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He feels most vulnerable when he is asleep.
June 28, 2011 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Could this be happening? A man's nightmare made real. PART II: Louis Gonzalez III stood accused of unspeakable acts: kidnapping, torture, sexual assault. If convicted, he faced life behind bars. 'He kept thinking that there had been a mistake, that he'd be out in no time. That the system, set into motion by some misunderstanding or act of malice, would soon correct itself.' 'A quote from a police officer: "In 19 years of police work, this has to go down as one of the most brutal attacks I have ever seen."'

'A month passed in his single-bunk cell, and then another, and he had nothing but time to reckon all he'd lost. His freedom. His son. His job. His reputation. He had to wonder how much he could endure.

The other inmates in the solitary wing of the Ventura County Jail didn't talk about their cases, because anyone might be a snitch, but his charges were well-known on the cellblock. More than once, they warned him about what awaited if he were convicted and sent to state prison. With a sex crime on his jacket, he knew, he would be a target forever.

"Like you're waiting for death," he said. "Dying would probably be better."'

'Sometimes Gonzalez wonders how much worse things might have gone.

What if he had grabbed breakfast in Las Vegas before boarding his flight? He wouldn't have needed that bagel in Simi Valley, so he wouldn't have gone to the bank for cash, and wouldn't have been caught on security cameras.

His alibi evaporates and he's in prison for life.

At the end of the day his mind automatically replays his movements, hour by hour, because it was his ability to do that that saved him. After his release he developed the habit of meticulously documenting his whereabouts, eliminating time gaps that might leave him vulnerable.

If he's in an airport or a 7-Eleven, he makes sure the surveillance cameras get a good look at his face. Anytime he can swipe his credit card and sign his name, even to buy a pack of gum, he does it. He fills his wallet with receipts and the world with a conspicuous trail.

He feels most vulnerable when he is asleep, when, for six or eight hours a night, no cameras are watching, no witnesses are marking his presence, and no one but Louis Gonzalez III can say with certainty where he is.'
posted by VikingSword (119 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
God, that's awful. I'm also looking askance at the prosecution's apparent hypocrisy. They opposed a declaration of innocence for Gonzalez (and even dropping the case) because they claimed they were not 100% sure he was innocent. But then they refused to charge West with filing a false police report because they said they weren't 100% sure she was guilty.

Which is it? Do you need to be 100% sure someone is guilty to charge them or 100% sure they are innocent to stop prosecuting them? Because they appear to be arguing both at the same time.

One of the biggest problems with the justice system is the complete refusal of many prosecutors to admit the possibility of a mistake. You can have DNA exonerating a defendant and they'll just say something like "all that proves is that someone else was present, not that the defendant isn't guilty". The dogged pursuit of conviction in the face of contrary evidence is the mark of someone who doesn't actually care about justice.
posted by Justinian at 12:54 PM on June 28, 2011 [41 favorites]


I'm forcing myself to read this. Two of my own nightmares collide: being traceable wherever I go versus not being able to provide an alibi when necessary.
posted by likeso at 12:54 PM on June 28, 2011 [24 favorites]


Yeah... a really fascinating read.
posted by ph00dz at 12:57 PM on June 28, 2011


A similar, intriguing premise led to a just okay movie: Freeze Frame.
posted by kimota at 12:59 PM on June 28, 2011


Two of my own nightmares collide: being traceable wherever I go versus not being able to provide an alibi when necessary.

The idea of having to furnish "proof of innocence" is giving me a migraine.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:00 PM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


adamdschneider: "The idea of having to furnish "proof of innocence" is giving me a migraine."

The idea that we've come to accept rape and torture as a part of routine incarceration is giving me heart palpitations. There's barely a single prison in the US that holds up to the 8th Amendment.
posted by schmod at 1:04 PM on June 28, 2011 [41 favorites]


Which is it? Do you need to be 100% sure someone is guilty to charge them or 100% sure they are innocent to stop prosecuting them? Because they appear to be arguing both at the same time.

Systems of control are biased toward maintaining control. If you refuse to find people innocent, you can still control them via the possibility that they're guilty -- of something.

This is also why stupid "unenforced" laws should be gotten off the books when and wherever feasible: they provide a pretext for legal systems to hold people. It's been done many, many times in the past (Mann Act, anyone?).
posted by lodurr at 1:05 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]



I'm left with a lot of "why" questions after reading this.

Including "Why is this separate from yesterday's FPP?"
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:06 PM on June 28, 2011


What FPP?
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:10 PM on June 28, 2011


Yowza..
posted by wierdo at 1:18 PM on June 28, 2011


God, that's awful. I'm also looking askance at the prosecution's apparent hypocrisy. They opposed a declaration of innocence for Gonzalez (and even dropping the case) because they claimed they were not 100% sure he was innocent. But then they refused to charge West with filing a false police report because they said they weren't 100% sure she was guilty.

Which is it? Do you need to be 100% sure someone is guilty to charge them or 100% sure they are innocent to stop prosecuting them? Because they appear to be arguing both at the same time


Well it isn't "at the same time" though. First they opposed dropping the case, then they eventually dropped it. That just means that they went from "guy probably did it, and we can probably get a conviction" to "maybe did it, evidence too weak to convict". It doesn't mean that they're sure he didn't do it.

Let's say that there are two ends of a continuum: At 100%, they're sure he did it. At 0% they're sure he didn't do it, and that she's lying. Now let's say that 10% is reasonable doubt either way. If their belief is now between 90% and 10%, they don't believe strongly enough that either of them broke the law. Even though logically one or the other did.

Remember that the standard of proof inverts between cases. Not being sure beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it is not the same as being sure beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn't do it which would make her guilty.
posted by atrazine at 1:19 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


What FPP?


Yesterday... and I swear to f'n god I remember it.

Must've gotten mothballed. The subby on yesterday's FPP left us at a cliffhanger for today's Part II.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:20 PM on June 28, 2011


That. Is one crazy. Woman.

Hey! Another reason not to have kids.
posted by notsnot at 1:20 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


atrazine: " That just means that they went from "guy probably did it, and we can probably get a conviction" to "maybe did it, evidence too weak to convict". I"

But then the prosecutors fought tooth and nail against his Declaration of Innocence.
posted by notsnot at 1:21 PM on June 28, 2011


I read part 1 from reddit yesterday, don't think it made it over here. I thought to post it myself yesterday untill I saw it was part I of II.
posted by BeerFilter at 1:22 PM on June 28, 2011


How come your ex isn't in jail? people kept asking.

Because as I have found out - single mothers defending their children from abusive fathers are impossible to prosecute and so they are never tried.

My son's mother assaulted me outside my apartment. After I retreated indoors to call the police, she sent her boyfriend to the apartment to confront me. He was kicking in the front door when the police arrived. She was arrested and charged, he was cited for disorderly conduct and released. Later that night, after she was bailed out, one of them advertised my name, my wife's name, phone number and address on various chatrooms and craiglist offering sexual services. I received 70-80 voicemails on my cell, my wife's cell, and home phone all of them exceedingly sexually explicit. 7 times that night, people came to the door, although I never answered it.

The next day, I called the police and spoke to a detective. He dutifully took down all of the information and copies of the evidence and transcripts of the voicemails.

A month later, the prosecutor dropped all charges against both of them, and the Guardian Ad Litem argued, successfully, against me in my attempt to get a restraining order against her. My wife and I still have on against the boyfriend, though it expires next year.

That was just the last time we had an altercation. I could go on.

There is little crazier than a woman in a custody battle and the law will not defend you from them.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [33 favorites]


Kudos to Detective DeMarco for taking the time to actually examine the alleged facts (driving from the airport to the woman's home, etc) and being skeptical when he found discrepancies. I suspect some detectives would've been put off by the amount of paperwork involved, or worried about not helping to boost the city's conviction rate, etc, when it came to such an investigation.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


The problem is that there's a long road between him being factually innocent and her being proven guilty of bearing false witness (however that charge would be framed). As the cop says in the second part, pretty much the only way he felt that he could prove her guilt was confession. The evidence just wasn't there.

Not charged isn't not guilty. It isn't guilty either though. Given her apparent suicide attempt, there's the possibility of delusion, bad medication and self-harm there too at least.
posted by bonehead at 1:25 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


But then the prosecutors fought tooth and nail against his Declaration of Innocence.

Yeah, exactly. The prosecution didn't decide to drop the charges because the evidence was too weak... they were forced to drop the charges when West refused to proceed. One could argue that they could have proceeded anyway but I think that's disingenuous. And then after they were forced to stop prosecution of Gonzalez they fought tooth and nail to prevent him from being declared innocent.

That's not an objective weighing of the facts followed by a just decision tempered by mercy, it's a pit bull with his teeth on your neck refusing to let go until you shoot him.
posted by Justinian at 1:38 PM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


I honestly wouldn't be surprised if West had done this to herself, except her husband says she was tied up, and we don't have anything on the husband in the article. The police don't seem to feel he was involved in any way.

But if it wasn't her husband, and it wasn't Gonzalez, either West wasn't tied up like her husband said, she tied herself up, or someone else must have. Nothing here suggests the police or the prosecution ever found any evidence anyone else was in the house, or else I'd think she cheated on the husband, it got nasty, and then when he came home she panicked and said it was Gonzalez, and stuck to her story to keep him away from his son. Any way I look at this, she just comes out as this evil, evil woman.

I feel awful for Gonzalez. He's a good Dad who saw his son whenever he could, even after West moved to another state. He just wanted to keep doing that, and he ended up in a cell for two months. I'm glad he apparently still has his job and that now he has his son with him in Nevada, even though West is still allowed partial custody and I feel that she should at most have supervised visits after what happened, but you know that he will be affected by what he went through for a long time.

