimum, has been brought by the government.” Underhill acknowledged that he’s not allowed to encourage jury nullification. Defense attorney Pattis argued that juries “stand between the government and the accused, and they provide the accused with an opportunity to hold the government to its burden of proof.” The U.S. Attorney’s office filed an emergency motion it filed seeking a stay in the trial. Prosecutors want time to get a higher court to prevent Underhill from allowing Manzano’s defense counsel to inform jurors of the potential sentence and argue for jury nullification.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Feds to Allow Cross-Examination in Campus Sex Cases

Federal rules on campus sexual-assault cases to be proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will require that accused students be allowed to cross-examine accusers. The requirement marks a shift from an initial draft to replace Obama-era guidelines the Trump administration believes didn’t provide enough protections for students accused of assault.

New federal rules on campus sexual-assault cases will require that accused students be allowed to cross-examine their accusers, the Wall Street Journal reports. The requirement marks a shift from an initial draft of the new rules that Trump administration officials are writing to replace a set of Obama-era guidelines they believe didn’t provide sufficient protections for students accused of sexual assault. The rules, which Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will likely publish this month, will narrow the definition of sexual assault that schools are required to adjudicate and restrict eligible cases to those that occur on campus. The rules will be subject to a comment period. The rule changes fall under Title IX, a 1972 law barring gender discrimination in schools and colleges that receive federal funding.

In an earlier draft, the administration proposed providing schools with the option of incorporating cross-examination into their procedures. The new version would make a cross-examination provision mandatory, though questions could be funneled through a neutral party and students could be seated in separate rooms. The rules would bar accused students from asking their accusers inappropriate questions, such as details of the accuser’s sexual history. The modification echoes goals of some university administrators, men’s rights activists and due-process advocates who believe students at risk of expulsion should be given more opportunities to defend themselves. “Courts have recognized that cross-examination is an essential part of the process of figuring out the truth in cases where credibility is a factor,” said Joe Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which seeks due process for those accused of campus sexual assault. Anurima Bhargava, an Obama Justice Department official who oversaw civil rights enforcement in education, said the Obama administration discouraged cross-examination because it could make sex-assault victims reluctant to come forward.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Weinstein Defense Puts DA on Defensive in Key #MeToo Case

When a judge dismissed one set of charges against Harvey Weinstein, that was only the start of a series of problems for the prosecution that could cause the case against the Hollywood mogul to unravel.

One of the highest-profile prosecutions of the #MeToo era is in trouble, The New York Times reports. In the five months since Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was indicted on charges of sexually assaulting three women, the judge in the case dismissed the charges concerning one of the women and Weinstein defense counsel Benjamin Brafman says he plans to attack the other two sets of charges on the same grounds: that the lead police detective in the case concealed evidence favorable to Weinstein from the grand jury.

The defense also discovered emails suggesting one of the alleged victims had a consensual affair with Weinstein that continued long after the alleged rape. And the third set of charges boils down to a he-said/she-said allegation.

In theory, the dismissed charge should not hurt the prosecution’s chances at trial, some experienced trial lawyers said. But Barbara S. Barron, a former prosecutor who teaches law at Hofstra University, said that the defense can use the judge’s decision to dismiss one set of charges to cast doubt on the entire case, not just at trial, but also in the battle for public opinion.

 “To have this, post indictment, is a horror,” she said.

The troubles in the case stem in part from a feud in 2015 between the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York police over whether to charge Weinstein in one of the alleged incidents.

The state attorney general’s investigation of whether Vance’s office gave Weinstein special treatment has been suspended during the current prosecution.

See also The Crime Report, “Weinstein Might Go Free: Here’s Why”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Most MN People Accused of Sex Assault Won’t Be in Court

Minnesota prosecutors reject half the cases police send them. They reject cases that include DNA evidence, witnesses, and sometimes even confessions. They rarely ask police to conduct additional investigations. Victims say they are often never told why their assailant won’t be charged with a crime.

