Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What If?

In a thought provoking post at Lew Rockwell, Professor William Anderson asks, “What If Evans, Finnerty & Seligmann Had Been Black?”
"Throughout the Duke non-rape case, blacks (and some whites) in Durham have repeatedly asked the same question: What if the three white Duke lacrosse players charged with rape had been black athletes at nearby North Carolina Central University? For the most part, the standard answer has been that they already would have been railroaded into a conviction or would be languishing in jail, unable to post bond."

"Yet, given the history of athletes and rape charges, I have serious doubts about the standard answer, and I believe that we need to examine this question up front, as opposed to making speculations. Granted, the Duke 3 are white and no blacks have been charged in this case, so one can argue that I only am speculating, but I think there is a recent history of similar charges that can provide at least a partial roadmap to see what might have happened."

"It is my opinion that had the accuser in the Duke case made such charges against black athletes, the case would have developed much differently than it has for one important reason: the black community of Durham would have demanded that District Attorney Michael Nifong pay attention to the huge amount of exculpatory evidence that exists – instead of trying to explain it away with half-truths or outright conspiracy theories. Nifong does not even have to acknowledge that such evidence exists because the most influential and politically powerful blacks in Durham demand that it be ignored." more

While Professor Anderson offers a compelling argument for his conclusion, our intention is neither to second nor take exception to his presentation. With so many factors, and factions, enabling the Hoax, we find it difficult to answer in full the question he poses. There is, however, a precedent in Durham that may offer some clues to the “What if?” proposed.

In January of 2001, an NCCU student reported that she was raped and assaulted by as many as 17 men at what appears to have been an off-campus party. While several similarities exist, response from the police, the District Attorney, the media, the University, other students, and the community appears to have been strikingly different, in many ways, than it has been for the Hoax. In part, this may be due to the absence of the divisive elements of race and class. In fairness, it may also be due to the short duration of the case in the spotlight.

The initial News and Observer report, dated January 16, 2001 read as follows:

A student at N.C. Central University reported that she was picked up on campus Saturday, taken to another location and raped by as many as 16 males, Durham police said.

The student reported the incident at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, said Cpl. R.C. Spivey, a Durham police spokesman. The student told police that three males picked her up in a car, then took her to a place where another 11 to 13 males forced her to have sex.

It was unclear what time the incident occurred or whether she entered the car voluntarily, Spivey said. The student couldn't describe any of the suspects or the car in which she rode.

NCCU police, however, say the student knew the people who picked her up. Chief McDonald Vick said they were not affiliated with the university. He declined to comment further, saying the allegation is being investigated by Durham police.

The student was treated at Duke Hospital and released.

The following day, the N&O’s Jen Gomez reported that two suspects had already been arrested.

Police have charged 21-year-old identical twins in the alleged gang rape of an N.C. Central University student, who apparently met the men months earlier during a chance encounter in an online chat room for college students.

Nathan Rouson and Quincy Nathaniel Rouson, both of 2528-A S. Roxboro St., Durham, were charged Sunday with second-degree rape and crime against nature. They remained in the Durham County jail Tuesday night, each under a $100,000 bond.

Police are still looking for as many as 15 other people in the alleged attack, but authorities say they have no solid leads.

We talked with both (suspects), who haven't provided names of the other suspects," said Cpl. R.C. Spivey, a Durham police spokesman. Authorities hope that news of the arrests will prompt others to come forward.

Understandably, news of the attack was concerning for students and administrators at NCCU. The Chronicle reported:

North Carolina Central University students and administrators have been stirred to reconsider personal safety after an 18-year-old NCCU student reported that she had been sexually assaulted by as many as 17 men in an incident earlier this month.

"It's a wake-up call to people everywhere, not just at N.C. Central, Duke and Durham, but people everywhere," said NCCU senior Erica Wright.

On the night of Jan. 12, the victim allegedly left campus with twin brothers Nathan and Quincy Rouson, whom she had known for about a month. She said she was raped by the brothers, neither of whom are NCCU students, and as many as 15 other men, though she only filed charges against the Rouson brothers.

"It makes you feel like you can't walk to the cafeteria by yourself...There's a little [tension] going on," sophomore Rashad Holman said.

Angela Terry, vice chancellor for student affairs at NCCU, said her division, as well as various other campus groups, held informational programming in response to the alleged rape. Student Affairs, for example, hosted three town-hall style meetings focused on different women's groups needs on campus.

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The N&O also focused on campus safety concerns:

About 150 students, most of them women, attended a meeting Tuesday night organized by campus security and the office of student affairs to discuss the incident. Some were angry that NCCU Police Chief McDonald Vick and other administrators wouldn't provide them with more details about how the alleged attack happened.

