"It's pretty black and white. They didn't do their job."
April 14, 2015 9:59 AM   Subscribe

"If his name was John Brown, he would have been in jail," one criminal justice official with knowledge of the case said. "If a woman says, 'He's the guy that raped me,' and you have corroborating evidence to show they were together and she went to the hospital and she can identify him, that guy goes to jail."
Last week, ProPublica and the New Orleans Advocate published the results of their months-long joint investigation outlining how law enforcement officers in five states repeatedly (and sometimes deliberately) failed to apprehend former NFL star Darren Sharper as he traveled cross-country drugging and raping women: Upon Further Review.

[cw: rape, sexual assault, violent misogyny, law enforcement collusion to cover up same]

Sharper's crime spree ended only after his 2014 arrest in Los Angeles, following a 24-hour period in which he sexually assaulted four women in two states. He pled guilty or no contest to state and federal charges in March, shortly after his attorneys reached a compromise on their request to place a gag order on the federal case against one of Sharper's co-defendants, St. Bernard Parish deputy sheriff Brandon Licciardi. (Licciardi has pled not guilty on all charges.)

Although he had been facing a life sentence, Sharper's plea deal may see him released from prison after serving only nine years. The Advocate reported on the deal, as well as the probationary restrictions, monitoring, and tests intended to follow Sharper for the rest of his life: 'Penile plethysmograph' test to gauge arousal part of Darren Sharper's strict post-prison deal. The most recent twist to the case involves a question as to whether Sharper's reduced term is even legal under Louisiana state law, which requires convicted rapists to serve at least 85% of their sentences.

Reporters from ProPublica, The Advocate, and Sports Illustrated recently made themselves available for an AMA on Reddit, excerpted here.

More on the FBI's ViCAP from FiveThirtyEight: Better Data Entry Could Help Stop Rapists Like Darren Sharper Before They Assault More Women.
posted by divined by radio (20 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like the dude should just be under house arrest forever until his money runs out and then off to prison he goes

Or, you know, he should go to prison now and stay there for the maximum amount of time allowed for drugging and raping at least nine women, rather than face 12 months per crime which is disgusting.
posted by billiebee at 10:31 AM on April 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Or, you know, I should preview more often...
posted by billiebee at 10:32 AM on April 14, 2015

This is really excellent reporting. Thanks.
posted by koeselitz at 10:33 AM on April 14, 2015

So even after reading the relevant article, I can't figure out for the life of me what the "penile plethysmograph" testing is supposed to actually accomplish. What is the goal of that? Is there some particular result that will lead to a particular outcome that wouldn't be the case otherwise? Or is it really just to humiliate and further punish the guy?

Not that he doesn't deserve it (well, I guess what he really deserves is the jail time anybody else would get) but damn that just seems pointless fucked-up ness for its own sake.
posted by Naberius at 10:37 AM on April 14, 2015

There appears to be some evidence to suggest that it can test for biastophilia, a paraphilia involving rape. However, there appear to be enough caveats to its use (using Sudafed to defeat the test, for example) that it seems to be more punitive than useful, at least to me.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2015

The deal doesn’t specify in which Arizona county Sharper must reside, and not every Arizona county’s probation department makes use of the penile testing. Maricopa County — the state’s largest, including Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa — stopped awhile ago, said Michael Cimino, deputy chief of the county’s adult probation department.
“It’s not typically something we use any longer,” Cimino said. “It’s been several years.”

That seems to suggest it's unlikely he will have to undergo it, it's just showing that he basically had to agree to everything they could think of in terms of his release conditions. I guess it's just the most clickbaity one.
posted by billiebee at 10:47 AM on April 14, 2015

The reporting in the main post is really excellent. What a horrifying story.
posted by kittensofthenight at 11:02 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

propublica consistently does amazing work and i love them a lot.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:22 AM on April 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

I do not believe that in 2011, at age 35 or thereabouts, Darren Sharper spontaneously decided to become a serial rapist. Out of the blue he just decided to start raping and drugging women.

Which leaves one of two possibilities: Either he is innocent, which even he does not argue, if he plea deal is any indicator.

So the other option is that he has been doing this and getting away with it for decades. Considering his method, which involved amnesiac drugs, certainly some women had no idea they were raped. But there must have been others. Some wouldn't have come forward, for the reasons women don't come forward plus the fact that he was a celebrity.