It's a tough case, too, because while I don't want the court letting guys out right away when they really have attacked women, I'm disturbed that all it takes is an accusation to lock someone up without bail for two months. Just taking a good look at the times involved made it pretty obvious Gonzalez couldn't have done this.

I know there was the one incident, back when the two of them were a couple, when the police were called. Gonzalez said she cheated on him and admitted to breaking the windshield of her car; West said he punched her in the stomach because she didn't want to be with him any more. So, was that enough, along with her account, or were there threats made in emails or phone calls that would make her account at all credible? Anything? The article mentioned nothing like that.

It's just frightening how his whole life could be torn apart like that on so little.
posted by misha at 1:40 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


All the evidence about Gonzalez shows is that he almost certainly didn't attack her. It doesn't prove that she deliberately falsified the attack, as opposed to being assaulted by someone else and misidentifying him, or even having an actual psychotic break and genuinely believing her version of the events. As the detective said, you'd need a confession.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:42 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


we don't have anything on the husband in the article. The police don't seem to feel he was involved in any way.

According to a brief paragraph in the second article, his mobile phone records indicated that he was elsewhere and the detective concluded that he couldn't have been involved.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:44 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


It doesn't really make sense that providing a reason why proof is absent obviates the need for proof to be present. Also just to play detective it doesn't make sense that he would be so methodical and have his face visible.

But man, poor kid. I think with a chasm of this nature between the parents it would be best to award the father sole custody. This daddy attacked/tortured/tried to kill mommy, mommy framed daddy issue can't be endlessly relitigated. Also the mother was not a good mother otherwise what with the whole attempting suicide thing. She was at the very least a deeply disruptive influence and probably the crazy spilled over into many other areas.
posted by I Foody at 1:45 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ventura County prosecutors were not deterred by this, nor by the absence of corroborating evidence.

IAAL, and even in this jurisdiction. This is something defense attorneys encounter on a regular basis, except it is sometimes compounded by lying cops. (To his credit, the detective in this case did exactly what a good cop ought to do.) It's practically an epidemic in cases involving child custody, and I've even had to fight tooth and nail to let juries hear about the motivation a family court battle can provide to a lying spouse playing victim.

Many, many prosecutors in this state seem to have totally forgotten their primary duty, which is to obtain "justice." Many also have forgotten what the presumption of innocence means. This is probably because most of our electorate has also forgotten what it means, or chooses to ignore it.

I understand that prosecutors don't want to be bound in the event that evidence is later discovered, but it seems to me that, rather than opposing these motions in cases like this one, a conscientious prosecutor would simply choose to file no opposition or simply "submit" on the record. In fact, I have seen many prosecutors do exactly that, and I have seen other prosecutors risk their jobs to provide information to me which they were not required to disclose (and maybe shouldn't have) or even side with my client to avoid a miscarriage of justice.
posted by Hylas at 1:54 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Man - just reading the first part, reading about how his first finding out about the baby was her calling him from the sonogram appointment, to listen to the heartbeat (after they had been apart for months) makes me want to scream out "OMG RUN AWAY MAN SHE'S CRAZY RUN PLEASE RUN"
posted by antifuse at 1:59 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Incredible story.

Glad to see the prosecutors were beat on the declaration of innocence issue as well. I had never heard of that.

Unfortunate that the woman was not prosecuted.

Excellent job by Detective DeMarto, who did exactly the right thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:02 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


It doesn't prove that she deliberately falsified the attack, as opposed to being assaulted by someone else and misidentifying him, or even having an actual psychotic break and genuinely believing her version of the events. As the detective said, you'd need a confession.

She took the Fifth in a deposition. Not enough for a conviction, but speaks volumes.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:04 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


At the end of the day his mind automatically replays his movements, hour by hour, because it was his ability to do that that saved him. After his release he developed the habit of meticulously documenting his whereabouts, eliminating time gaps that might leave him vulnerable.

Get this man an Iphone.
posted by benzenedream at 2:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


She took the Fifth in a deposition. Not enough for a conviction, but speaks volumes.

The whole point of the Fifth Amendment is that it does not "speak volumes" to invoke it, at least from a legal standpoint.
posted by kmz at 2:08 PM on June 28, 2011 [22 favorites]


"In 19 years of police work, this has to go down as one of the most brutal attacks I have ever seen." Obviously a quote from a cop who has not seen many sexual assaults. There are pretty low crime rates in that community, and Ms. West seems to have put on a good show for the arriving officers. It was only on physical investigation at the hospital that her actual injuries were shown to be largely superficial and performative.

I think they were just so happy when she gave them the suspect wrapped up in a bow (name, description, current location) that they didn't think critically about the "crime" until it was too late, and by that time nobody wanted to take responsibility for the utter failure to investigate or think critically. Especially in Simi Valley, where such a high percentage of the population is current or retired law enforcement.
posted by Scram at 2:08 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm glad he apparently still has his job...

Yeah me too. If he'd been some hourly worker, renting an apartment, and didn't have a support system on the outside, he would have been even more screwed when he got out of jail. I've helped out a few friends who've been in jail and you don't realize how powerless you really are until you've been in that situation.
posted by marxchivist at 2:12 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Unfortunate that the woman was not prosecuted.

I'd rather have a system that let a few guilty go unpunished, than one that was over-zelous with the innocent. Detective DeMarto is the hero here. He didn't think he had enough to go after her.
posted by bonehead at 2:16 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you can be legally penalized for invoking your Fifth Amendment rights, you do not have any Fifth Amendment rights.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:16 PM on June 28, 2011 [22 favorites]


I listened to the 911 tape (Trigger warning: very emotional discussion of assault and rape). It's very hard to sit through, honestly. Her husband sounded like he was just hanging on by a thread, really close to falling apart completely. His voice was so high-pitched and tearful that at one point the 911 operator assumed she was speaking with a woman.

What was weird, and this was mentioned in the story, was that the first thing the husband does is tell the 911 operator to send police to the Montessori school. His wife is sitting there, beaten up, with her hair cut off or pulled out, duct taped, marks around her neck and all the rest, and the 911 operator has to ask him if West is okay and if she should send the paramedics to the house.

I bring this up because the first words out of his mouth--I need someone to go to the Montessori school!--make me wonder if maybe West had already laid a little groundwork down ahead of time, planted the seed that she was afraid Gonzalez was going to come after their son and hurt him.
posted by misha at 2:21 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's when you see cases like this, that you come to appreciate all the legal rights protecting the accused. It's not just theoretical, or worse an "obstruction" to "real justice" as Dirty Harry and a million other right-wing propaganda memes would have you believe. And it's also why the gradual circumscribing and undermining and restrictions on said rights are so frightening - the disembowelment of which is perpetrated by both an overweening executive branch and a retrograde Supreme Court, in other words, members of society least in need of such protections compared to the average citizen out there. Every time I read something like this, I marvel at the astonishing foresight of many of our founding fathers.
posted by VikingSword at 2:22 PM on June 28, 2011 [23 favorites]


I find it utterly shocking and disgraceful that the mother still shares custody of the child. It's one thing to let her go un-prosecuted, but to keep the kid with her is too much for me. She quite obviously manufactured this "crime," and when asked to testify she apparently considered killing herself in order to permanently stain the reputation of her ex-boyfriend in a final act of malice (and hopefully, from her perspective, keep him from ever having a relationship with the boy again).

I fear for the child's safety, and after the new attention brought to the case after the LA Times article, who knows how she will react to what she perceives as another humiliation and a victory for Gonzalez? Honestly, what is to stop her from doing something even more insane?
posted by BobbyVan at 2:28 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


The whole point of the Fifth Amendment is that it does not "speak volumes" to invoke it, at least from a legal standpoint.

We're not jurors deliberating in a case, we're schmucks on the internet. Her taking the Fifth is fair game for our informal sense that West is a dangerous, maliciously dishonest person. We're not levying any legal penalties against her.

I find it utterly shocking and disgraceful that the mother still shares custody of the child.

Yep.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:31 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think they were just so happy when she gave them the suspect wrapped up in a bow (name, description, current location) that they didn't think critically about the "crime" until it was too late, and by that time nobody wanted to take responsibility for the utter failure to investigate or think critically.

Most of the time, the simplest explanation is the correct one. Watching shows like Law & Order (where I'm sure we'll see a lightly-reworked version of this story soon), one could get the impression that elaborate mysteries are the norm but in reality most cases are fairly straightforward. It seems to me that they did investigate and think critically, but had to balance any skepticism they felt against the potential public safety risks (if the allegations were true) and also against the issue of victim rights. After all, a perennial complaint in rape cases is that the victim is treated like a suspect, forced to relive the experience repeatedly, accused of lying and so on. If this Tracy West person had taken enough pills to actually succeed in her (apparent) suicide attempt, then we might be having a discussion about how callous cops drove a terrified rape victim to suicide while letting her attacker walk free.

Of course we don't want prosecutors or police to be over-zealous, but at the same time we delegate the job of representing the defendant's interests to a separate legal team. The adversarial system has its flaws, but we're justifiably skeptical of whether supposedly neutral investigators can reliably deliver on the promise of neutrality. After all, there are miscarriages of justice in countries that use the investigative approach too (where a judge is supposed to evaluate the facts, and the defense lawyer is limited to raising procedural rather than factual objections).
posted by anigbrowl at 2:34 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


We were talking about the reasoning behind not trying her for false accusation, not just what we personally think about her schmucks on the Internet. Or at least I thought we were.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:34 PM on June 28, 2011


We're not jurors deliberating in a case, we're schmucks on the internet. Her taking the Fifth is fair game for our informal sense that West is a dangerous, maliciously dishonest person. We're not levying any legal penalties against her.

Ironmouth's comment was in the context of a discussion on why she wasn't charged by prosecutors.
posted by kmz at 2:35 PM on June 28, 2011


According to this source, West's own defense lawyer, Longabaugh, asked to be taken off her case because, among other things, “Ms. West insists upon taking actions that Mr. Longabaugh considers repugnant and with which there exists a fundamental disagreement between Ms. West and Mr. Longabaugh.”