"We're trying to get the information so that it doesn't happen to us, and y'all won't give us the information," said Shanna K. Heard, a sophomore.

Vick told the students that the university could not "go into detail, because this is probably going to end up in court."

Additional details of the allegations were also reported immediately by the N&O:

According to the victim's roommate, the 18-year-old woman - who has left campus and returned home - had known the suspects for some time. The woman and the two men had met online through CollegeClub.com, a Web site where students nationwide can chat and get free e-mail accounts, the roommate said.

One of the suspects, whom she knew as "Dennis or Derrick" picked her up at her dorm and took her to the twins' Roxboro Street apartment about 11:30 p.m. Friday, police said. She was asked to go to the bedroom, where "Dennis and Derrick" allegedly raped her, according to a search warrant.

Then, about 15 other men are alleged to have assaulted the victim, according to police. Afterward, police said, the young woman was taken back to campus. She reported the incident at 3:13 a.m. Saturday to campus police. They called in the Durham police since the incident occurred off campus.

The woman was able to locate the apartment where the alleged incident occurred after a campus police officer drove her around the area. "She was able to ID the suspects," Vick said.

Investigator W.L. Early of the Durham Police Department interviewed the woman at Duke Hospital about 4:20 a.m. Saturday. About 2:40 a.m. Sunday, police served a search warrant at the Roxboro Street apartment. They seized a 12-gauge shotgun, condoms, condom wrappers, four shotgun shells, bed linen, counterfeit money and several empty condom boxes.

Vick said the incident highlights the need for students to be extra careful when they are socializing.

"Even though no place is safe now, you have to realize you can't trust people you don't know," Vick said. "You need to get to know these people before going out."

Despite immediate arrests in the case, the Durham police spokesman/head of CrimeStoppers added to the campus panic by misinforming the public that the suspects, reportedly strangers, were still at large. Internal miscommunication was quickly blamed for the error.

On Monday, Cpl. R.C. Spivey. a Durham police spokesman who heads the CrimeStoppers program, told reporters that no one had been arrested and that there were no suspects because the victim couldn't identify any of them.

Spivey said Tuesday he had only the initial police report to go on because he couldn't contact the investigator, W.L. Early, who was off Monday and did not return pages.

Early referred questions about the lapse in communication to his superiors Tuesday, simply saying: "I made an arrest."

"Top Durham police officials were left in the dark when an officer arrested two men early Sunday in the alleged gang rape of a N.C. Central University student when someone failed to notify the top brass."

"As 21-year-old identical twins sat behind bars in the Durham County jail Monday, police were spreading news of the incident - but not the arrests - spurring concern among students about walking alone on campus."

"Tuesday morning, top police officials learned of the arrests and blamed a "communication glitch" for the failure to quickly release information that Nathan Rouson and Quincy Nathaniel Rouson, both of 2528-A S. Roxboro St., had been charged."

"I think it would have rested a whole lot more peacefully in the minds of the community had we forwarded that information initially (Monday)," said Maj. George Hare, a police spokesman. "We were disappointed that the arrest had been made and we missed an opportunity to notify the public."

"Initial police reports, which gave the impression that the student had been abducted by strangers from campus, only fueled a sense of panic among students. Those who returned from the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend and had just heard about the incident still voiced concern for their safety Tuesday."

The following day, the suspects were interviewed by the News & Observer while in custody and professed their innocence.

"Meanwhile, in separate interviews Wednesday at the Durham County jail, the 21-year-old twins professed their innocence of the rape charges.

"Any females that know me know I wouldn't take anything from them," Quincy Rouson said. "I wouldn't rape them."

"An 18-year-old NCCU student told police that one of the Rouson brothers picked her up at her dormitory Friday night and took her to the apartment where she was assaulted by the brothers and as many as 15 other men.

"In Wednesday's interviews, Nathan Rouson acknowledged he and a friend had sex with the woman, whom the twins said they had met on a prior occasion, but he said the sex was consensual.

"I just wish she'd tell the truth and say what happened," Nathan Rouson said. "She said it was 17 guys, but there were only five to six guys at the house."

"They said there were a number of other men and women in the apartment but said the NCCU student had sex with at least three other men."

Within ten days, District Court Judge Marcia Morey dismissed the charges after the accuser declined to attend a probable cause hearing.

"Rape charges against the twin brothers arrested and charged with the alleged gang rape of a college student were dropped Friday when their accuser failed to show up at a probable cause hearing.

