Judge puts rape victim in Jail

Via Talkleft:

A woman was released from jail Tuesday after spending five days locked up for repeatedly failing to show up in court to testify against a man accused of raping her.[…]

In citing the woman for contempt of court last week, Dinkelacker said, “If victims don’t participate in the system, we don’t have justice.” The woman, who had missed a hearing as well as the two trial dates, told the judge that neighbors threatened her and her children, calling her a snitch.

As TalkLeft notes, wouldn’t it have made more sense for the judge to order police to investigate the threats and provide the woman with protection?

The woman has now agreed to testify, and charges have again been filed against the alleged rapist.

When a judge acts like this, it deters other rape victims from coming forward. What an asshole.

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19 Responses to Judge puts rape victim in Jail

  1. 1
    r@d@r says:

    i rather think that this particular judge is far worse than just an asshole — i think he is demonstrating a disturbing lack of regard for witness welfare in general, which opens up the door to other problems such as the witness tampering you mention, something that runs rampant but isn’t discussed that much or dealt with very well by the system. i agree that this is a deterrent to victims testifying against their attackers, and it gives the perpetrators the sense that they can act with impunity.

    the state of ohio does have some victims rights leglislation on the books, but it’s worded so vaguely it’s hard to see how it does anybody any good, although the judge in this case seems definitely to have abrogated the clause promising protection.

  2. 2
    Shakti says:

    Anybody have any idea who this judge is? I think he should get flood of angry mail.

  3. 3
    Trish Wilson says:

    I heard about this story last week. When I forwarded it, one of my colleagues wrote back to tell me about another case in which a woman who had been threatened testified against the alleged perp instead of going to jail for contempt. Later, she was gunned down while waiting in line at the grocery store.

  4. 4
    Lesley says:

    While I disagree with this judge’s actions, I think this serves to highlight an overall issue with how witnesses are protected from threats. Witnesses and victims of other types of crimes may get threatened and refuse to testify as well, and they are subject to contempt charges and jail if they do not. And, sometimes, when they do decide to testify as a result, the threats are made good on.

    I would agree that the pressures on rape victims to keep silent are different from the pressures on victims of other crimes. As such, they may warrant different treatment. Nonetheless, I think we still should consider this not just as a separate issue but also in the context of witness and victim protection as a whole. We may ultimately decide that rape victims do indeed warrant different treatment, but at least we should consider all victims.

  5. 5
    Raznor says:

    That’s a really good point, Lesley. It does help to look at the broader picture in cases like this.

    Shakti, I don’t think an angry-letter writing campaign directed at the asshole judge would be very beneficial in this case, it won’t get much cooperation and it’s just mean. But this judge should be forced to resign.

    I’d comment more on this, but I’m seething with rage too much to want to consider any rational forms of discourse that could revolve around this. Lesley already did a good job of that anyway.

  6. 6
    karpad says:

    while I hear quite a bit of griping about what an asshole that judge is (more on other boards than here) I don’t hear many people making a reccomendation as to what the judge should have done instead.
    dismissing the charges for lack of a witness is out of the question. I don’t really see anyone advocating that rapists should be let of the hook for intimidating their victims.
    proceeding without a witness is just as foolhardy, since a rape case where a victim refuses to testify has a snowball’s chance.
    offer protection against the criminal and his friends?
    well, yes. but there are problems with that. judges and prosecutors are limited as to how they can apply witness protection, and many people are unwilling to testify even after being offered protection.
    society is obviously at fault for allowing attitudes of “snitching” in the first place, but the judge is following both the letter and spirit of the law in filing contempt charges.
    will someone follow through on the threats? perhaps. more than likely, her reluctance in the first place will net her a shot at the WPP, if she really wants it. but how does coming forward to announce the crime, then backing away when the trial rolls around remotely encourage people to press charges when raped? if anything, that sends the message that rape is tolerated, and that citizens have more to fear from rapists than rapists have from the law.
    I’d personally prefer that the victim testified out of a sense of civic duty to see to it that the laws are enforced, but as long as the rape is successfully prosecuted, I’m more or less satisfied with the results.

