Monday, October 4, 2010

Stories Like These Highlight the Egregious Failure of American Justice

I am not an enormous fan of our (American) penal system. I've written about it before. The reality is we spend billions of dollars putting non-violent, low-level "criminals" behind bars.

And just when I think the penal system can't get any more embarrassing, any more horrifying - I read this.

In case you don't want to read the article - in 2005, a 15-yr-old girl was scheduled to make an appearance in court. She had been physically assaulted, but it wasn't her attacker on trial. She was for lying to police about knowing who had harmed her. While at the court house, this girl was handcuffed and escorted by one Tony Simmons, a court counselor. Instead of going to the courtroom, Tony Simmons headed to the basement and then raped her.

She wasn't his only victim. Tony Simmons has raped multiple young women. These are teenagers who've already been failed by the system, probably in multiple ways. They already fear authority figures, so it was probably easy for Tony Simmons to take advantage of that fear and victimize them further.

Tony Simmons is a serial rapist who raped at least three young women in the courthouse. He's probably raped more women and girls than that.

And his punishment? Nothing. He will not see a jail cell. Even if he had been found guilty and faced the stiffest penalty, guess how many years he could have faced in prison? One to three. Three years. Here in California, if you are found with a few ounces of cocaine three times in a row, expect a mandatory 15-yr sentence!

But If you are a juvenile counselor in New York, you get a free pass for raping multiple teenage girls in the courthouse. Sit in Cassandra Mullen's courtroom and you'll get a state-approved stamp of endorsement!

And if you are found guilty of lying about who assaulted you in an unrelated case, expect to serve 12-months in prison. That's what the aforementioned 15-yr-old endured.

Let me recap: Rape multiple, already abused teenage girls = free pass.
Lie to police = year in jail.


I blame....
#1 Cassandra Mullen. She doesn't even deserve "judge"in front of her name. She actually suggested and encouraged a plea deal of 10 years probation and register as a sex offender. Probation and a registry? I did not know it was a judge's duty to get rapists probation. Who knew!
#2 The District Attorney. Or, rather, the DA Cyrus Vance's assistant who did not object to the plea deal proposed. Which again, in case you forgot, was probation. For ten years. I was unaware that prosecutors were supposed to make life super easy for serial rapists!
#3 A rape culture that creates such an aura of fear that young women who are sexually violated by those in authority are too fucking petrified to speak up. And when they do, big fat fail for how we choose to prosecute the perp and view the victims.

And of course, I blame Tony Simmons, but he's not coming close to receiving the justice his victims deserve. That all of us, as a society that SHOULD criminalize rape more than drug use, deserve.

My heart goes out to Tony Simmons' victims. I hope they have been able to find the strength to love themselves and find love and good in others. I'm sorry they even have to find that strength - they shouldn't ever have to. I'm so sorry that our system and culture and world has failed them so miserably. They deserved protection and compassion and love, and instead they were raped by someone who was supposed to protect them, by a judge who was supposed to dole out justice not probation to a rapist, and a prosecutor who is supposed to fight for, not against the victims.

-Marji Beach

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