Most people accused of sexual assault in Minnesota won’t ever face a reckoning in court, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune in the fifth of a series. In 2016, 481 people were convicted of felony-level sex assaults in Minnesota, the lowest total since 1983, according to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission. Only 1 in 4 sexual assault cases in Minnesota is ever referred to a county prosecutor, found a Star Tribune analysis of more than 1,300 sexual assault cases filed in 2015 and 2016. Prosecutors reject half the cases police send them. They reject cases that include DNA evidence, witnesses, and sometimes even confessions. They rarely ask police to conduct additional investigations, and in interviews, victims say they are often never told why their assailant won’t be charged with a crime.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said his office was examining 40 cases from this year that have not been charged; he also vowed to hire more prosecutors to help handle rape cases, and work more closely with law enforcement. Prosecutors are not required to explain to victims or anyone else why they decide not to file charges in a case. Their communications with police are protected under attorney-client privilege. Many victims who spoke with the Star Tribune said they never got a chance to discuss the details of their case with prosecutors. Prosecutors cite the American Bar Association’s ethical standard for filing criminal charges, which says that should occur only if there’s probable cause of a crime and evidence that is “sufficient to support a conviction.” Roger Canaff, who prosecuted rapes for more than a dozen years in New York and Virginia and now trains law enforcement on the topic, said that standard should not be interpreted to mean that charges should be filed only when victory in court is likely.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Feds Start Probe of PA Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse

“It’s something we always we wished for but thought it would never happen,” said Judy Jones of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Now it’s happening, and it’s all because of the Pennsylvania grand jury. Hopefully this is going to spread and go into other states.”

Federal investigators have launched a broad and unprecedented investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, issuing subpoenas to dioceses across Pennsylvania and bringing a potent set of law-enforcement tools to follow up on a scathing state grand jury report, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. All Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania have already undergone state- or county-level grand jury investigations, but longtime advocates for victims never have seen a federal effort on this scale. “It’s something we always we wished for but thought it would never happen,” said Judy Jones of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Now it’s happening, and it’s all because of the Pennsylvania grand jury. Hopefully this is going to spread and go into other states.” She said victims are “very excited about this,” especially after their disappointment Wednesday when a measure they favored, enabling lawsuits over long-ago abuse, died in the Pennsylvania Senate.

The Associated Press, which first reported the subpoenas, said federal authorities sought documents in the church’s so-called “secret archives,” and records related to the dioceses’ organizational charts, finances, insurance coverage, clergy assignments, treatment and other documents. The subpoenas issued by U.S. Attorney William McSwain in Philadelphia demanded the bishops turn over any evidence that anyone in their ranks took children across state lines for illicit purposes; sent sexual images or messages via phone or computer; instructed anyone not to contact police; reassigned suspected predators; or used money or other assets as part of the scandal. An Aug. 14 report of a statewide grand jury into six Catholic dioceses reported that more than 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children across seven decades. “I think this is really good news, and it’s a long time coming,” said David Hickton, former U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh and now a professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh.

from https://thecrimereport.org

After Backpage.Com, Sex Workers Head to S.F. Streets

The government shutdown of Backpage.com this year sought to curtail the type of sex-for-sale classified ads that made the company infamous. Months later, the closure has prompted an increase in sex trafficking on San Francisco streets.

The government shutdown of Backpage.com this year sought to curtail the type of sex-for-sale classified ads that made the company infamous. Months later, the closure has prompted an increase in sex trafficking on San Francisco streets, reports the San Francico Chronicle. Reported crimes related to pimping and sex trafficking have more than tripled in 2018 — with 67 through August, up from 21 during the same period last year, according to police. Officers have made more arrests than previous years as much of the activity had been hidden online, said police spokesman David Stevenson. Violence against both sex workers and people soliciting sex is a concerning trend as well, said police Sgt. Antonio Flores of the special victims and human trafficking unit. “A few sex workers are becoming violent,” he said. “Then there are those that tend to prey on sex workers.”