And Gonzalez's lawyer, Denise Placencio, wrote a letter to the District Attorney claiming she had evidence that West had perjured herself. West said her shoulder was broken in the alleged attackby Gonzalez, but medical records showed she had actually broken it diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool.

Wow, this woman really is evil.
posted by misha at 2:40 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


This woman sounds like the poster child for borderline personality disorder.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 2:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Two of my own nightmares collide: being traceable wherever I go versus not being able to provide an alibi when necessary.

Two of my own nightmares collide: losing custody of my children; being accused and arrested (and almost convicted) for a crime I didn't commit.

The idea that we've come to accept rape and torture as a part of routine incarceration is giving me heart palpitations. There's barely a single prison in the US that holds up to the 8th Amendment.

I'm pretty sure I didn't read about rape and torture in Gonzalez's incarceration.

??

I agree with you that most prisons violate the restrictions on cruel punishment, but this case? It seems like the police did everything absolutely right, and while jail is never fun, Gonzalez did not seem to be assaulted or abused.

I think anigbrowl has it right.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:51 PM on June 28, 2011


He wasn't assaulted or abused because he was kept in solitary confinement twenty-three hours a day despite never being convicted of a crime.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:53 PM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


I initially thought that this post was on a story that NPR just ran today. Equally disturbing. Most of the facts in the case I just linked seem to implicate the mother of the child but she seems to be facing no consequences. Pisses me off.
posted by futz at 2:54 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn, raises the question of where the line is between evil versus crazy and dangerous.
posted by klangklangston at 3:11 PM on June 28, 2011


There isn't anything wrong with her taking the fifth, but, if they're gonna prosecute people for whom they lack the evidence, then they should've prosecuted her too.

I find the "If we lock him up, he might confess" approach to police work rather shoddy in our day & age of physical evidence. Yet clearly, once they're applying it, they should apply it equally, especially after he won the declaration of innocence. If they'd gotten luck, she might've pled insanity and received court mandated treatment.

And that prosecutors reprehensible behavior should tar every future election he attempts, ideally landing him a nice poorly-paid public defender job eventually.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:13 PM on June 28, 2011


Man - just reading the first part, reading about how his first finding out about the baby was her calling him from the sonogram appointment, to listen to the heartbeat (after they had been apart for months) makes me want to scream out "OMG RUN AWAY MAN SHE'S CRAZY RUN PLEASE RUN"

I'm going to have a son and from the time he's born I'm going to be like "A B C is for condoms seriously wear a condom always D E F G no seriously, you really want to wear a condom"
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:21 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


I find it utterly shocking and disgraceful that the mother still shares custody of the child.

It's the best of all possible solutions.

This way, the child never develops a theory of her as a sympathetic victim - she'll be crazy from day one. Even though the kid will be in his teens before he really figures it out, and she turns on him, it will happen. As long as his dad is a fixture of stoicism and reliability, who doesn't force the issue, he and the boy will have a better relationship as a result.

The alternative is for the child to grow up giving his mother the benefit of the doubt, finally establishing contact when he reaches maturity, and struggling with the dissonance and anger and resentment and lashing out at his father first. Then his mother as she fails to live up to the ideal, and finally himself for having been such a fool.

No, it is better for him to be inculcated against her crazy by exposure to it, early and often. The real fear is kidnapping - don't think she won't try - and don't think anything will come of it. The last time my ex kidnapped my son in violation of the order (on my birthday, no less), the best I could get was a contempt of court and 30 days in jail and a thousand dollar fine. The DA wouldn't even touch it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:32 PM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


It seems that the fact that West wasn't charged was the biggest miscarriage of justice. While what Gonzales has gone though was horrible, the evidence eventually stacked up on his side and he was free.

While West hurt Gonzales, she also hurt legitimate rape victims. As an anonymous internet lawyer, I would think prosecuting her would help de-claw the victim blaming. Like the Duke Lacrosse case, it could take the steam out of the "Powerless man against the lying woman" idea.

While I agree that she probably has some outstanding mental issues and could quite possibly believe her own fabricated account, I don't believe that excuses her. At the very least she should be ordered by the court to take her meds.

I say this because I honestly want to discuss this. If there is any reason not prosecuting this woman helps legitimate victims I would like to know. Examples I would site against my own argument are:

*Actual victims see this as a sign the system is stacked against them
*The horror of the act with the possibility of going to jail would be too much to take for actual victims

I just believe that the current system is severely lacking, and trying other options might be in order.
posted by The Power Nap at 3:34 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


[A few comments removed. Please not so much with the hypersarcastic derails.]
posted by cortex at 3:46 PM on June 28, 2011


He wasn't assaulted or abused because he was kept in solitary confinement twenty-three hours a day despite never being convicted of a crime.

Yes, because on the information available at the time, there was good reason to think he presented a significant flight risk and a significant public safety risk. He was held in solitary confinement because those suspected of being sex criminals or (even potentially) child abusers by fellow prisoners are at substantially elevated risk of assault. If he had been convicted, the time spent in jail would have been subtracted from the length of his sentence. It is most unfortunate that he was kept in jail for 83 days, but at the time of his detention there was substantial evidence to suggest he had committed some particularly heinous crimes. What if the allegations were true, but he had made bail? Then he might have killed his ex-girlfriend and her husband. It seems as if Gonzalez was framed by Tracy West; unless she was truly traumatized or delusional following an attack by a stranger, then she went to unusually elaborate lengths to create the evidence.

There isn't anything wrong with her taking the fifth, but, if they're gonna prosecute people for whom they lack the evidence, then they should've prosecuted her too. I find the "If we lock him up, he might confess" approach to police work rather shoddy in our day & age of physical evidence.

But that wasn't why they locked him up. They locked him up because they had evidence - a strong positive identification by an apparent victim, and abundant medical data that suggested a particularly brutal sexual assault. It's easy to say the evidence was no good with the benefit of hindsight, but the fact is that it's highly unusual for someone to inflict multiple injuries upon themselves so as to bring suspicion upon another. Again, if the allegations were true as made then agreeing to the defendant's release on bail would present a serious danger to the public.

I mean, look at it from the prosecutor's point of view at the time charges were first brought: you have a suspect who lives in another state, involved in a bitter custody dispute, past admissions of violence (and accusations of greater violence), and someone who appears to have been tied up, brutalized, sexually assaulted (multiple ways), and who seems to be a condition of abject terror, highly consistent with that seen in many other cases of sexual assault. Also, your suspect is a mid-level bank executive, who may be able to come up with quite large sums of money for bail with relative ease. Are you telling me that you don't see any potential risks if bail is granted? Come on.

There was testimonial and circumstantial evidence from both sides which conflicted with each other. The whole purpose of having courts and trials is to resolve such contradictions. The prosecution's job is to indict criminals, and by doing so, to lower the risk of crime. If Tracy West committed a crime, which I believe she probably did, it's a very different kind of crime from the sort that Louis Gonzalez was accused of, and less immediately urgent. It is difficult to bring charges against because all the evidence available at present is circumstantial, and because it would be almost impossible to prove she acted with criminal intent, whereas it would be very easy to call her mental competence into question and enter a plea of 'not guilty by reason of insanity.' Unfortunately, both sexual assault and mental illness are statistically more common than elaborate revenge plots involving extensive self-injury, so the balance of probabilities was tipped heavily in West's favor.

Neither judges nor prosecutors have the liberty of going with their gut, and especially not in California. They are required by precedent to give a certain amount of weight to certain kids of evidence, and first-hand testimony is traditionally one of the strongest kinds of evidence there is - often the only evidence. Otherwise hardly anyone would be convicted of rape, because without witnesses, a defendant's counter-claim that the sex was consensual would be impossible to overcome. I'm not saying prosecutors never make mistakes, far from it. But the judgment calls involved in a case like this are nowhere near as simple as people seem to imagine. On the one hand, a possible brutal rapid; on the other, a case for false report of a crime that is almost guaranteed to fail and do nothing but waste resources.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:13 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt : This way, the child never develops a theory of her as a sympathetic victim - she'll be crazy from day one.

In all seriousness, I have a friend in a situation not nearly as extreme as this one, but same basic scenario - Mother going so far as to have the father arrested for an assault to which he had a perfectly solid alibi, court-appointed shrink found her a few degrees south of sane, and years later she still has joint custody and still tries to pull the same crap as she moves the kids (against a court order that no one seems inclined to enforce) from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. And the kids in this particular situation play it like a record.

Never consider the kids sweet innocent passive-victims. They may deserve a better home, but lice beget nits.
posted by pla at 4:15 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


anigbrowl : but at the time of his detention there was substantial evidence to suggest he had committed some particularly heinous crimes.

Bullshit. He had the uncorroborated lies of a single known-biased witness against him. Period. No physical evidence, no other witnesses, not even a motive (at least, none before the fact).

Others have already said it, but in a custody battle, you have one simple strategy to get away with murder - Have two X chromosomes.
posted by pla at 4:18 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


They may deserve a better home, but lice beget nits.
I'm sorry to derail, but I have to say this.

First, the correct quote is "nits make lice".

Second, you may or may not be aware that the phrase is most famously associated with a brutal massacre of Native Americans.

If you're in the habit of using that phrase, you may want to reconsider.
posted by scrump at 4:28 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


No physical evidence

They had physical evidence of a crime, they just didn't have physical evidence necessarily linking the defendant to the crime. It was West's identification that linked Gonzalez to the evidence of an assault.