  7. 7
    Raznor says:

    karpad, if I were to say to you I’ll kill you if you post here again, it doesn’t matter that I wouldn’t be able to follow through with the threats (I really have no idea how I’d even find you), what matters is I’m attempting to intimidate you to do something other than what you normally do. And if you were sufficiently scared, then you shouldn’t be blamed for not posting here. The follow-through, or conversely the lack of it, has nothing to do with the potential effectiveness of a threat. That’s why threats like this are illegal in and of themselves. (don’t actually not post here again, it’s all hypothetical)

    So why should it be different in this case? Why should the victim, when threatened by outsiders, and not just herself but her children, be so driven by duty that she should ignore her fears for herself and her children. Rather investigate the claims, and seek to prosecute those who threatened the victim in order to coerce her to not testify

  8. 8
    karpad says:

    as I said, the judge should offer witness protection (I haven’t seen a report saying protection was not part of the deal in testifying), and if the victim still refuses, contempt of court charges are the only means of response.
    are you, in fact, advocating that the judge should simply drop the charges if the victim doesn’t want to testify? that hardly seems in the interest of justice.
    which is the point, really, the interests of justice always (ALWAYS!) outweighs the interests of the individual to remain anonymous. if you think the remedies and protections then provided to the victims (a better, more comprehensive WPP and federal whistleblower style laws, for instance) then that’s something which needs answering in congress, but doesn’t mean the judge acted improperly.
    somehow “I’m afraid for my safety, and it’s just a single rapist, so it’s better for me to remain quiet” doesn’t seem a large leap forward for women’s rights.
    and if you were advising the woman, what advice would you give? would you say that if she’s afraid to just drop the issue and hope for her safety? how would THAT encourage more women to come forward?
    I, for one, want rape to stop being a problem (that is to say, to stop existing.) step one of this is changing people’s attitudes so that no one thinks it’s ok.
    and part one of step one means making it clear it’s a crime. and that means prosecuting every single rapist, every single time. allowing a rapist to get away because he or his buddies try to intimidate a witness is far off course.

    does this mean that the people who made the threats should get off scott free? hell no. they’re quite guilty of witness tampering, and should be prosecuted accordingly (and for all we know, they are.)
    but it is NOT ok to back down from a charge out of fear. after all, “if we do that, the terrorists win” or whatever.

    yes, I do realize that it’s unfair. as a victim, you end up with a boatload of responsibilities that you didn’t have before, and don’t want, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re there. if you want to blame anyone for this, don’t blame the judges or laws that require you to be in court to testify and such, blame the perpetrator, since he is, after all, the one that made you a “victim” in the first place, and therefore handed you the responsibilities of a “victim.”

  9. 9
    Raznor says:

    But it’s unproductive to put a victim in contempt of court if she/he won’t testify out of fear. It already took a brave act to press charges, and what the judge did could make rape victims in general less likely to press charges, because to do so would merely make things more difficult.

    And, moreso, you seem to imply that the cause of Justice is more important than the individuals which Justice deems to serve. The purpose of the courts is not merely to ensure that perpetrators are punished, but to protect the victims. And throwing a victim in jail does nothing to protect her.

    And the fact of the matter is that even if the judge does put the victim in witness protection, we have to realize that such protections are too often insufficient to actually protect the victim. Lesley already noted this fact and Trish noted a specific case that would suggest that the woman had plenty of cause for fear in case of testifying.

    Sure the only legal answer would be to declare a mistrial and the perpetrator walks off. I don’t find this to be a beneficial circumstance, but it’s not so much less preferential than jailing the victim.

  10. 10
    karpad says:

    acutally, I’m not implying it. I’m saying it flat out.
    criminal justice has no application to individuals. criminal justice is about society. as the rape laws apply, they are for detering rapists, and, when they fail that, punishing and removing the offender from society so they cannot do further harm. it is in no way intended to make the lives of victims better, but to prevent non-victims from becoming so in the first place.
    I realize how callous that sounds. personally, I don’t agree that it should be the only function of justice, but as the law stands now, criminal justice has nothing to do with the wishes of the individual.
    and as callous as it sounds, if putting this woman in jail for 5 days means that the rapist is punished, both removing his threat of further rapes, and to demonstrate rape is not tolerated (deterence) I approve of the course of action.
    if there is a way those results can be reached without hurting the victim along the way, well great.

    I perhaps find it curious that one would take this position on rape, but not on any other crime.
    if you witness a bank robbery, and the community threatens you to not be a snitch, you have the right to wait for the prosecution to offer protection, but it is wholly immoral to refuse to testify.
    it applies just as much, perhaps moreso to rape, because while everyone accepts bank robbery as a crime, some like to legitimize rape, which means that when the crime is reported, one has the duty to follow through with more vigor, as those who hold that opinion need their minds changed. and nothing changes folks mind on the illegality of an act like having an aquaintence arrested and imprisoned for doing so.

    she got a bum deal for being placed in that circumstance, but the blame here lies with the criminals involved, not the judge or the prosecutors.

