Posted October 19, 2018, 10:09 am CDT
Four women are asking the Utah Supreme Court to appoint a special prosecutor to pursue their sexual assault allegations after the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office declined to bring charges.
The women are basing their request on a state constitutional provision that authorizes the appointment of a special prosecutor when a county attorney fails to prosecute “according to law,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
“The plight of these victims is hardly unique,” their Oct. 16 petition says. “In this country today, an intense debate is raging about how women who have been raped or sexually assaulted can make themselves believed by a criminal justice system that all too often seems ready to ignore their pleas.”
One woman said she was 17 years old when she was assaulted by a classmate while at his home to work on a school project, the petition says. She has a form of muscular dystrophy that affects her strength and balance, and she relies on a German shepherd to walk.
The woman says she allowed the classmate to kiss her, but then he became aggressive and raped her. She says she became scared and froze during the assault, and her physical limitations made her unable to resist. The prosecutor who evaluated the case said in a letter that he and four other prosecutors didn’t think they could prove a rape case because she “failed to say or physically manifest any lack of consent.”
A second woman who had cerebral policy said she met her attacker, a convicted rapist, on the way to a medical appointment. She says the man sexually assaulted her multiple times at his home on two occasions. The first time she accompanied him to his home, and when he began making demands she felt she had to comply. The second time, she says, she went to his home because he threatened her. The man’s DNA was found in the woman’s vagina, but prosecutors said there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute.
A third woman says she was assaulted by her massage therapist. A fourth says she was 24 years old when she was raped by “a prominent law enforcement officer” when she was volunteering with a citizens advisory board. The Salt Lake Tribune identifies the man as a former police chief who was forced out of a police department in Maryland after a sexual assault allegation. She was among five women who obtained a settlement based on sexual assault allegations against the man when he worked in Utah.
The women are represented by several lawyers, including University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell, a former federal judge.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill defended the decisions not to file charges in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. He said his office has filed charges in about 39.5 to 45.5 percent of the sexual assault cases presented to his office over the past two years, about the same as state and federal averages.
His office has an ethical obligation not to prosecute when the evidence is insufficient, Gill said.
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