I was pretty highly critical of the prosecution earlier in the thread, even in the very first comment. But I don't think the prosecution's problem was in the initial arrest or charge. They had evidence of a a serious assault and they had West's sworn statement as to who did it. That evidence later fell apart. Where the prosecution because morally culpable was when they became persecutors rather than prosecutors by refusing to drop the charges or exonerate Gonzalez after their case fell apart.
posted by Justinian at 4:29 PM on June 28, 2011


I can't say it was a miscarriage of justice that he was arrested and in jail at all. Because when it comes to custody matters, and exes, there is a lot of violence and women are often at the receiving end of it. Further, the lengths to which this woman went was pretty extreme, and as such odds were low that someone would do something as nutty - just going by statistics.

What I find pretty reprehensible though, was how long he was in jail. It should not have taken so long to corroborate or disprove his alibi.

Ultimately, what's frightening, is how in this day and age, with all the technology available, it was indeed sheer luck that this guy is not serving a life sentence. Many, many are not so lucky - as seen in the story futz linked to above.
posted by VikingSword at 4:32 PM on June 28, 2011


cortex: [A few comments removed. Please not so much with the hypersarcastic derails.]
Hey wait a second! Okay, hypersarcastic yes, but derail... how?

This is in effect the subject of this FPP, is it not? In the particular, a case of a man framed for a crime he didn't commit- a false allegation of rape- and the person responsible faces zero culpability in court. The false accusation and undercovering of that by detectives is interesting for the "man bites dog" rarity of it, and the all-too-morbid reality that had he not bought that bagel, he'd basically be beaten daily and getting anally violated in prison right now, with people all but applauding his fate as a "just" consequence. This wouldn't even be a story, except maybe a happier ending version of the Teresa Butz storyline playing out here in Seattle.

I'd contend that this is tied to the belief- stated in threads on similar topics and increasingly enshrined in law- which emphasizes that basically no one would lie about such topics. Granted, we've come a blessedly long way from rapes being a crime without consequence and without any receptive ear in the police or just system... but that doesn't mean there can't be false rape accusations borne of impure motive. And really, the detective did amazing work: while the prosecutors can't be faulted for pursuing the case as a pretty open-and-shut affair, they were more than reluctant to actually change their mind (and lose a conviction), even when their own detective expressed severe doubts.

So it seems to me the only thing to discuss, if we're not just going to close up the thread after sufficient GRAWRing, is:
a) The need for protections in criminal law for the defendant, and a true presumption of innocence
b) The reality that people- not men, not certain races- but people can be cruel, deceitful, and coldly manipulative. And when the nearest/easiest weapon is a court of law, that may be in rare but tragic cases the cudgel they use

This latter does seem lost again in threads that also discuss rape or other crimes that hit "triggers" or other hot button topics. It's why following due process and assuming innocence is so important: people can and will abuse the justice system for their own ends, and 'evil' is not gender- or race- specific.
posted by hincandenza at 4:33 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, because on the information available at the time, there was good reason to think he presented a significant flight risk and a significant public safety risk.

While the former is really the only legitimate factor to be considered in assessing bail. But if you look at that, what's the argument? That he lives in Las Vegas where he presumably owns property and has a very good job in a respectable profession with an apparently decent company? That doesn't scream "flight risk" to me. And you can't really presume any safety risk to the general public without doing a great deal of violence to the notion of presumed innocence.

Unfortunately, California has some really bad statutory and state constitutional law provisions that totally ignore binding U.S. Supreme Court precedent concerning bail which courts and prosecutors routinely ignore in their rush to punish people before conviction. This area of law in California (bail) is ripe for appeal.
posted by Hylas at 4:36 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey wait a second! Okay, hypersarcastic yes, but derail... how?

Derail because it's fightstarting hypersarcastic bullshit instead of just saying what you mean in plain terms without all the foolishness. That's pretty straightforward, please don't do it, end of story. If you want to talk more about whether or not that's a problem, do it in metatalk; if you want to discuss the topic of this post substantially, do that here; if you want to just take an aggro sarcastic dump in the thread, don't, period.
posted by cortex at 4:39 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems that the fact that West wasn't charged was the biggest miscarriage of justice.

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm working towards it; I feel confident in saying that it would be a waste of time. Above, I've outlined the basic reasons why it would be difficult to convict. Now, you might say that it would still be worthwhile to bring charges. But first you'd have to extradite the woman from Nevada, and then there would be a CA penal code s.1369 hearing (to determine whether the person was even competent to stand trial). One approach prosecutors might use would be to offer Hobson's choice: if the defendant isn't competent to stand trial, then shouldn't be subject to a 5150 hold? This is where a person is placed in involuntary psychiatric detention because they represent a danger to themselves or others. But while she might not be competent to stand trial, a defense attorney could offer the history of trouble-free court visitations that had occurred since the events of this story, saying that she may be delusional or confused but not in a dangerous way.

You would really need some kind of concrete evidence like the current husband admitting they conspired to frame Gonzalez, or an incriminating diary or voicemail predating the incident, or store video and receipts of the woman going to a hardware store and purchasing rope, scissors, and other items used in the assault. The BDSM website is strong circumstantial evidence that the injuries/bindings were self-inflicted, but a skilled attorney could argue that it was as likely to be evidence of an abnormal mental state as of cold criminal calculation. Ultimately it comes down to a question of motivation, and without additional testimonial evidence there's no way to prove it. If she is mentally ill - a strong possibility that I cannot honestly discount - then the whole trial process is just going to make her problems worse. Court-ordered psychiatric treatment would seem to be the best outcome, but the court's power in this area is somewhat limited, due to US Supreme Court decisions from 1975 that limit the state's ability to administer involuntary psychiatric treatment.

So...it is sort of a miscarriage of justice, but in cases like this it's almost impossible to legislate a just outcome because the circumstances are so bizarre. If we made new law based on the facts of this case, chances are that it would lead to a different but equally unjust outcome when applied to some other set of circumstances. If we grant courts or prosecutors more power to just go with their gut, then we're back to undermining the presumption of innocence. It's like Godel's incompleteness theorem: no matter how comprehensive and well-specified your system of formal reasoning is, there will be cases where you have to choose between completeness and consistency. If you're a completist, then there's a higher chance that everyone who should be convicted will be convicted, but at the expense of more false convictions. If you prefer consistency, then some people who you believe to be guilty will get to walk because they can't be convicted without a procedural violation. Authoritarian societies tend to be completist, liberal ones consistent.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:42 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


scrump : First, the correct quote is "nits make lice".

Yep... I took some liberties with that one in reversing it. The normal phrasing just wouldn't have made sense, in-context.


Second, you may or may not be aware that the phrase is most famously associated with a brutal massacre of Native Americans.

Actually, I did not realize that. Thank you. It won't stop me from using a perfectly good turn of phrase*, but I do love me some etymology.


* Events that happened before any of our grandparents drew breath? Yeah, we don't really need to tippie-toe around them anymore. Jus' sayin'.
posted by pla at 4:52 PM on June 28, 2011


The thing I find saddest of all is that neither of them have been convicted of anything in a court of law. Neither have been proven guilty of a thing.

Yet he spent two months in jail in solitary confinement because of the threats against him by other inmates. He had to plead for his job back, and has a massive black mark against him. He loses friends, a girlfriend. And he couldn't have done what he was accused of.

And this woman? We don't know her. We don't know the real circumstances. We have limited information, and though it looks damning, we're all utterly convinced there's no smoke without fire and that she lied and hurt herself to keep custody of her son.

It doesn't take much to be found guilty by the rest of us before you've even taken one step inside a court room.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:56 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The false accusation and undercovering of that by detectives is interesting for the "man bites dog" rarity of it...

The 'sarcastic derail' post suggested -- via sarcasm -- that more women make false rape accusations than is commonly accepted. Specifically, it held up a straw man argument ("Women would never ever make false accusations about rape!") and contrasted that idea to the reality of this case. However -- by your own admission -- this case is a 'man bites dog' case, one that is extremely unique and extremely rare.

The problem of crazy people injuring themselves and framing innocent people for it is serious. The problem of rape victims being shamed by society, and not reporting crimes because they fear failures to prosecute or ongoing stigmatization, is also serious. The problem of rape victims being dismissed because they are "probably just crazy jealous exes" is also serious.

Being hyper-sarcastic when bringing up these complicated and very, very emotionally charged issues is pretty much never a wise idea. If you're doing stand-up, maybe it'll get some laughs, but MeFi is not a standup venue. It's a place where people with different views talk about things and that kind of approach is a bad idea.


I'd contend that this is tied to the belief- stated in threads on similar topics and increasingly enshrined in law- which emphasizes that basically no one would lie about such topics.

You yourself said that the case in question was interesting because it was "man-bites-dog rare." How does a bizarre, rare act contradict the belief that "basically" no engages in that bizarre, rare behavior?
posted by verb at 4:58 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also, your suspect is a mid-level bank executive, who may be able to come up with quite large sums of money for bail with relative ease. Are you telling me that you don't see any potential risks if bail is granted?

This seems to be arguing that bail should be denied because there's a chance he might actually make it. Under this standard, how could anyone be bailed out--either they don't have the resources to make bail, or the fact that they do have resources is proof that they are a flight risk and bail shouldn't even be offered. I guess I'm confused as to who should be eligible for bail if having money is a disqualifying factor.
posted by dsfan at 5:00 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm going to come out again and say that "crazy" as a pejorative is really offensive to me and probably to a lot of others in my boat. Most of us who are crazy have a hard enough time that hearing that word thrown around like it's synonymous with "bad" is just ... more badness we don't need.

Throwing out diagnoses like borderline personality disorder as insults or ways of explaining a person's criminal behavior is unacceptable.

It has become increasingly common for women who are admitted to mental hospitals to leave with a BPD diagnosis. There are quite a few people out there who have been labelled BPD at one time or another, and using that label to describe someone's possibly criminal behaviors is a disservice to all those who do suffer. (It's a diagnosis that is, in itself, up for debate. It is recognized by many within the psychiatric community as pejorative, and the definition is being reworked.) And while a person's behavior may indicate a mental illness, we should never chide them for having that illness. We hold them accountable for their behavior, we get angry at them for their behavior, but to categorize them as "crazy" is unfair to crazy people.

