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Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* This could be a good idea

[Rep. Frank Mautino] is backing legislation to protect victims of sexual abuse by expanding prosecutors’ ability to file charges against alleged rapists.

The measure calls for lengthening the statute of limitations in rape cases. Currently, the statute of limitations begins once the crime is committed. Under the bill Mautino supports, the clock on the statute of limitations would not begin until the evidence from the rape is collected, transmitted and analyzed by the Illinois State Police.

“Sexual assaults are hideous crimes that can leave victims traumatized for the rest for their lives. Their emotional pain is made worse when their attackers can’t even be arrested and held accountable,” Mautino said. “Victims must be given every opportunity to see their attackers brought to justice.”

* Again, that’s all well and good, but first you gotta get prosecutors to bring charges. The Belleville News-Democrat looked at the 32-county southern Illinois region and found some shocking stats

(T)housands of women, teenage girls and children in a 32-county area of Southern Illinois told police they were sexually violated by someone they trusted: a friend, an ex-boyfriend or a family member.

Authorities did not prosecute seven out of 10 of these sex crime suspects from 2005-13, even though victims were able to identify their attackers 95 percent of the time, according to a Belleville News-Democrat investigation.

While national attention has focused on rape on college campuses and in the military, a review of more than 1,000 police reports and 15,000 pages of court records showed that failure to bring sex crime suspects to court was widespread throughout Southern Illinois during the nine-year period ending in 2013, the latest figures available. […]

    • Of 6,744 felony sex crimes reported to police across the region, 70 percent, or 4,721 cases, never made it to a courtroom. […]

    • The overall chance that a felony sex crime suspect would go to prison was one in 10. When suspects were prosecuted, the conviction rates generally ranged from 55 to 85 percent.

    • Some cities with the largest police departments and most investigators had the highest number of felony sex crimes reported but some of the lowest prosecution rates: East St. Louis, 7 percent, Carbondale, 8 percent and Belleville, 18 percent.

    • Women 18 or older accounted for 31 percent of sex crime victims, according to a review of 1,070 felony police investigative reports. But an analysis of court records showed that adults accounted for only 17 percent of sex crime prosecutions.

    • The prosecution rate of felony sex crimes in Madison County was more than double that in St. Clair County — 38 to 18 percent, respectively — even though they border one another and are nearly identical in population.

* AP

(C)onviction rates overall were relatively high for the cases that were prosecuted. Some experts suggest that means prosecutors are taking only cases they’re sure they can win.

“They do their work on a case-by-case basis — and their biases about what is a winnable case plays out over and over again, and the number of cases that don’t move forward just keep adding up,” said Rebecca Campbell, a professor at Michigan State University’s Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence.

* The BND has published a long series on this topic. From another story

Of 62 felony sex crime cases from 2005-09 where local police departments in 18 Southern Illinois counties asked the State Police for help:

    • ISP investigated all of these cases and sent 34 to local prosecutors, who rejected 31 of them.

    • Of the 31 rejected cases, 26 involved victims younger than age 13.

    • In the three cases that were prosecuted, all involved a confession

* Another

Thomas W. Smith drove too fast, didn’t wear his seat belt and beat his wife. Details of his convictions for the traffic offenses and domestic battery are available at the Union County Courthouse for anyone to examine.

But a county judge ruled that his conviction in 2008 for raping an 11-year-old girl should be kept secret, despite provisions in the Illinois Constitution that generally protect juveniles but require court records to be open for adults charged or convicted of crimes.

In Union County, that wasn’t always the case.

At least 39 felony cases, most involving sex crimes, were removed from 2007-13 by court order. Even the circuit clerk’s computerized records, known as a manifest, that include the case number, defendant’s name and description of the crime were hidden from the public.

* Another

Campus police investigated 41 complaints of criminal sexual assault, or rape, and 11 allegations of felony sexual abuse from 2005-13 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, which has an enrollment of about 18,000 students.

Yet, only five of these 52 reported felony sex crimes, or 10 percent, ended up in a courtroom.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

32 Comments
  1. - Wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 11:59 am:

    The BND does some good investigative work.


  2. - Put the Fun in unfunded - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:02 pm:

    Sex assault is a horrible crime of violence. However, a police report does not necessarily mean a crime was committed. Based on the article, the Illinois State Police, who presumably don’t have the same stake in “only taking cases they can win”, rejected 45% of the cases themselves (only 34 of 62 were referred to prosecutors). That’s pretty high. There may also be other factors such as complainants not cooperating with prosecutors - without a complaining witness or with one who changes her/his story, very hard to proceed.


  3. - DuPage - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:02 pm:

    I think the judge was protecting the identity of the 11 year old victim.