Backpage.com, criticized by authorities for being an online brothel, was shut down in April after an FBI investigation, and CEO Carl Ferrer was charged with money laundering. The website’s closure came after Congress passed laws that effectively made websites hosting adult ads responsible for the postings of users. The new laws have had a side effect on San Francisco streets, said Pike Long of St. James Infirmary, a health and safety clinic for sex workers in San Francisco. “Without being able to advertise online,” Long said, “a huge number of sex workers were forced to go outside, and many have reported that former pimps came out of the woodwork offering to ‘manage’ their business again since they were now rendered unable to find and screen clients online.” St. James saw a spike in street-based sex work in the month after Backpage.com was shut down.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Sex Crime Cases Can Be Difficult for Justice System

Prosecutors tend to decline cases deemed unlikely to win a conviction. That can leave accusers feeling they are denied justice. The accused can experience life-altering impacts from allegations.

Katie Brennan of the New Jersey housing agency spent more than a year trying to get authorities to take action against the man she accuses of sexually assaulting her. A prosecutor wouldn’t file charges, and Gov. Phil Murphy said he would look into it.

The man, a state official, resigned this month when the Wall Street Journal asked him to comment. “At each turn, I’ve just felt so disappointed,” Brennan said. “I tried everything. And none of it worked. If I can’t get any justice, I just don’t seriously know who can.” Allegations of sexual assault remain difficult for the criminal-justice system.

Such crimes often produce no conclusive evidence. Conflicting accounts can be the only material officials have to work with. Prosecutors tend to decline to pursue cases deemed unlikely to win a conviction. That can leave accusers feeling they are denied justice. The accused can experience life-altering impacts from allegations, including a damaged career and reputation.

Criminal-justice officials are considering new ideas about how to handle such cases. More than a dozen states have passed legislation aimed at improving the handling and testing of rape kits. Proposals to broaden the legal definition of sex crimes, and to lengthen or eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual assault have passed or are pending in legislatures.

New training programs for police and prosecutors working on assault cases also are being rolled out. The Hudson County, N.J., prosecutor’s office investigated 365 cases last year involving adult-sex crimes, child-sexual abuse and physical abuse. Of those, prosecutors charged 81 defendants.

There are no national statistics on the number of sexual-assault cases that end in arrests, prosecution or conviction, said criminologist Cassia Spohn of Arizona State University. Federal statistics gathered from local police departments don’t detail how many cases are brought to prosecutors.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Survivors of Sexual Assault Still Don’t Report It, Says Harvard Research Review

Most people who experience unwanted sexual contact do not report it—for reasons such as the victim does not view the encounter as ‘rape,’ even when it fits the legal definition—according to a new report for students, journalists and researchers by the Journalist’s Resource at Harvard University. 

Most people who experience unwanted sexual contact do not report it—for reasons such as the victim does not view the encounter as ‘rape,’ even when it fits the legal definition— according to a new report for students, journalists and researchers by the Journalist’s Resource at the Harvard University Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. 

“Over the past year, as the #MeToo movement has grown and national figures such as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein have faced allegations of sexual misconduct from women they knew years ago, one question has continued to surface: Why would someone claiming abuse wait so long to come forward?” author Denise-Marie Ordway writes.

Research indicates the answer is complicated, she continues.

“There are a wide range of reasons people don’t report their experiences with sexual harassment and assault to authorities and, oftentimes, even hide them from friends and family members.”

One reason is self-blame, said Karen G. Weiss, an associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University whose research focuses on sexual violence, the roundup report notes.

The report gathered and summarized a sampling of peer-reviewed research — including two academic articles from Weiss — that investigates why many people don’t report sex crimes.

The following list includes studies that look at factors that discourage or prevent reporting among specific groups, including teenagers, college students, prison inmates and women serving in the military.

“Meta-Analysis of the Prevalence of Unacknowledged Rape” Wilson, Laura C.; Miller, Katherine E. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, April 2016.