If we can separate Ms. West's actions out and just focus on those as harmful, deceptive, even cruel, that's one thing. Those are fair accusations.

Belting out labels from the DSM-IV is not fair, and not helpful, and I would very much appreciate it if we as a community would try to refrain from it.
posted by brina at 5:03 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


brina : It's a diagnosis that is, in itself, up for debate.

A diagnosis that, for anyone who has known one, fits her to a tee.

If you want to rename it, fine, we'll call it the "retarded"-of-the-week. But whether or not it exists? Not up for debate. Not quite "crazy" (in the common sense of schizophrenic), not quite sociopathic, but some especially vicious hybrid of the two that somehow ends up more dangerous than either, insofar as they seem "normal" under casual circumstances.
posted by pla at 5:14 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


brina : It's a diagnosis that is, in itself, up for debate.

This is actually an excellent point, and after posting my comment, I realized was very problematic. The range of possibilities actually includes a wide range of options, from "Believes something actually happened, even though it did not -- and manufactured evidence to fit her own belief" to "Diabolical -- planned and manufactured evidence to frame someone to hurt them" through "Also a victim, was actually assaulted by someone but mistakenly believed her attacker was the wrong person."

Assuming that she is "crazy" and did this to frame her ex husband isn't, functionally, any different than assuming that he assaulted her.
posted by verb at 5:18 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


This seems to be arguing that bail should be denied because there's a chance he might actually make it.

No, I'm saying that bail ought to be denied because of the risk to public safety, and because the usual approach of setting a very high amount to offset the risk of flight or bad behavior would not be as effective a guarantor of compliance for someone who could potentially access very large sums of money with relative ease. In other words, if he posted a high bail and then made a run for it, there wouldn't be a bail bondsman ready to chase him down. Usually, people required to post large sums must borrow it, and the lending firm will not get the bail money back until they bring the accused person back into court.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:18 PM on June 28, 2011


I think Anigbrowl nailed it with those comments upthread (e.g.). There's an old legal adage: hard (i.e., sad) cases make bad law. It's precisely because this case is so shocking that it would be a bad idea to change the law on its account.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:28 PM on June 28, 2011


anigbrowl : there wouldn't be a bail bondsman ready to chase him down.

Not the point of bail! The constitution originally set its max at a high-but-still-reasonable-level for a reason.

In the US, a person has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. We have bail because the idea of holding an innocent man in solitary confinement for 83 days appalled the founding fathers as no better than the capricious "law" of the aristocracy from which they declared our independence.
posted by pla at 5:32 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


the usual approach of setting a very high amount to offset the risk of flight or bad behavior would not be as effective a guarantor of compliance for someone who could potentially access very large sums of money with relative ease. In other words, if he posted a high bail and then made a run for it, there wouldn't be a bail bondsman ready to chase him down.

I'm not a lawyer, but this seems like a terrible system. Imagine two defendants, one of whom has $1,000 in assets, and the other $2,000,000. I would think it would be much easier to set a bail for the person with $2,000,000 that would provide an incentive for bail bondsmen--for example, a $3,000,000 bail would give more than enough incentive for a bounty hunter, whereas it's difficult to imagine any bail the poorer person could meet that would provide such an incentive. I'm not exactly comfortable with this either--it's biased against the poorer person, and de facto imposes a penalty (the 10% bondsman fee) on someone who hasn't been convicted of a crime, but I struggle to see how a person having a relatively high level of assets necessitates completely denying bond.

The public safety rationale is of course a separate issue, although it seems problematic to me given that the defendant was not accused of a "spree" of attacks but rather had a single alleged victim. In my (again, non-lawyer) opinion, that seems like a stronger candidate for something like GPS monitoring to keep him away from the alleged victim (e.g. under house arrest) rather than incarceration.
posted by dsfan at 5:54 PM on June 28, 2011


Actually, I did not realize that. Thank you. It won't stop me from using a perfectly good turn of phrase*, but I do love me some etymology.

I can tell you that every time I've ever heard people off-line use that phrase, it's been used as a racist dog whistle.

Feel free to use it if you want.
posted by winna at 5:56 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look pla, I'm not in favor of keeping people locked up by default, but prosecutors believed the man presented a serious danger to the public and they have to take that into account. He was accused of kidnapping the woman (which in California, can simply mean restraining someone in place against their will - you don't have to take them anywhere), raping her 2 different ways, torturing her by singing her with lighted matches, and then suffocating her with a plastic bag. He had admitted committing a violent act in a previously recorded incident, and had a plausible-seeming motive (people do disturbing things in child custody disputes).

You're talking like he was accused of stealing a donut or something. We know it was wrong and unfair with hindsight, but the prosecutors were worried about the possibility that the guy was a violent psychopath, and went along with what seemed the highest probability of the several available. The purpose of bail is to ensure that the defendant in a criminal case has a financial interest in turning up for trial rather than just leaving town. Otherwise everyone would be released on their own recognizance.

On the information we have, the guy's ex manipulated the prosecutors in order to frame the husband, and did so both skilfully and at an unusually high cost to herself. your remarks upthread suggest you are rather biased on this issue, to the point where you are oblivious to the possibility that any threat to public safety could ever exist. Sadly, there are many cases in which someone out on bail or under a restraining order carried out more violent acts, sometimes to murderous effect. You don't have a constitutional right to bail in every case. As for the length of time Gonzalez was in jail, that doesn't necessarily compromise his right to a speedy trial either. Often the defense will waive this right in order to have time to gather evidence to support their case, and I strongly suspect that this was the case here because in California the normal maximum pretrial detention period is 60 days unless the defense consents to or requests an extension.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:10 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


One approach prosecutors might use would be to offer Hobson's choice: if the defendant isn't competent to stand trial, then shouldn't be subject to a 5150 hold?

Forcing a defendant to choose a bad alternative in order to enforce some other substantive right violates due process. Ours is a reactive system that requires people to meet burdens of proof with admissible evidence, and that includes bail hearings and hearings regarding competency.

With respect to the PC 1369 hearings, there's no forcing anyone to have such a hearing. That's a tactical decision by defense counsel, who must first be able to declare a doubt as to her competency to stand trial (see PC 1368), rather than an affirmative defense (e.g., diminished capacity or insanity), and the end result is not very desirable for a defendant who isn't really incompetent. I've done those hearings. They can be complicated, but usually it's pretty straightforward, and very often no-one disagrees.

WIC 5150 has a different standard (danger to themselves or others) and is limited in duration. A defendant can be incompetent for one purpose and not for others.
posted by Hylas at 6:13 PM on June 28, 2011


I don't think the bail system is ideal either, and in fact it's harder on poor people than it is on rich people. But what are you going to do? we don't have infinite resources to try every case immediately, and often the defense wouldn't want to be railroaded into trial anyway. It's hard to predict what might happen in a case characterized by extreme violence. Maybe an ankle bracelet would provide one solution, but it wouldn't prevent someone from seeking out a thug on the other side of town and paying a few thousand bucks to have the victim/key witness murdered. Unfortunately, such incidents happen with disturbing frequency, partly due to the easy availability of guns.

Let's not kid ourselves here, there are some people out there who are willing to do really bad things. If this was indeed a frame-up, then it was only plausible because incidents of the kind alleged take place with such depressing regularity. And I'm pursuing legal studies because I'm interested in defending people, not being a prosecutor. I've already thought about how I would defend this West woman, just as an intellectual exercise. Some folks here are demanding an unreasonable level of omniscience from the police and from the legal system. I'd say they did a good job here and that everyone in a position of official responsibility conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:21 PM on June 28, 2011


Sadly, there are many cases in which someone out on bail or under a restraining order carried out more violent acts, sometimes to murderous effect. You don't have a constitutional right to bail in every case.

That's sadly true, but in the U.S., the criminal justice system reflects the Framers' judgment that a reactive system did less violence to the rights of the accused and that the executive branch could not so easily subvert it to menace the population.

It's also true that one can be held without bail, but it should be rare, and based on actual evidence rather than on an assumption that the prosecutor's bald allegations must be true. I have repeatedly dealt with situations where prosecutors, in bad faith, have mislead the court about the evidence they possessed for the specific purpose of either denying bail to an accused or having the court set it so high that it's a practical denial of bail. I have never seen a judge sanction a prosecutor for that conduct, let alone report them to the state bar.

In California, prosecutorial misconduct is rarely punished, and perjury is about the same. Even though both are somewhat rampant and even though they both seriously undermine the justice system, public officials who are caught rarely face even public censure--in published appellate opinions where convictions are reversed because of misconduct, the appellate courts only very rarely identify such prosecutors by name. It could probably be greatly curbed just by naming the offending parties.
posted by Hylas at 6:26 PM on June 28, 2011


Yesterday... and I swear to f'n god I remember it.

Must've gotten mothballed. The subby on yesterday's FPP left us at a cliffhanger for today's Part II.


Do you read Fark, Bathtub Bobsled? I don't know why - coz the FPP wordings aren't similar - but I had a v.brief "WTF? I read this yesterday" moment.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:32 PM on June 28, 2011


That's a tactical decision by defense counsel, who must first be able to declare a doubt as to her competency to stand trial (see PC 1368), rather than an affirmative defense (e.g., diminished capacity or insanity), and the end result is not very desirable for a defendant who isn't really incompetent.