  4. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:03 pm:

    A very well reasoned post, Rich. At least 95 schools are being investigated for potential violations of Title IX right now, the federal law that requires schools to adequately respond to cases of sexual assault on campus.

    At least 2 are in Illinois
    http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/01/13/3610865/title-ix-investigations/


  5. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:09 pm:

    === There may also be other factors===

    Please. Stop making excuses. Look at this line…

    ===In the three cases that were prosecuted, all involved a confession===

    Prosecutors are either in over their heads or they don’t care enough to try and make a case without a confession.

    The attorney general needs to step in here.


  6. - siriusly - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:10 pm:

    These types of cases should be pursued with the same resources and effort as murder and attempted murder. The people who commit these crimes are almost always repeat offenders and they must be stopped. Not enough resources, not enough effort.


  7. - JoanP - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:11 pm:

    “Under the bill Mautino supports, the clock on the statute of limitations would not begin until the evidence from the rape is collected, transmitted and analyzed by the Illinois State Police.”

    No, not okay. That’s outrageous. Setting a SOL based on when the police decide to act on a case is ridiculous.


  8. - Chris - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:13 pm:

    “I think the judge was protecting the identity of the 11 year old victim.”

    By hiding that her rapist was convicted of the crime? How does that work? Why not just seal the case file, but not the outcome?

    That said, with the draconian nature of the offender registry, I can understand a judge wanting to limit the effect of that *in a given case*.

    I do NOT understand that impulse wrt Thomas Smith, based on the facts of the case as presented in the article.


  9. - Chris - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:19 pm:

    @siriusly: “These types of cases should be pursued with the same resources and effort as murder and attempted murder. The people who commit these crimes are almost always repeat offenders and they must be stopped.”

    That actually militates in favor of treating sex crimes *more* seriously than (most) homicides–murder is less likely to be a repeat offense, outside of members of certain criminal organizations.


  10. - Judgment Day (on the road) - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:34 pm:

    “The measure calls for lengthening the statute of limitations in rape cases. Currently, the statute of limitations begins once the crime is committed. Under the bill Mautino supports, the clock on the statute of limitations would not begin until the evidence from the rape is collected, transmitted and analyzed by the Illinois State Police.

    “Sexual assaults are hideous crimes that can leave victims traumatized for the rest for their lives. Their emotional pain is made worse when their attackers can’t even be arrested and held accountable,” Mautino said. “Victims must be given every opportunity to see their attackers brought to justice.””
    ———–

    IMO, get concept, terrible in practice.

    Folks, how you going to fund it? You basically just made the statute of limitations “unlimited” if you pass this legislation.

    This is harsh, but there’s a reality here - we simply can’t afford to keep doing stuff like this. We can’t fund it.

    This looks to me like legislation that could encourage ‘revenge’ prosecutions with a virtually unlimited ‘tail’. IMO, not a good thing.


  11. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:40 pm:

    No one talks about one of the most common occurring forms of rape - prison rape. If we include male victims of rape, our numbers of rape cases double.

    Prisons are controlled environments. There are only so many of them. We have thousands of guards witnessing these crimes regularly. Rape has become an acceptable crime in these governmentally operated institutions.

    If our legislators wanted to really address this crime, then it should not be so limited as it is.

    If we address prison rape and end it, we will see a population of ex-felons not committing rape outside of prisons in the numbers we do now.

    It is time to stop being sexist about this crime.


  12. - MrJM - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:41 pm:

    “Prosecutors are either in over their heads or they don’t care enough to try and make a case without a confession.”

    Nationally, 97 percent of federal felony cases and 94 percent of state felony cases end in plea bargains, with defendants pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence.

    Rape cases don’t lend themselves to plea bargaining, i.e. defendants don’t want their lives ruined by the stigma of a sex-crime guilty plea, and victims who bravely come forward aren’t usually interested in letting their victimizers “get away with it”.

    The plea bargain is the prosecutor’s most powerful and often used tool.* And it’s nearly useless in rape cases.

    So, yeah, I’d say prosecutors who never to trial in more than nine-out-of-ten felonies are “in over their heads” when it comes to the trial of a rape case without a confession.

    – MrJM

    * http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/20/why-innocent-people-plead-guilty/


  13. - How Ironic - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:42 pm:

    @Judgment Day

    “This is harsh, but there’s a reality here - we simply can’t afford to keep doing stuff like this. We can’t fund it.”

    Nonsense. The same type of policy is in effect for murder. And yet, the republic still stands.

    What is a travesty is the fact that thousands of completed ‘rape kits’ sit in evidence lockers many for YEARS w/out being analyzed.

