Technicalities, Suppression, and Brokered Deals Disrupt Justice
July 16, 2021
Due process under law is one of the great rights we are afforded as American citizens. The discussion of policing, prosecution, and penalties is at an all-time high, and the legal basis for criminal prosecution is garnering unprecedented attention. Yet, time and again in our nation, the prosecution of sexual crimes and crimes against children, as well as the rights of victims and survivors, has been overlooked and misunderstood.
The recent release of Bill Cosby from prison was a blow to sexual assault victim’s rights advocates and a gut shot to many survivors. The revelation that his due-process rights had been violated through a technicality does not exonerate Cosby of wrongdoing; it only suggests that the legal basis for his prosecution could be overturned. However, a man convicted by a jury of his peers walks free. This case has received a lot of public attention due to Cosby’s celebrity status, much like the Jeffrey Epstein case, arrest, and death in prison.
Despite the heinous circumstances and information revealed in Mr. Epstein’s last arrest, it is his indictment in 2007 and plea deal in 2008 that is so incredibly concerning. As reported by the Washington Post, “Federal prosecutors detailed their findings in an 82-page prosecution memo and a 53-page indictment, but Epstein was never indicted. In 2007, Acosta signed a non-prosecution deal in which he agreed not to pursue federal charges against Epstein or four women who the government said procured girls for him. In exchange, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to a solicitation charge in state court, accept a 13-month sentence, register as a sex offender and pay restitution to the victims identified in the federal investigation.”
At the time there was enough evidence, witnesses, and testimony to charge and convict Mr. Epstein for numerous counts with minimal penalties of 10 years, instead, he was able to work out of his prison cell six days a week and travel to an office unsupervised for the entirety of his 13-month sentence.”
In 2007 and 2008, there was more than enough evidence, witnesses, and testimony to charge and convict Mr. Epstein for numerous counts of sexual assault with minimal penalties of 10 years. However, he was able to work in prison six days a week, and travel to an office unsupervised for the entirety of his mere 13-month sentence. The identified victims who filed the complaints leading to Mr. Epstein’s indictment only found out about the deal when it was too late to contest it; they were never consulted by the prosecution. Once released, Mr. Epstein returned to the commercial sexual exploitation of children until his subsequent arrest and death.
Similarly, Larry Nassar, the now-disgraced former USA Gymnastic national team doctor, was arrested and sentenced to consecutive life sentences only recently, despite the numerous reported accusations, red flags, and victim and parent testimony to law enforcement and institutions for nearly 20 years. Additionally, in a now completed and released report, it was found that even when there was significant reports and evidenced submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the lack of investigation and action allowed a situation where “Nassar continued working with athletes for more than a year while the investigation languished. The report said that ‘according to civil court documents, 70 or more young athletes were allegedly sexually abused under the guise of medical treatment’ during that time. However, an attorney for survivors said Nassar molested at least 120 more women and children.”
The sheer magnitude of victims stunned the nation already on the leading edge of the #MeToo movement, but the damage from gross negligence of systems spanning states and time was already done.
While the cases of Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, and Larry Nassar are notorious and have come to the public light only after the last few years, they are endemic of a system that doubts survivors and favors ease of prosecution. These three cases are a drop in the proverbial bucket of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and commercial sexual abuse cases in our nation. Much like the conversation of racial bias in policing and prosecution, we still have a long, long way to go for the greater public and legal systems to understand the neurobiology of trauma in children and the credibility of survivors of sexual assault and abuse. With increased education and exposure, we can change public perception and the way cases are investigated and prosecuted, removing barriers and allowing for adequate legal representation for victims.
One of the regular questions we get from a community perspective when detailing the investigations we support is: “Do children have to testify in court?” and the answer to that is: yes. The follow-up question is usually, “Well, what if they are 5- or 6-years-old?” And the answer is still: yes. “What if the alleged abused is a family member, or a parent?” Yes.
It is often that because of all of these “yes” answers, when a family or child is asked if they want to continue with prosecution, the answer is “no.”
In a time when we are discussing the full extent of the law, legal process, due process, investigations, and prosecution as a country and a community we should also be asking: how are victims of crime being represented? Are they being represented enough? In the public eye, we are often seeing that the answer to that is “no.” What about outside of the public eye? How many more instances of abusers walking free on technicalities are there? How many more reports are going uninvestigated? How many more deals are being made without the voice of the survivor involved?
At Children’s Cove, we work collaboratively with multidisciplinary partners to ensure that children have a voice that is heard. We work to empower survivors and support them in finding the healthiest outcome in their lives. At times, this comes at the expense of seeing the individuals who abused or exploited them receiving a fitting consequence for their actions. Other times we do see it. For all these instances, it is a long and difficult process for survivors.
We can do better for justice.