  11. 11
    PinkDreamPoppies says:

    I guess I would need to know if witness protection was offered to the victim. Because if it was and if she didn’t accept it and if she did, then, refuse to testify then she should have been held in contempt of court and jailed. If she was not offered witness protection and was simply jailed, then the judge was, as Amp put it, an asshole.

    Regardless, her statement that herself and her children had been threatened needed to be taken seriously. Witness protection should have been offered before she was jailed for contempt. She should also be offered witness protection (again if she was offered it before, for the first time if she was not) after she has been released from prison.

    Justice should not serve just society any more than it should serve just the victim. Ideally, justice serves both the individual victim and society at large.

  12. 12
    karpad says:

    but we all know “should” and “do” are two very different things. it’s another discussion entirely whether or not justice “should” serve individuals. (I’d lean towards no, personally, just because it allows criminals with enough cash to buy their way out of trouble by simply offering blood money until the individual who was harmed doesn’t see it as a problem anymore. but that’s just my opinon)

    but yes, I think we’re all in agreement her statements of fear need to be taken seriously and looked into. pressing charges against those making the threats, for instance, would be a good start. personally, I’m inclined to think the judge offered protection (although probably not federal witness protection) in the first place because rape is a major case and if there’s even suspected witness tampering, that’s just so obvious it’s hard to believe it wouldn’t be offered.
    the story doesn’t make any mention one way or the other, so I’m inclined to think protection of some sort was offered simply because first day of judge school covers it so well (that would be “the day you learn about all the stuff you can make other people do”)

  13. 13
    Alex says:

    I’ve always wondered whether some judges start out like that or whether it happens when they first touch the bench…

  14. 14
    lucia says:

    But it’s unproductive to put a victim in contempt of court if she/he won’t testify out of fear.

    Yet, it worked. The woman has agreed to testify.

    Who knows? It’s even possible that her neighbors eased up on her now that she’s been to jail. Also, the neighbors must also now suspect she mentioned the names of those who threatened her to the police. If they come after her, the authorities will suspect them.

    Also, when the victim was thrown in jail, the story must have gotten plenty of local coverage. For all we know, other, non-threatening, neighbors read the story and are now watching out for her. Maybe, maybe not, but not impossible!

    I can’t say I approve of throwing victims in prison. Still, this is a situation where there are no good choices. I’m also not sure judges can order witness protection. Maybe the DA has to do that? The FBI? Does anyone actually know?

  15. 15
    Dan says:

    The government is more and more making noncooperative witnesses take the witness stand. Protective custody or witness protection may work, but given the propensity of the government to leak or misuse information, there needs to be a sure thing… perhaps give witnesses an obscene amount of money, make them sign a waiver, and make them responsible for their own disappearing act.

    Daniel Jaffe
    Arizona DUI Defense Lawyer
    Studnicki, Jaffe & Woods, PLLC
    Scottsdale, AZ


  16. 16
    dui victim says:

    I don’t think the goverment should be able to make anyone testify. If someone chooses not to testify that’s their right to do so. Not to mention, what kind of answer are you going to get off someone forced to say something and getting bullied by the courts… I smell purgatory…

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  18. 17
    M Ann says:

    I have to testify soon … this is exactly what im scared of!

  19. 18
    A. N. Grace says:

    I suppose you just have to have faith in the judicial system.
    The system could never have predicted the threats against the victim, and as it stood, she should have contacted the courts directly about her problem or even the emergency services (if she could not get out of the house). If she was prevented from doing either of these things then the court has no excuse to imprison her… however, she would need to prove this in a separate court case, if she was/is unable to do this then the law must punish her. The thing to remember is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and a therefore still innocent suspect has the same rights as the victim. This also means that both parties concerned with the allegations of being thretened have equal rights and it is the women not the accused that stands to lose more. Unless the law is expected to predict rare cases and occurances this issue cannot be solved.
    But i would urge anyone who wishes to report a rape to do so, and as soon as possible. It is possible the rapist will attack other people, or may be the culprit for a whole string of rapes and parhaps even murders. It is also possible to be a protected witness of some sort. Talk to your local police and see what options are avalible. Considering it is possible to revoke your allegations against someone, it can be assumed they won’t “listen” to anyting you say “officialy” but ask them about what options you have without giving them case details. You can then make up your mind, as far as they know you are just interested in how the law works.
    It is your choice, but the law is there to protect and not endanger for the sake of others, although sometimes they need reminding.
    Good luck :)