I apologize for phrasing it so poorly. I agree that the PC1369 hearing would be initiated at the request of the defense, and (for these circumstances), thought that it would be a likely strategic choice by the defense. WRT the prosecution threatening a 5150, I was quite wrong - I was thinking of the argument they might use to object to a competency determination. I've formed the impression from reading court reports that sometimes these issues can lead to protracted procedural maneuvering where a defendant is determined to avoid trial or sentence. I have yet to take any classes in this, though. Thanks for sharing your professional perspective and correcting my mistake.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:34 PM on June 28, 2011


Maybe an ankle bracelet would provide one solution, but it wouldn't prevent someone from seeking out a thug on the other side of town and paying a few thousand bucks to have the victim/key witness murdered.

I'll bow out after this, because I don't want to be the guy who signs up for metafilter and then tries to monopolize a thread, but don't you think this is pretty far out on the long tail of likely events? You say it happens with "disturbing frequency," but is it really the case that people with very little criminal history easily find someone willing to commit murder on their behalf? Are there statistics available on this--I would be surprised that it happens with such frequency to justify denying bail for people accused of violent crimes altogether.
posted by dsfan at 6:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


situations where prosecutors, in bad faith, have mislead the court

That's a real problem, all right. I don't know how it is in other states, but California's blend of democracy-with-everything and budgetary mismanagment seem to have borne particularly rotten fruit. I was not happy about Kamala Harris's election as AG, and would not hold out much any hope for reform from that quarter. I live in SF, where she was DA, and remember when she first ran against the incumbent Terence Hallinan. The city was in the grip of a crack-related crime wave at the time and people were in search of a new broom. Of course, she has had some good results since then, and I am glad that she is genearlly against the death penalty.

But last fall, leading up to the election, it emerged that a senior technician in the SFPD drug lab had a drug problem of her own, along with various other flaws (past DV convictions, unregistered firearm ownership), and the chain of custody had been compromised in a rather large number of cases over several years - 300 or more, if I remember rightly. Obviously that would be awkward for any candidate going to the polls, but Harris basically just ignored the issue for several days, to the point where she was repeatedly lampooned in the local legal newspaper for her disengagement with the issue. Since she went to Sacramento, the Chief of Police has been made DA pro tem, and a disturbing number of other cases have come to light involving police officers with convictions which were not revealed to the defense, other police with a pattern of theft accusations against them, and so forth.

I couldn't tell you how predictable this is on a statistical basis, and because she is strongly opposed to the death penalty the conventional wisdom is that she was unpopular within the SFPD, but there's certainly a feeling among the general public of apres Kamala, le deluge. I don't know what her opponent was like; I read that he was 'a prosecutor's prosecutor' but was also surprised to see a Republican arguing for the repeal of three strikes. But it may not make much difference, considering the wholesale defunding of the courts that appears to be underway. At this right I'm beginning to wonder if there'll be anywhere left to practice by the time I pass the bar.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's frustrating that West isn't either in prison or a mental institution, but without concrete evidence that she was actually lying - as opposed to confabulating or being grossly mistaken - there isn't really anything to go on. You can't just lock people up because their accusations don't work out.

We have a reasonable belief that something is Seriously Wrong with Ms. West, but that's about it, and that doesn't really mean anything legally.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:06 PM on June 28, 2011


You say [hiring a hitman] happens with "disturbing frequency" but is it really the case that people with very little criminal history easily find someone willing to commit murder on their behalf?

Well, as someone from Europe, it seems disturbing frequent to me. I don't mean that it's easy, but it's the sort of possibility you'd have to consider. Many people do get bail, even for violent crimes, and this is as it should be in most cases. You're right in that the (alleged) attacks were thought to have been perpetrated against a specific person - maybe keeping a person under house arrest or the like would be a good compromise, whereas I would feel less comfortable granting bail to someone arrested on suspicion of a driveby shooting or suchlike.

But here, there seemed to be evidence of an unusually violent and vicious attack, and it's hard to blame the prosecutor or the judge for giving that substantial weight. I didn't dig up a lot of statistcal research in 5 minutes, and this paper is paywalled, but the abstract states that out of 231 intimate partner homicides, 11% (25 people) had a restraining order in place. One fifth of those were killed within 2 days of that order being issued, and a third within a month. Not exactly the same as bail, and a small sample size too, but sobering enough that it would be irresponsible not to treat the risk seriously.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:21 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


ArkhanJG: "And this woman? We don't know her. We don't know the real circumstances. We have limited information, and though it looks damning, we're all utterly convinced there's no smoke without fire and that she lied and hurt herself to keep custody of her son."

True, but we do know that she lied about when her shoulder was broken, and that her own lawyer found some of her actions repugnant enough that he didn't want to be associated with her any longer. She's looking pretty flammable to me.

This case did make me think about this one that was linked on the blue earlier, though, and the consensus in that thread (if I remember rightly) was that these cops should have been locked up.

What proof does a woman have to have? In that case, the woman identified the cop as her rapist, there was videotaped footage of the cop and his partner sneaking repeatedly into her home, the woman had cervical bruising, and the police had falsified logs to try to make it look like they were somewhere else. But the jury didn't think her testimony was reliable and there was no DNA, so they went free on the rape charges.

Gonzalez, though--West just gave a name. She was injured, but even there, her shoulder had actually been broken earlier (easy to find out with the medical records) and there was no vaginal tearing or any physical evidence indicating the rape with a wooden hanger part of her story was true--not to be too blunt, but even if the guy covered himself up, you'd think that wooden hanger would have had traces of some bodily fluids or something on it. Her testimony actually WAS unreliable, and this guy came really close to ending up in jail anyway.
posted by misha at 11:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


We have a reasonable belief that something is Seriously Wrong with Ms. West, but that's about it, and that doesn't really mean anything legally

Well, he managed to win a $55,000 judgement against her stemming from the false accusation. Even though the burden of proof is more lenient in a civil case, it certainly seems like it might be worth at least investigating further. How about at least a perjury charge? (part of her sworn statement accuses Gonzales of breaking her shoulder during the attack, but her medical records indicate she broke it after diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool.)
posted by ShutterBun at 11:27 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beat me to it, Misha.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:28 PM on June 28, 2011


We have a reasonable belief that something is Seriously Wrong with Ms. West, but that's about it, and that doesn't really mean anything legally.

Oh, I agree entirely. The thing that got me about this though is that we can clearly see how a false allegation against Mr Gonzales III has had serious repercussions on his life. The accusation and arrest (and jail time without bail awaiting initial trial) shouldn't mean a thing legally speaking. Yet a lot of people thought there must be something to it anyway. It shows that innocent until proven guilty isn't worth a jug of warm spit; people just don't work that way.

Once you enter the legal system, even if you're provably innocent, a lot of people will still assume you're guilty of something, final outcome be damned.

And even faced with all the harm that that does - and the general ease with which people have assumed that about him - we then turn around and largely do the same thing against her. He's innocent, she was wrong that it was him that did it - which is evidently true - and we leap to the conclusion that therefore she did it to herself, she was helped by her husband, it was all an attempt to get custody etc.

We can suspect that, obviously - hell, I do myself - but for all we know she was very violently assaulted by a stranger, and in her trauma she thought it was Mr Gonzales as a coping mechanism. None of us were there (I hope!) so without her confession or some other concrete evidence, we'll never know.

Well, he managed to win a $55,000 judgement against her stemming from the false accusation. Even though the burden of proof is more lenient in a civil case, it certainly seems like it might be worth at least investigating further. How about at least a perjury charge?

All entirely reasonable. She was wrong when she accused him, and still does, of hurting her. That's the civil judgement, the false defamation of his character. The burden is lower, but it shows she was wrong to accuse him, certainly. Finding out if she intentionally lied to the court should be investigated further by the court, not just a police officer 'making enquiries'.

It's just... given such a powerful case of How Justice Goes Wrong when you're innocent, and the way people so readily leap to guilty until proven innocent, I'm finding it a little hard to not question the way that I finished reading the article and immediately thought to myself that she deserves some jail time and losing custody of the son based upon some article I read on the internet.

While this is not a great example to hang the question on, it's just that how can innocent until proven guilty ever work in principle if nobody ever believes it?
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:22 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to respectfully remind people that using this case (or cases in which they are personally involved) as an example of how women as a whole act in custody cases is just as absurd as using cases in which men throw their children off of bridges as examples of how men act.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:05 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


LittleMissCranky : I would like to respectfully remind people that using this case (or cases in which they are personally involved) as an example of how women as a whole act in custody cases is just as absurd as using cases in which men throw their children off of bridges as examples of how men act.

Except, society does use such fringe cases to damn all men.

As an adult male, I do not feel legally-safe around children not related to me or my close friends (and even then, I remain ever-cautious). I actively avoid spending any time whatsoever with them without another adult witness present; I keep my hands visible at all times when around children; I don't even talk to strange children unless from a good distance and in a busy public area.

Put bluntly, society treats all men as potential pedos or killers because of the tiny, tiny fraction of them who actually do such things.
posted by pla at 7:27 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


" I don't know what her opponent was like; I read that he was 'a prosecutor's prosecutor' but was also surprised to see a Republican arguing for the repeal of three strikes."

He's a tool, and there'd be no better hope for reform under him than under Harris.

Cooley's gone out of his way to sandbag environmental crimes prosecutions, been an utter dick about Deborah Peagler (a battered woman who had two Crips kill the man who beat her and molested her children) to the extent that his office was officially charged with misconduct and removed from the case, pursued vendettas against political opponents and union members, and is stridently against medical marijuana and very much pro prop 8.

He's against three-strikes laws and the draconian anti sex-offender laws, but that seems more like a stopped clock being right twice a day than a reason to endorse him as AG.
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


As an adult male, I do not feel legally-safe around children not related to me or my close friends (and even then, I remain ever-cautious). I actively avoid spending any time whatsoever with them without another adult witness present; I keep my hands visible at all times when around children; I don't even talk to strange children unless from a good distance and in a busy public area.

Care to explain why? Is this a vague, undefined worry that "people will call me a pedophile!" or are there specific cases that have caused you to worry so?

It boggles my mind a bit.

