It seems that District Judge Jeanine Howard doesn’t know what constitutes rape in the state of Texas and perhaps she should step down from the bench for a while until she figures it out.
At least she has recused herself from one of the most absurd rulings regarding rape in modern memory. Good idea. Howard has been embroiled in a firestorm of controversy – and blasted by prosecutors — ever since she handed down a light sentence to an admitted rapist who sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl.
“She wasn’t the victim she claimed to be,” Howard said before sentencing Sir Young (pictured) to just 45 days in jail, 5 years of deferred probation and 250 hours of community service – at a rape crisis center.
Howard wants Young, an admitted rapist, to spend 250 hours working with women who are in crisis after being sexually assaulted? How is Young working at a rape crisis center helpful to these women and what kind of signal does that send to other potential rapists?
“We all read it and we’re like, wait a minute,” Bobbie Villareal, executive director of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center told the Dallas Observer. “It flies in the face of logic,” Villareal told the local CBS station.
“First of all, in that you would ask someone to do their community supervision for the population that has been directly affected by the exact crime. That’s like saying a pedophile should do their community supervision helping at a pre-school.”
I feel bad for the 14-year-old rape victim because Howard essentially accused her of asking to be raped, even though Young admitted that he raped the girl in a music room at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts on Oct. 4, 2011. He faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. How much more information did Howard need?
Here’s something more troubling: Howard actually told the media — The Dallas Morning News — that medical records show that the 14-year-old victim had three previous sexual partners and had given birth before the sexual assault. (The girl’s mother denies her daughter has ever been pregnant.)
This rape victim, who is now 17, is a minor and Howard callously shared the details of her alleged past sexual relationships with the media – and the nation.
Regardless, no still means no. In court, the victim testified that she only wanted to kiss Young, and had told him “no” and “stop” during the attack. But Howard didn’t seem to be swayed.
“There are rape cases that deserve life. There are rape cases that deserve 20 years,” Howard told the Dallas Morning News. “Every now and then you have one of those that deserve probation. This is one of those and I stand by it.”
The victim told a local television station that she was devastated by the sentencing.
“I was shocked that a judge, someone that I trusted with this case, would go behind my back, would go and find records and make these allegations that she knows nothing about,” she said.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who is correctly outraged by Howard’s ruling, told the Associated Press that his prosecutors would ask the new judge to order a review of Young’s probation and possibly tighten the conditions.
Watkins also said Howard’s ruling also makes other victims reluctant to help authorities.
“The judge basically blamed the victim for what happened to her,” Watkins told the Associated Press. “In this case, when a victim comes forward and the person that they put their trust in — the judge — calls into question their credibility … does a disservice to our ability as prosecutors,” he said.
Meanwhile, according to The Dallas Morning News, Young will still have to register as a sex offender but he will not face many of the other restrictions given to such offenders. He won’t be required to keep away from children and will not have to attend sex offender treatment or refrain from pornography.
Judge Howard did the right thing by recusing herself from the case and Watkins is spot-on by scrutinizing Howard’s ruling in an effort to protect young girls who may become sexual assault victims in the future.
What do you think?