    Tell that to the mother, daughter, sister or friend that was brutally raped, that ’sorry…we just don’t have the cash’. As a society it’s our DUTY to ensure the cases are prosecuted.


  14. - anon - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 12:42 pm:

    The cases that fall between the cracks are not the cases with evidence sitting on the shelf. A typical case would be a situation where a child with separated/divorced parents share custody of a child and one parent brings forward a child who indicates something happened with the other parent last year…or two years ago. There is no physical evidence. Absent a confession you have one person’s word against another and a possible motive for one of the parent’s to coach the child. Most state’s attorneys won’t touch it.


  15. - MrJM - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 1:03 pm:

    And VanillaMan is, of course, correct about the willfully-ignored rape epidemic in America’s prisons, e.g. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/may/10/a-letter-on-rape-in-prisons/#fnr1-921270339

    – MrJM


  16. - Judgment Day (on the road) - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 1:09 pm:

    ““This is harsh, but there’s a reality here - we simply can’t afford to keep doing stuff like this. We can’t fund it.”
    —————
    Nonsense. The same type of policy is in effect for murder. And yet, the republic still stands.

    What is a travesty is the fact that thousands of completed ‘rape kits’ sit in evidence lockers many for YEARS w/out being analyzed.

    Tell that to the mother, daughter, sister or friend that was brutally raped, that ’sorry…we just don’t have the cash’. As a society it’s our DUTY to ensure the cases are prosecuted. ”
    ——————

    Well, I’m sure that works for you. But all those services involved with these sexual assault cases cost money. Not just for testing, but investigative services.

    Btw, talk to Counties (especially small ones) that have murder (capital offense) cases. Those cases are budget destroyers - literally. That helps drive plea bargaining.

    But there’s a harsh reality here - we don’t have enough money now, and we’re going to have LESS.

    So Mantino’s answer is “Let’s make the statute of limitations ‘unlimited’?. Frank needs to talk to his local law enforcement community. Might open his eyes to some very brutal fiscal realities.

    You seem to work in theory. I get to work in practice. You really need to think this proposed legislation through how it would work in every day life.

    Here’s reality: What are you going to give up doing in exchange for committing the resources to handle all these new ‘capital’ cases?

    You’re not going to get more resources. In fact, you already know you are going to get cuts. So what are you going to give up?

    In all honesty, looking at this proposal if enacted into law, I could see where law enforcement in general (the State’s Attorney’s in particular) will be running from this. This will just be bad news across the board for them.

    Sorry, this would be bad legislation in practice.


  17. - Put the Fun in unfunded - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 1:18 pm:

    “All involved a confession…” so did some of the John Burge cases. Not making excuses for anybody. All violent crimes should get serious prosecutorial attention, including those VanillaMan points out. But I’ve known many current and former ASAs who take/took their job seriously and I don’t think are biased nor would they just ignore cases. Information on why a large % weren’t referred for prosecution by the ISP is relevant to the discussion.


  18. - Ahoy! - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 1:38 pm:

    –However, a police report does not necessarily mean a crime was committed.–

    Very true and people are also innocent until proven guilty. However, the extremely low numbers of prosecution are alarming. If they are on par with other violent crimes that is one thing, but I’m going to guess this is an outlier and should be looked at more closely. If this is in fact an outlier, the State or possibly the feds if this is a common statistic should set up a due process system for victims.


  19. - Wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 1:39 pm:

    JD, how much money are you talking about here, in your concern regarding “funding?”


  20. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 1:41 pm:

    @JD:

    I realize that monetary concerns are going to shape decisions, but it disgusts me to think that money would be an excuse to ignore these cases. If they are being ignored because of money then somebody is doing a poor job of prioritizing cases.


  21. - DuPage - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 1:49 pm:

    @How Ironic12:42 =What is a travesty is the fact that thousands of completed ‘rape kits’ sit in evidence lockers many for YEARS w/out being analyzed.

    A lot of these are cases where the accused does not dispute they had sex, but claims it was consensual, in “he said/she said” type cases. It serves no purpose to test these. By skipping the unneeded ones, they can test the ones they need much faster.


  22. - How Ironic - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 1:54 pm:

    @DuPage:
    “A lot of these are cases where the accused does not dispute they had sex, but claims it was consensual, in “he said/she said” type cases. It serves no purpose to test these. By skipping the unneeded ones, they can test the ones they need much faster.”

    In a word, B$*&^%$T.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/how-many-of-the-uss-40000_b_5845052.html

    “…And yet, today, the Department of Justice estimates that there are more than 400,000 unprocessed rape kits in the United States.”

    How many of these (in your crystal ball) are ‘legitimate rapes’ Mr. Aiken?


