Friday, March 10, 2006

UPDATE: The three defendants who were convicted a year ago for the videotaped sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl were each sentenced this afternoon to six years in prison.

Haidl, 20, faced as many as 18 years in prison, Spann 16, and Nachreiner 14. Nachreiner and Spann, both now 21, have been in custody since they were convicted. Haidl, Nachreiner and Spann will be required to register as sex offenders.

Pretty good deal for three guys who took turns raping a teenage girl with a pool cue, a Snapple bottle, and a cigarette. I suppose we should be glad they did not get off with just probation and community service.

YESTERDAY, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES had a piece about a brutal rape that took place four years ago. A 16-year-old girl was gang-raped by three 17-year-old boys (all of them known to her) while she lay unconscious on a pool table in one of the boys' homes, after having had too much to drink. We know everything that was done to her, because one of the boys videotaped the entire assault.

For a party in July 2002, skinny, fresh-faced Haidl gathered two teenage buddies and a 16-year-old restaurant hostess in the garage of his father's home. The girl drank too much, and according to descriptions of the video in court, the boys took turns on her limp body, using a pool cue, a cigarette and a Snapple bottle.

After two trials (the first ended in a mistrial), the jury found the defendants guilty of "sexual penetration." Today, at the sentencing hearing, the rape survivor had a chance to speak about the crime committed against her, and how it has affected her.

"They took away what were supposed to be the best years of my life and violated my body every way possible," said the woman, identified only as Jane Doe. "These men will never be punished to the extent they deserve."

She added: "A part of my soul will be lost forever."
The victim told Briseno [the judge] she had endured harassment as the defense mounted an aggressive campaign to discredit her. She said private investigators hounded her, and fliers materialized in her neighborhood identifying her by name.

Once, she said, a private investigator trapped her car at a sheriff's station and snapped pictures of her. When she switched schools to avoid harassment, her identity leaked out again.
The victim's statement this morning riveted the courtroom.

"I remember my mouth started burning while I was watching the video because it was so dry from hanging open in disbelief," the victim said. "I cannot and don't think I will ever be able to describe what I felt while watching that video. I remember asking myself, 'When did I become a piece of meat and not a human being to these men? How could any sane human do the things they did?' They did things not even a savage animal would do.

"They violated me in every way possible. As I watched that video, I remember feeling two distinct feelings. I remember becoming furious at the animals that were attacking me because no human could do such a thing. And I remember feeling my soul and inner being completely deteriorating. I was empty. They had now taken every last bit of who I was. I no longer felt human. I was like a lifeless and feeling less doll. I will be affected by their actions for the rest of my life.

"But I can live with that if I feel justice was served. With any luck, many years behind bars will give them plenty of time to think about what they did and maybe begin to feel at least some kind of remorse for their crimes."

Two of the attackers apologized to the victim at the hearing today; and maybe what they said was sincere and genuinely felt. But it's not enough. Obviously, nothing can compensate the young woman for what was done to her. But, as the right is so fond of saying, actions bring consequences -- and the price these young men pay for the devastation they caused to Jane Doe's life should be higher than simply their remorse.

For the survivor, there's still the fact that a jury, representatives of the legal system and of justice, chose to acquit the defendants of rape, thus implicitly telling the survivor that she is partly to blame for what happened to her. And she is not. She is not to blame for what three men she trusted did to her when she was unconscious and unable to fight back. No one consents to being sexually penetrated with a pool cue or a soda bottle or a lit cigarette.

Yet, despite the fact that the young woman was unconscious before the assault began; and despite the fact that her attackers violated her with foreign objects that are meant and guaranteed to harm and degrade, consent was still enough of an issue to kill the rape charge. Why? Because the prosecution argued successfully that the girl had accepted alcoholic beverages, because she was a "teenage restaurant hostess" (too sophisticated), because she was "promiscuous" (i.e., was not a virgin), and because she "wanted to be a porn star."

So there you have it. Girls who have "sexy" jobs, who talk about being a porn star, and who go to parties with boys and drink too much have given blanket lifetime consent to sexual intercourse with anyone, at any time, whether the guy uses his penis or a pool cue to do the deed.

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