Laura C. Wilson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, led this review of 28 academic studies to estimate how often women who’ve been sexually assaulted do not label their experience as rape.  The 28 studies focused on the experiences of a total of 5,917 women who had been raped at some point in their lives after age 14.

Across the studies, the researchers find that 60.4 percent of women, on average, did not recognize their experience as rape even though it fit the definition — an unwanted sexual experience obtained through force or the threat of force or a sexual experience they did not consent to because they were incapacitated.

“This finding has important implications because it suggests that our awareness of the scope of the problem may underestimate its true occurrence rate, depending on the type of measurement,” the authors write.

“This impacts policy reform, allocations of mental health services, survivors’ perceptions of their experiences, and society’s attitudes toward survivors.”

“’You Just Don’t Report That Kind of Stuff’: Investigating Teens’ Ambivalence Toward Peer-Perpetrated, Unwanted Sexual Incidents” Weiss, Karen G. Violence and Victims, 2013. 

In this study, Weiss investigates why many teenagers who experience unwanted sexual contact from other teens trivialize those experiences as unimportant or normal. She relies on data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, administered each year to tens of thousands of individuals aged 12 years and older.

According to survey data, 92 percent of teens who say they experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact are girls, 81 percent are white and 13 percent are Hispanic.

Just over half of these incidents — 53 percent — involved sexual coercion such as rape and attempted rape while 47 percent involved other contact such as groping. Almost half of teenagers — 44 percent — said the perpetrators were other youth between the ages of 12 and 17.

A key finding: Teens who experience unwanted contact rarely report it. Five percent of incidents were reported to police and 25 percent were reported to other authorities such as school officials or employers.

“Too Ashamed to Report: Deconstructing the Shame of Sexual Victimization” Weiss, Karen G. Feminist Criminology, July 2010. 

In another study from Weiss, she “deconstructs shame as both a culturally imbued response to sexual victimization and as a much taken-for-granted reason for why victims don’t report incidents to the police.”

Weiss analyzed statements made by men and women as part of the annual National Crime Victimization Survey. She examined their responses to a survey question asking them to describe what happened to them. She also examined structured responses to questions about sex-related incidents.

What Weiss found was that many respondents expressed shame as part of their description of what happened and why they didn’t go to the police. Thirteen percent of incidents made some reference to shame. For example, a 19-year-old women stated that she was ashamed and felt partly to blame for a male acquaintance raping her because she couldn’t stop him.

“Barriers to Reporting Sexual Assault for Women and Men: Perspectives of College Students” Sable, Marjorie R.; Danis, Fran; Mauzy, Denise L.; Gallagher, Sarah K. Journal of American College Health, 2006. 

For this study, a research team from the University of Missouri-Columbia surveyed students at a large, Midwestern university to better understand what they perceive as the biggest barriers to reporting rape and sexual assault for men and women.

Students rated “shame, guilt and embarrassment,” “confidentiality concerns” and “fear of not being believed” as the top three perceived barriers to reporting rape among both men and women. However, students rated shame, guilt and embarrassment as a much larger barrier for men than women. Another major barrier to reporting for men, according to students, is the fear they could be judged as being gay.

“Compared with women, men may fail to report because reporting is perceived to jeopardize their masculine self-identity,” the authors write.

“The high score that being judged as gay received by the respondents may acknowledge society’s consideration that male rape occurs in the gay, not the general, community.”

“Reporting Sexual Assault in the Military: Who Reports and Why Most Servicewomen Don’t” Mengeling, Michelle A.; Booth, Brenda M.; Torner, James C.; Sadler, Anne G. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, July 2014. 

For this study, researchers interviewed women who had served in the U.S. Army or Air Force and acknowledged at least one attempted or completed sexual assault while they were in the military. Of the 1,339 women interviewed, 18 percent said they had experienced sexual assault while serving on full-time active duty.

Meanwhile, 12 percent said they had experienced sexual assault while serving in the Reserves or National Guard.

Among the key findings: Three-fourths of servicewomen did not report their assaults. Eighty percent of women who said they’d been assaulted identified the perpetrator as U.S. military personnel.