Put bluntly, society treats all men as potential pedos or killers because of the tiny, tiny fraction of them who actually do such things.

(U.S.) Society doesn't treat me as a potential pedophile, any more than it treats my wife as a potential pedophile. I'm not getting your point here...

I don't even talk to strange children unless from a good distance and in a busy public area.

Truly boggles. A strange child comes up to you and says "I can't find my mommy" ... and you'd walk away? I am curious where you live ... my guess is the UK? I'm not sure why but I imagine Britain awash in pedophile paranoia.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2011


Does that really boggle you? It doesn't boggle me. I see things as extremely as pla does, but I do see his point, and I am constantly aware that an unknown male speaking to a child -- especially a female child -- is automatically suspect in ways that a woman isn't.

I work in an office of 15 people, all but 3 of them women, most with children, all politically liberal, and I've seen every. single. one. of. them. showing this kind of tendency, as a knee-jerk reaction. It makes me sad, but I don't deny that it's real. (The major irony being that children are safer now than they've been in human history.)

(BTW, I suspect pla would in fact choose to help a child who walked up and asked for help. I would, too -- but the first thing I'd do is find one or more authority figures to bring in on the deal, as quickly as possible, to corroborate that my intentions are to help the child and not harm him/her.)
posted by lodurr at 10:19 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does that really boggle you? It doesn't boggle me. I see things as extremely as pla does, but I do see his point, and I am constantly aware that an unknown male speaking to a child -- especially a female child -- is automatically suspect in ways that a woman isn't.

Socially suspect or legally suspect? I guess I don't care much about other people's opinions ... but the legal threat of talking to children seems like a boogeyman.

I was just curious if he (assuming pla is male) had any examples where talking to a child caused someone significant problems. I really can't imagine it.

I watch some of the (depressing) Frontline show Child Cases last night, and the (incredibly depressing) story of Ernie Lopez is something along those lines, but that just seems like a very rare case to me, and really a different situation. Louise Woodard got similar treatment.

Anyway, I grew up with a teacher for a father and with lots of adults who worked with children so yeah, the idea does really boggle me quite a bit. It's certainly sad to think about.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:33 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It boggles my mind a bit.

And it boggles my mind that it boggles your mind. Because to me it's just common sense. Why expose yourself to the risk of unfounded accusations, by interacting with any kids, if you can help it? I have no kids of my own by choice and that also makes it easier to not be around kids at all. I certainly didn't feel the need to be this proactively risk-avoidant, until I landed in California back in the 80's. Maybe you didn't have this experience, but at the time, there was a huge witch hunt about satanic rituals, child abuse and the whole McMartin preschool ordeal. It was a time of multiple cases of horrendous judicial conduct, "repressed memories" techniques wherein the memories were actually implanted by zealous prosecutors and their minions and so forth. The sense of being completely vulnerable to any accusation, and most importantly, having seen the justice system fail so badly, made a profound impression on me. The "won't anyone think of the children" pathology combined with no-holds barred prosecutorial zeal, makes it, in my opinion, a lethal combination. Given that, interacting with kids in any way, for a male, is akin to jogging along the autobahn; at night; in black clothing. Is avoiding any interaction, simply paranoia? I don't think so, when you witness situations where a guy sitting on a park bench reading a book, but with a view of a children's playground, is approached by mothers asking what he's doing there. Personally, if I happen to pass a playground, I make a point of never looking in that direction, and passing by as fast as I can, or finding an alternate route. It's not about paranoia, but about commonsense avoidance of risk. If you want to take that risk, go ahead, I won't judge you, but you should also be aware that others may have a valid point in simply being careful.
posted by VikingSword at 11:40 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I see things as extremely as pla does," should have been "I don't see things as extremely as pla does..."
posted by lodurr at 11:47 AM on June 29, 2011


Oh, and btw., I don't dislike children, I do support taxes (and am happy to pay) for schools, child programs, nutrition etc., even if I don't have my own. In other words, nothing against kids. Nor do I in any way wish to understate or dismiss child abuse, or berate anyone who fights such abuse. Just an unfortunate confluence of factors, that make it dangerous to interact with them. File it under "why we can't have nice things".
posted by VikingSword at 11:48 AM on June 29, 2011


I guess I don't care much about other people's opinions ... but the legal threat of talking to children seems like a boogeyman.

Well, that's the point: It's a boogeyman, and we live in a time & place where boogeymen have legal muscle.

VikingSword's allusion to the McMartin case (& we could cite a bunch of others) is very apt for me. I remember hearing it reported in the news back in those pre-Internet days when we couldn't very easily check up on these things, and the McMartins were painted as GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY of some pretty absurd boogeyman crimes. There was a lot of that going around at the time, and only slightly less of it now.

In an ideal world, we're all courageous and strong and don't let that shit change our behavior. But...
posted by lodurr at 11:51 AM on June 29, 2011


lodurr : BTW, I suspect pla would in fact choose to help a child who walked up and asked for help.

True, I would; And as you say, I would immediately find someone else to act as a witness, and pass the kid off to some relevant authority (police, store manager, whatever) ASAP.


Well, that's the point: It's a boogeyman, and we live in a time & place where boogeymen have legal muscle.

This. We live in a world where one lie from a kid will destroy your life, even if acquitted. Where one misplaced hand while roughhousing will solidly brand you a pedo. Where a shriek (kids never do that randomly) and a paranoid parent will have the nearest (male) innocent bystander thrown out of a store and possibly arrested. Where airlines have official policies that they won't let children flying alone sit next to an adult male, and will actually bump him from the flight if they can't find an alternate seat.
posted by pla at 12:08 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


There have been several stories on MeFi related to the 'all males are predators' mindset. I've seen other stories online where men have been challenged for taking their daughters to a park unaccompanied by a woman.

Unfortunately, it's a risk for a man to be around other's children. If any accusations are made, many will automatically assume his guilt no matter what the outcome. An expose from my daily paper notes:

"It also shows that the standard illustration of the college student charged with a minor alcohol or drug offense is only a portion of those benefiting from expungements. Sometimes, for example, those accused of sexual assault who are acquitted or whose charges are dismissed also get the records erased."

implying that those accused of sexual assault shouldn't be able to get that expunged, even when acquitted or charges dismissed.

It's sad, it's ridiculous, and it probably deprives kids of some good interactions and role models.
posted by bitmage at 12:12 PM on June 29, 2011


An example of being treated like a potential pedophile/pervert - go out in public with a camera, try taking pictures of street scenes - if they include children (like at a park), the odds of you being harrassed and threatened are HUGE. Even if they don't include children, but include females, there's still a good chance of people harrassing you, calling you a pervert, trying to break/steal your camera, etc.
posted by antifuse at 12:12 PM on June 29, 2011


Given that, interacting with kids in any way, for a male, is akin to jogging along the autobahn; at night; in black clothing.

OK, let me get this straight. The McMartin preschool case (a travesty, given)--and the others like it--have made "talking to kids" as dangerous as "jogging along the autobahn at night in black clothing."

I don't think you are helping to dispel my claim of overreaction.

Why expose yourself to the risk of unfounded accusations, by interacting with any kids, if you can help it?

Why talk to anyone? Why leave the house? Based on your reactions to the potential risk of being accused of child abuse (which to be honest must still be at least want to drive a car or walk around the city.

It's fine not to want to talk to kids (or anyone else) for any reason. But please don't pull a "Oh, I like kids and I wish I could talk to kids, but it's too dangerous" cuz that's the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time.

I will eat my hat if someone pops up to say that he likes playing with kids but will not do so at all because he's scared of being accused of a crime.

On preview: using the daycare sexual abuse shams of the 90s as rationale for your beliefs is just insane to me. Sorry. I don't think it's "strong" or "courageous" not to be worried about false accusations of child abuse; I think it's rational.

Also, It's a boogeyman, and we live in a time & place where boogeymen have legal muscle.

It's been 20 years since McMartin case. How about something similar from the past 10 years?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:14 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


An example of being treated like a potential pedophile/pervert - go out in public with a camera, try taking pictures of street scenes - if they include children (like at a park), the odds of you being harrassed and threatened are HUGE. Even if they don't include children, but include females, there's still a good chance of people harrassing you, calling you a pervert, trying to break/steal your camera, etc.

Perhaps my high level of attractiveness affords me certain social luxuries. ;) I honestly have never ever seen such a thing. I take pictures on the street with my cell phone all the time.

Even in a place where it perhaps should exist, e.g. a public spot where lots of people are half-dressed, I don't see it. I see pervy guys taking pictures of men and women (mostly men) in San Francisco's Dolores Park all the time with no consequences.

Maybe it's just a matter of where you live and perhaps unfortunately, what you look like...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:18 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


*abuse (which to be honest must still be < 0.01 or less), how can you drive a car or walk around the city?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:20 PM on June 29, 2011


I honestly have never ever seen such a thing. I take pictures on the street with my cell phone all the time.

Try it with a big DSLR camera. For some reason, people equate a dude walking around blatantly taking pictures with a DSLR as a pervert. Like a pervert is going to be stupid enough to draw attention to themselves with a big honkin' camera, as opposed to trying to be sneaky about it.

Maybe San Francisco is more liberal about such things (people there tend to be, in general) but here in Toronto, which is hardly the conservative capital of the world, I know of SEVERAL photographers to whom this has happened - of varying levels of hotness. And I'm no supermodel, but I'm no greasy troll either. Lol.

Funnily enough - the cure for this? Put on a photographer's vest. Those silly beige ones that have all the pockets for your film and such? That nobody really needs any more? For some reason, DSLR + silly vest = "professional photographer" but DSLR - vest = "creepy perv". People are fucking WEIRD. I've had people give me looks when i was at the park with my own (2 year old) son, taking pictures of him, and had people ask me to ensure that I don't take any pictures of their kids. That's just fine by me, since I generally charge people to take portraits of their kids. :)
posted by antifuse at 12:28 PM on June 29, 2011


Why talk to anyone? Why leave the house? Based on your reactions to the potential risk of being accused of child abuse (which to be honest must still be at least want to drive a car or walk around the city.