"After the twins' five-minute court appearance, District Court Judge Marcia Morey immediately ordered that Nathan Rouson and Quincy Nathaniel Rouson, 21, be released from the Durham County jail, where they had been held for two weeks with their bails set at $50,000 each.

"Even though the charges - second-degree rape and crimes against nature - were dropped, the case might not be closed.

"District Attorney Jim Hardin said his office will try to persuade the student, a freshman at N.C. Central University, to pursue the charges. He hopes she will decide to do so after news media coverage of the incident dies down, he said. An indictment also could be submitted to a grand jury. "

To the best of our knowledge, the case never went before a Grand Jury. It appears as well that there was no public outcry against the unsavory practices of possession of fire arms, possession of counterfeit money, and luring women to off campus parties. No candle light vigils were held, no pots banged, no websites were started by community leaders to support the accuser, no wanted posters were issued for the additional alleged assailants, and no one was chastised for hiring attorneys. In fact, while concern for campus safety was raised, reaction to the allegations by her fellow students was at times critical of the accuser.

Many students said that they already understand basic safety guidelines, and while they did not explicitly blame the victim for being raped, they said she acted unwisely.

"Actually the girl went willingly with the guys. We all know better than to go out alone at night," said NCCU junior Tamisha Robinson, adding that the university offers police escorts and buses to students who do not feel safe at night.

Junior Dorvitta Edwards speculated that the victim dropped charges because she realized she was at fault.

District Attorney Hardin was also, in stark contrast to DA Nifong, quite candid about the merits of the case.

"Our obligation is to find out the truth, and right now, we don't feel we know what the truth is," Hardin said.

Hardin said in a statement that there was conflicting information regarding the number of alleged assailants and the nature of the circumstances.

"Medical information obtained in the investigative process is inconclusive as to whether a sexual assault was committed against the female person reporting the crime," the statement added.

An investigation, however, did show that the student had sexual relations with Quincy Rouson and Nathan Rouson, Hardin said.

Authorities have known for some time that the student would not be willing to cooperate with prosecutors, but prosecutors were hopeful she would change her mind.

"As serious as these charges are, we were holding out for some hope that she would decide to be there," Hardin said.

Perhaps the best example of the difference between the reaction to the two cases can be found in the words of N&O columnist Barry Saunders. Towards the Duke lacrosse team, Mr. Saunders was quick to point a finger.

"Lord, they were actually going to play the match Saturday.

"Let that roll around in your head for a bit.

"Even though some members of Duke University's lacrosse team have thus far only been accused of raping, kidnapping and sodomizing a young woman hired to entertain them at a party, evidence that something wrong -- at the least underage drinking -- had occurred there was as strong as the smell of the bourbon in the bottle I found on the side of the house. That should've been enough to postpone at least a couple of games and reintroduce the students to Duke's purported mission." more

"Odds are they're now wrapped in the protective legal cocoon of mumsy's and popsy's attorneys, being drilled in the art of self-preservation.

"Wanna bet they're somewhere scratching their helmeted heads going, "What? All of this support for a stripper? An exotic dancer? Who'd have thought people would get so worked up over a little boys-will-be-boys horseplay? Gosh, she's a stripper, dude, and we're, we're ... well -- you know who we are."

"Whether or not some players raped, sodomized and choked the young lady while others stood by earlier this month will be determined in court.

"It's obvious, though, that something dirty took place in there.

"More than a week has passed since the party and since police finally went inside to gather evidence of a crime. A cleanup has occurred and a coverup is under way: the bags of empty beer cans have been hauled away, and one of those yellow, industrial
mop buckets sits inside.

"Despite the occupants' efforts to tidy up, though, the joint is still a mess. The back and side yards remain littered with beer cans and empty whiskey and MD 20/20 wine bottles.

"Imagine that. These are the dudes the lacrosse coach praised, even after they'd marched into police headquarters to give up DNA to determine if three were rapists, as mature, responsible men." more

Without the mocking tone directed toward the lacrosse team, and while dismissing the gravity o counterfeiting and weapons charges (apparently underage drinking and littering charges while white are sinister in comparison) with a figurative shrug of the shoulder, Mr. Saunders expresses considerable empathy as he rues the plight of the stigma they will carry with them for having been accused.

"Sometime this morning, Nathan and Quincy Rouson are expected to stroll out of the Durham County jail.

"They'll find their mother, brother and other joyous family members waiting for them.

"What they won't find waiting for them, though, is exoneration -- at least not in the eyes of the public. For the next several months, possibly years, they will be pointed at and whispered about as the men who, along with 15 of their buddies, raped a college student.