The researchers found that sexual assaults were more likely to be reported if they occurred on base or while on duty or if they resulted in a physical injury.

They also found that enlisted women who had never gone to college were most likely to report. The most common reasons women gave for not officially reporting their assault were embarrassment and not knowing how to report.

“The Darkest Figure of Crime: Perceptions of Reasons for Male Inmates to Not Report Sexual Assault” Miller, Kristine Levan. Justice Quartely, 2010. 

Kristine Levan, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Idaho, surveyed a random sample of 890 inmates from eight state-run prisons in Texas to understand why a male prisoner might not report sexual assault.

Inmates said the three most common reasons prisoners may not report sexual assault are embarrassment, retaliation from other inmates and a fear of harassment and abuse from other inmates.

“The male prison environment thrives on exerting one’s own masculinity,” Levan writes.

“Although the assailant of a sexual assault gains respect and status, the victim is ultimately emasculated … Heralding back to the tenets of the convict code, inmates are expected to not show signs of weakness, especially to other inmates, and admission to sexual victimization may be an indication to other inmates that they are indeed weak.”

“Would They Officially Report an In-Prison Sexual Assault? An Examination of Inmate Perceptions” Fowler, Shannon K.; Blackburn, Ashley G.; Marquart, James W.; Mullings, Janet L. The Prison Journal, 2010. 

A research team led by Shannon K. Fowler, an associate professor at the University of Houston, examines whether prisoners would report sexual violence or recommend that other prisoners report violence they had experienced. The team surveyed 935 male and female inmates from a large Southern prison system.

Here’s what they found: Most inmates said they would report their sexual assault. However, those who already had experienced assault while incarcerated were less likely to say they would. “

This finding tends to support the bulk of work dedicated to prison culture and sexual assault, where inmate reports to staff could add additional consequences, like retaliation or additional labels of being ‘weak,’ which could lead to increased harassment by other inmates,” the authors write.

Other resources that may be helpful to journalists and researchers:

A full copy of the report by the Journalist’s Resource at Harvard University can be found from https://thecrimereport.org

Will Sex Assault Victims ‘Go Back Into the Shadows’?

That is the fear of advocates after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court and accuser Christine Blasey Ford was ridiculed by President Trump. “We’re all worried,” says Kristi Gray, a Louisville sex crimes prosecutor.

The Senate hearing on allegations that Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault as a teenager provoked a flood of social media posts from women on their anguished decisions about reporting such assaults. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court and the ferocious backlash against accuser Christine Blasey Ford has fueled worries among sexual assault survivors, advocates and prosecutors of a longer-term chilling effect on women’s willingness to report, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. “This is really damaging. I feel like some women will go back into the shadows and not come forward,” said Michelle Kelty of the Kentucky Attorney General Survivor’s Council, who saw Ford endure death threats and ridicule from President Trump. “Reporting is important. That’s the only way we’re going to stop these guys and say it’s not OK.”

Elizabeth Wessels-Martin of the Center for Women and Families in Louisville said victims’ most common fears — ‘If I report it, will I be retaliated against? Will anyone believe me?” — were laid bare in the hearings in a way that could dissuade victims from reporting. “We’re all worried,” said Kristi Gray, a Louisville sex crimes prosecutor. “If people feel (Ford) was not believed, I think it’s much harder for them to want to come forward and disclose.” Sexual assault survivors and their advocates say sex assault is already vastly underreported. An estimated one-third of sexual assaults nationally are reported to police, compared to about two-thirds of robberies, said Brad Campbell, a University of Louisville criminologist. That can be attributed to a range of factors, from fears of stigma or retaliation to traumatic investigations or a life turned upside down, advocates said. “You may put your relationships at risk. Your job, your housing,” said one victim said. “It’s like being assaulted twice.” Survivors must weigh the difficulties of pursuing charges when there is no corroborating witnesses or DNA evidence.

from https://thecrimereport.org