Because: (1) odds of being accused irrationally are higher, when it comes to interacting with kids - kids are not reliable witnesses, and people are far more suspicious, overly sensitized and trigger-happy when kids are involved. You don't face the same kind of a situation when "talking to anyone", or "leaving the house"; (2) the judicial system seems to me far more dangerous and prone to bad functioning when it involves kids - witness the countless child abuse witch hunts, with appalling judicial behavior, and no, I have no confidence at all, that magically all that has been rectified recently. This danger of judicial misconduct is far lesser when it involves disputes with adults and kids are not involved, which is why I don't worry about "why talk to anyone", "why leave the house"; (3) the consequences of such accusations are far more devastating when it involves kids (Ray Buckey spent 5 years in jail, without ever being convicted of any wrongdoing). This is why it's rational to avoid talking to kids, but not "why talk to anyone", or "walk out of the house".

I will eat my hat if someone pops up to say that he likes playing with kids but will not do so at all because he's scared of being accused of a crime.

Interesting. Because I know for a fact that this is pretty common. When I am in Europe, which I visit practically every year, I have no problem playing with kids, or walking by playgrounds or interacting with kids - I may not seek out such opportunities, but when they occur (such as visiting friends with kids etc.), I behave as any normal adult does - and as I always did, prior to my living in California. But I absolutely radically alter my behavior here. And you better get going on that hat meal, because tons of people do some things, or alter their behavior depending on which country they find themselves in. If I know for a fact, that for example, in Thailand, it is common for police officers in the town of Chiang Mai (part of the golden triangle of drug production) to plant drugs on tourists in order to extort bribes, I'm either not going to visit Chiang Mai, or make sure to stay far, far away from any cop if I can help it. And yes, people who come here also change their behavior, because they know American law has a particular set of specific dangers - true of any country. It's just common sense.
posted by VikingSword at 12:49 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really, this is no different than being a member of any group that's under suspicion. Black people may alter their behavior - not drive in certain parts of town etc. - because want to avoid hassles from cops on grounds of "driving while Black" (in the U.S., does not obtain in f.ex. Chad). Muslim Americans who dress religiously, may avoid certain "security zone" type areas, because they don't want to be hassled, reported etc. (in the U.S., or Europe, does not obtain, in f.ex. Indonesia) And as a male, I prefer not to find myself in the presence of kids (in the U.S., does not obtain, in f.ex. Europe).
posted by VikingSword at 1:03 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will eat my hat if someone pops up to say that he likes playing with kids but will not do so at all because he's scared of being accused of a crime.

I don't play with my niece and nephew unless other adults are around. My niece is 6 and likes to show people her room and toys, and also likes to close the door so her brother doesn't bug her. She's also at the age where she thinks bodily functions are hilarious. It is way too plausible that one weird joke from a kid + being alone with an adult = a lifetime of distrust or in the worst case, a criminal conviction and ruined life.

I just try to use the same "open door" rules that we used as a T.A. in university - don't be in private and have other people within earshot so misunderstandings don't escalate.
posted by benzenedream at 1:09 PM on June 29, 2011


Black people may alter their behavior - not drive in certain parts of town etc. - because want to avoid hassles from cops on grounds of "driving while Black"

.. but that actually happens. A lot.

I just try to use the same "open door" rules that we used as a T.A. in university - don't be in private and have other people within earshot so misunderstandings don't escalate.

I agree. I'd follow that rule for almost anyone I didn't know well, regardless of their age.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:17 PM on June 29, 2011


It is way too plausible that one weird joke from a kid + being alone with an adult = a lifetime of distrust or in the worst case, a criminal conviction and ruined life.

It it just stilll seems way too implausible to me. I just don't see it happening in the news or in my own experience. I suppose we'll have to "agree to disagree" here. Sorry to monopolize.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:20 PM on June 29, 2011


but that actually happens. A lot.

Frequency is one thing. And extreme consequences are another. If there's only 1 in 10 chance of dropping a key that's thrown my way, I have no problem with people throwing keys for me to catch. If there's only a 1 in 1,000,000 chance an apparently unloaded gun is going to go off - I'm not horsing around, pointing any unloaded gun at anyone. Because the consequences are devastating.

Btw. regarding Chiang Mai I mentioned above - it actually happened to a friend of mine. He's a musician and likes to travel the world recording folk music. He's as straight-arrow as it gets - zero interest in drugs. He went to visit Chiang Mai to record some music. Outside of his hotel, he was approached by a cop who simply put something in my friend's shirt pocket, asking "you know what this is?". My friend pulls out a plastic packet with some brown powder. Cop "it's drugs, and has your fingerprint on it". My friend had a choice - sit in the regional jail for an indeterminate period of time with great likelihood of severe consequences, or pay $2K. He paid. The kicker? He's been to Chiang Mai, altogether six times. Although he's heard of such stories, it didn't happen to him until the last time. It's not worth the risk, however small, for me to visit Chiang Mai.

The other day, I had some fresh oysters at my local farmer's market. I've been food poisoned by oysters twenty years ago, but the oysters looked delicious, and I knew that at worst, I'd have a stomach ache for a couple of days. I ate them with relish.
posted by VikingSword at 1:34 PM on June 29, 2011


pla: "We live in a world where one lie from a kid will destroy your life, even if acquitted."

To be fair, this happened to a fellow in the town where I used to live (guy sitting on park bench is approached by two 13 year olds and later accused of inappropriate touching when the girls got in trouble for skipping school) and he was acquitted. As far as I can tell, nobody remembers this even though it only happened 5 years ago.

I do agree that it is prudent for men to take precautions around kids, like not being alone with them unless they're your own or your friends'.

And for more recent cases of pedophile hysteria, wasn't there a grandmother in New Jersey who took a couple of pictures of her grandchildren in the bathtub who got arrested and charged with production of child porn a few years back? Oh, yes there was.
posted by wierdo at 2:10 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


But please don't pull a "Oh, I like kids and I wish I could talk to kids, but it's too dangerous" cuz that's the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time

It's ridiculous because pedophile-mania is ridiculous. Why are you blaming people who are rationally choosing to avoid becoming the victims of said mania by avoiding any appearance of impropriety?
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:12 PM on June 29, 2011


Why are you blaming people who are rationally choosing to avoid becoming the victims of said mania by avoiding any appearance of impropriety?

Because I don't think "said mania" exists (at least not in the U.S. at this time), and no one has shown me fuck all to prove it does.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:33 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Put bluntly, society treats all men as potential pedos or killers because of the tiny, tiny fraction of them who actually do such things.

I do not personally know any men who feel that they can't speak to or even look at a child in public for fear of being labeled a pedophile. Your statement that society treats all men this way is not factually correct.
posted by palomar at 6:05 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I seem to recall an AskMe wherein the querent wanted to know what, if anything, to do about a man out and about taking pictures of some market when kids were around.
posted by adipocere at 7:35 PM on June 29, 2011


I seem to recall an AskMe wherein the querent wanted to know what, if anything, to do about a man out and about taking pictures of some market when kids were around.

Honestly, taking pictures opens up a whole 'nother can of worms that isn't solely specific to kids.

a man out and about taking pictures of some market when kids were around.

That's not a problem. The problem (if any) occurs when there are underage boys and girls who are semi-dressed and someone is taking pictures of them surreptitiously. A former teacher of mine was fired for such behavior, and now that there are candid upskirt web sites, etc, I imagine it's even a bigger issue now.

Personally, I couldn't care less about somebody taking a picture of me or my kids in public. However, I can think of some times when I've been in public and I did not want to have my picture taken, but anyway, I think the taking pictures angle muddies the water quite a bit.

As for the talking to kids thing, I'm with palomar. It just seems ridiculous in my community, but I've said (more than) my piece on that already.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:52 AM on June 30, 2011


Just gonna leave this here.
posted by kafziel at 9:36 PM on June 30, 2011


And it boggles my mind that it boggles your mind. Because to me it's just common sense. Why expose yourself to the risk of unfounded accusations, by interacting with any kids, if you can help it?

This is an excellent point! I would encourage you to remember it when you hear a woman saying that she is afraid to walk alone at night in a city, or that she considers all strange men a threat until they are "known." Why risk being raped? Why risk being sexually assaulted?

Think carefully and ask, "What are the odds that a woman will, at some point be sexually assaulted in our society?" Then ask, "What are the odds -- the actual statistical likelihood -- that a man will be accused of sexual assault?"

Hell, a couple of years ago an 18 year old woman in Washington State was charged with filing false rape charges and fined $500 because police didn't believe her story. Now, three years later, police found a bunch of photos the rapist took of the four hour long attack. You want to think about a terrifying world? Imagine a world in which someone can brutalize you for four hours, then you get charged half a grand for telling police about it.
posted by verb at 6:28 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two of my own nightmares collide: losing custody of my children; being accused and arrested (and almost convicted) for a crime I didn't commit.

Think carefully and ask, "What are the odds that a woman will, at some point be sexually assaulted in our society?" Then ask, "What are the odds -- the actual statistical likelihood -- that a man will be accused of sexual assault?"

Too true. My real biggest nightmare that I'm almost afraid to admit is that my daughters are sexually assaulted. If I have two girls, the odds are more or less 50-50 that one of them will be raped or sexually assaulted.

The comparison of risk there is rather dramatic. Stories like this happen in the U.S. once a ... year would be a very high estimate, I think. (A given that we don't know the worst, perhaps), but 25-30 women are raped every hour of every day of the year. 248,300 per year.

Not sure how we got to this derail, but yeah, forgive us fathers of daughters for being a little overprotective from time to time.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:06 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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