"Never mind the fact that the young woman who accused the 21-year-old twins of raping her is not pursuing the case and the District Attorney's Office will release them -- unless the FBI seeks to hold them on unrelated counterfeit-moolah charges.

"Under the law, they are innocent. But in the real world, they will reside in that purgatory between "not guilty" and "just got off the hook."

"I saw the two dudes' pictures in the paper. I'm not saying they looked guilty, but let's face it. It's hard to look innocent when your mug shot is splashed on television or in the paper in connection with some horrific story.

"As someone who has danced to the jailhouse rock a few times, I know how the cops like to roust you from a holding cell at 3 a.m., drag you into some fluorescently lit room and snap your picture before you're able to adjust your eyes or comb your hair. And not once has a jailhouse photog acceded to my request that he "shoot my good side."

"Tracy Cline, the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, said the woman declined to pursue the case "because you guys hounded her to death." If you believe that, you believe that the woman was so mortified by the intense journalistic interest in the story that she decided to withdraw charges rather than face the unwanted exposure.

"If that's the reason for her decision, I apologize, because that means she has been the victim of another injustice. If there's some other reason the case was dropped, though, the Rouson brothers are the real victims of an injustice because they have been denied their day in court and a chance to clear their names.

"But I can comprehend what it's like to be accused of such a crime. A rape occurred in Rockingham the summer I turned 16, and, as usual, I was brought in as a prime suspect. Fortunately for me, I was 376 miles away -- I often "summered" in Washington during my youth - when the crime occurred. For weeks afterward, I contemplated carrying a sign reading, "I wasn't even in town."

"Too bad everyone cleared of a crime can't carry one."


Additional Sources Not Linked Above:

- "NCCU student tells of gang rape" The News & Observer - 01/16/2001

- "2 charged in attack on NCCU student" The News & Observer - 01/17/2001

- "Police late in giving word of arrests after incident" The News & Observer 01/17/2001

- "Fake bills found in rape suspects' home" The News & Observer 01/18/2001

- "NCCU students want safety improvements" The News & Observer 01/20/2001

- "NCCU student says she won't pursue rape charges" The News & Observer 01/24/2001

- "Rape charges against 2 men are dropped " The News & Observer 01/27/2001

- "Injustice is no day in court" The News & Observer 01/26/2001

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ammons wants out of town...

Anonymous said...

Good Lord! N&O columnist Barry Saunders (who is black) apparently uses race-based standards in his reporting. Sympathy for accused black men, contempt for accused white men.

Different standards for different races...let's call it what it is...
Pure Racism.

Amazing this hasn't surfaced til now. Saunders should be held accountable.

Great column LieStoppers.

War Eagle

kbp said...

Thanks Liestoppers

While Saunders wrote in a manner that hinted the Rouson twins deserved a presumption of innocence, the absense of an opportunity to prove such was a topic touched on also.

The trend in the media to turn the tables and lead readers to the idea that the accused should prove their innocence certainly allows the public to overlook poor investigations for any actual evidence of guilt.

Anonymous said...

What if?...... a N.C. Congressman asked the federal A.G. to look into the Hoax a few days before the next hearing ? LOL Merry Cristmas D.A. Nifong !

Anonymous said...

1:17 pm must be a mind reader. The Feds have been asked by NC Congressman.
http://www.newsobserver.com/1185/story/520626.html

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am still confused.... what evidence , other than a drug addicted slut making an accusation, does the DA have against the Duke Three? This is a lot of publicity for a case of underage drinking?
Forensic evidence anyone?

Anonymous said...

I live in Raleigh and have worked in Durham City and County for the last 30 years.

Nifong is the fever, Golieb is the rash, DURHAM IS THE DISEASE.

Sad to say, but we've lifted the rock one more time and looked under. Don't like what we see. That's Durham. And tell me why parents are willing to spend $40,000 per year to send their kids to Duke? Unbelievable........

John said...

As a former ADA, I choke on the thought of Mr. Hardin's inability to fire the entire staff of Mr. "Nifong's Office." Each criminal prosecutor is charged with the ethical duty to do justice. This includes opposition to a Fuerer's dictates to persecute innocents without legitimate cause. Whether or not there is only acquiescence to the Hoax, mere silence by an ADA leaves the appearance of impropriety. (see Nurenburg) Yet it appear cruel to those ADAs who only sat and watched, restoration of public legitimacy mandates that they seek a path that teaches them that silence can be a lethal weapon against the innocent.

Yes, I'm soundly moralizing, but only because I think Mr. Hardin has wax in his ears.