  23. - Downstate Illinois - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 1:57 pm:

    I once had a sheriff put his arm around me and spew a line that all but included the cliched “boys will be boys” phrase in a case involving an older teen girl who was gangraped by three acquaintenances - boys who all had connections to Precinct Committeemen in his party. His chief deputy had already botched the investigation and the state’s attorney (same party) eventually talked her out of filing charges.

    I’m not surprised by the BND’s findings.


  24. - Retired Local Govt - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 2:09 pm:

    Perhaps part of the problem is that we elect our chief law enforcement officers (States Attorneys). Regardless of an individuals professionalism, they still must stand for reelection and a “losing” record could be used against them by their next opponent. IMO this is the reason for all the plea bargaining and may contribute to the very low prosecution rate of very difficult cases.


  25. - jerry 101 - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 2:18 pm:

    I’ve long felt that Campus Police forces exist to protect the administration, not the student body.

    The Clery Act requires colleges to report crime statistics and such. Controlling a police department allows administrations to control the crime reporting under the Clery act. Its also the reason why colleges try to encourage students to report sexual assault to college authorities, but not to the police.


  26. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 2:45 pm:

    ==“Let’s make the statute of limitations ‘unlimited’?==

    Credit Mautino for trying, but this is a big problem with the bill.


  27. - Guzzlepot - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 2:45 pm:

    @Retired Local Govt

    We don’t elect our US Attorneys or the US Attorney General, and yet they have higher rates of plea bargaining than the State AG and State’s Attorney’s Offices. IMHO I don’t think that going to an appointed State’s Attorney system would make much of a difference.


  28. - Judgment Day (on the road) - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 2:49 pm:

    “JD, how much money are you talking about here, in your concern regarding “funding?””
    ———-

    Varies. I remember a specific case in small central IL county (along I-57) where it was just starting trial and expenditures were already over $300k, and the inside estimate figured it would be $700k+ when done.

    That may not seem like much to you, for for those folks, that was a big deal. They had already spent more money on the case than they budgeted annually for the whole real estate tax cycle (assessment, extension, & collection), and the case was nowhere near finished.

    Now there were some reimbursements coming back, but that’s not much help when you have to spend the money first and then hope you get reimbursed. Eventually.

    And it was apparent that every single prosecution that occurred during that time period was effected by that ongoing capital case.

    That’s reality - you only got so much money. Where do you want to use the dollars?

    These aren’t isolated cases. That’s why there’s so much push for plea deals. And certainly before you have to go to court.

    There’s other spin-off effects. Remember, criminal justice at the County level comes out of the General (Corporate; Fund 001) Fund. One immediate effect is to force all the other special funds/special revenue funds (nursing home, GIS, health department, etc.) to all stand on their own - PERIOD. There’s lots of financial consequences.

    They really need to think this ‘expansion’ through. There’s ripple effects to doing this.


  29. - Judgment Day (on the road) - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 3:16 pm:

    “I realize that monetary concerns are going to shape decisions, but it disgusts me to think that money would be an excuse to ignore these cases. If they are being ignored because of money then somebody is doing a poor job of prioritizing cases.”
    ———–

    County government is not one dimensional (criminal justice only). Sometimes reality bites. Expanding the term on the potential prosecution of sexual assault cases to be virtually unlimited means that you have also (however inadvertently) expanded potential fiscal liabilities for those prosecutions into the future.

    Maybe this proposed legislation is more reason to pass the bankruptcy enabling legislation for local governments.


  30. - Tommydanger - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 4:09 pm:

    The proposed legislation and the paucity of prosecutions are related but nonetheless separate issues.

    I would go farther than Rep. Mautino and suggest there should be no SOL for sexual assaults. Consider that in addition to murder and treason that have no SOL, that forgery and arson have no SOL. If we care enough about people’s money and property to have no SOL, then we should be no less concerned about a person who was sexually assaulted.


  31. - siriusly - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 4:24 pm:

    @Chris 12:19
    Are you saying that we dedicate enough resources to investigating and prosecuting sex crimes? We do not. Sorry if you disagree with my murder comparison, but most places victims of sex crimes feel like police treat their accusations about as seriously as j-walking.

    So yes, I think murder is an appropriate comparison when talking about resources and effort we should use to catch and punish the offenders. We don’t do enough - which is why many men think they will get away with it. Prosecution is a deterrent, just having a law on the books is not.


  32. - Streator Curmudgeon - Tuesday, Feb 24, 15 @ 4:25 pm:

    Bill Cosby’s attorney claims that all allegations against Cosby must be false because the supposed victims waited so long before saying anything.

    The facts listed above may indicate why women don’t bring charges of rape as soon as the crime happens. Prosecutors don’t take them seriously enough.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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