Wendy McElroy on Prosecutorial Grandstanding in Rape Cases

Wendy McElroy wrote an excellent article about a disturbing dichotomy in accusations of rape — while the name of the alleged victim rarely appears, prosecutors face no compunction about grandstanding to humiliate the alleged assailant even before the completion of an investigation.

The focus of McElroy’s piece is the outrageous behavior of Paradise Valley, Arizona, police in announcing the day before the Fiesta Bowl that a woman had filed a complaint of rape against Kansas State quarterback Ell Roberson. As McElroy writes,

No charge had been filed: no arrest made, then or now. Roberson denied the accusation leveled against him mere hours before, early THursday morning. The Paradise Valley police simply “outed” an accused rapist before completing an investigation. The process of how police departments deal with sexual assault accusations should be overhauled.

The police seemed to knowingly inflict damage on Roberson with little evidence to do so. Lt. Ron Warner reportedly told journalists that there was “no supporting evidence, no witnesses, no physical injuries” surrounding the alleged rape. “We have two opposing descriptions of what happened,” he concluded. Paradise Valley Police Chief John Wintersteen subsequently explained, “the investigation is not done.” Medical tests on the accuser had not returned when Roberson’s name hit TV< nor were they expected until early next week.

In fact, the Paradise Valley police later concluded that the rape accusation was unfounded and declined to press charges against Roberson. That announcement, of course, did not receive nearly the same coverage or speculation that the original announcement.

McElroy notes this seems to be the rule lately with celebrity prosecutions. Someone in the Colorado District Attorney’s office produced inflammatory T-shirts related to the Kobe Bryant prosecution, while Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon seems to think he’s doing an off-Broadway one-man review every time he talks about the Michael Jackson case. As McElroy concludes her piece,

As it stands, those who prosecute rape allegations are losing credibility. A legal system that mongers gossip to the media before concluding investigations, that prints humorous T-shirts about defendants and uses press conferences for comic relief does not engender trust in justice. It is a threat to justice in-and-of itself.


Prosecutor grandstanding undermines justice. Wendy McElroy, IFeminists.Net, January 6, 2004.

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