But I feel sure that the failure of police did not begin with a New Orleans case a few years ago. And I dread to think how many women he has victimized.
posted by maxsparber at 11:23 AM on April 14, 2015 [14 favorites]

maxsparber: So the other option is that he has been doing this and getting away with it for decades. Considering his method, which involved amnesiac drugs, certainly some women had no idea they were raped. But there must have been others. Some wouldn't have come forward, for the reasons women don't come forward plus the fact that he was a celebrity.

In one encounter, he managed to drug two women and a man at once, depositing the man in the hotel lobby so he could carry out his attacks undisturbed. Being able to do that shows how polished and well-rehearsed his MO is. He must have been at this for years.
posted by dr_dank at 11:29 AM on April 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

Good article, but it's distressing to read the oft repeated lamentation about our poor performance in dealing with sexual assault.

But taken as a whole, the Sharper case underscores American law enforcement's trouble with solving rape cases: Investigations are often cursory, sometimes incompetent, frequently done in ignorance of the suspect's past sex assault history.

This bothers me especially after I learned about Rebecca Campbell's research and consequent successful efforts at rehabilitating our system's response. I feel like I should link this every time I read about rape until it becomes common knowledge. Trigger warning maybe, but also some victims have been really helped by learning about this.

Video of her amazing 2014 lecture at Aquinas College
posted by maniabug at 11:39 AM on April 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

This "penile plethysmograph" should qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. Like with "chemical castration", I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of the state doing anything resembling technical physiology control. Which is, of course, indistinguishable from mind control.

I don't care if he accepted it as part of a plea deal. There are a number of things I don't want the state to have the power to offer defendants. Genital mutilation would be next on that list.

Give him the same punishment you give anyone else. This idiot should not be setting dystopian legal precedent for the rest of us.
posted by clarknova at 12:45 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's hard to tell from the FPP or from the wikipedia page linked earlier what the "penile plethysmograph" specifically entails, but from what I've gathered it doesn't sound cruel at all. It doesn't sound particularly reliable or anything but I think its a test in a lab, same as a UA or a other routine probation monitoring. They don't leave the plethysmograph on all the time like a ankle bracelet.
posted by kittensofthenight at 12:55 PM on April 14, 2015

The "penile plethysmograph" test sounds absolutely dumb and useless, but should that be the focus of discussing a man who has wreaked such unchecked havoc and misery on the lives of the women he has assaulted.

He had to rape 4 women in 24 hours to even get arrested and so I think navel-gazing about a stupid lie detector for the penis test is just ugh, I dunno. Better than this piece of shit deserves.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:00 PM on April 14, 2015 [11 favorites]

I think navel-gazing about a stupid lie detector for the penis test is just ugh, I dunno. Better than this piece of shit deserves.

posted by kittensofthenight at 1:19 PM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's almost too much to comment on. This case touches on the preferential treatment afforded professional athletes, the reluctance of victims to report rape, the slipshod work police departments often apply towards rape cases (particularly when the accused is famous), the inability of police departments to work together....it's horrific. Particularly so when you read the details of his methodical rape sprees. A well-oiled rapist machine.

I'll grant, from the plethysmograph article, Sharper's post-prison parole and monitoring program will serve to keep him chained to official surveillance for the rest of his life, but this disgusting amoral motherfucker deserves a lot more time that he's getting under that plea deal.

I hope his co-defendants, Licciardi in particular, get the hammer.
posted by Existential Dread at 2:04 PM on April 14, 2015

There are a lot of rape statistics in the main article which are dismal, but the two which stood out for me were:
The FBI also created a database to contain detailed case descriptions to help police capture serial rapists who operate across state lines. But it is seldom used. Of 79,770 rapes reported to police in 2013, only 240 cases were entered into the database — 0.3 percent.
The failure to promptly test rape kits is a longstanding national problem that has hampered investigations for years. The federal government estimates there is a current backlog of hundreds of thousands of such kits sitting unexamined in police stations and testing labs.
The detection and conviction rates are appalling not because the tools don't exist to back up women's stories or flag up potential serial rapists, but because they are routinely not being used. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits untested means hundreds of thousands of women who go through the ordeal of rape, then the ordeal of the test, only for it to be so inconsequential to the justice system that the kit lies ignored. It is beyond unacceptable and frankly more outrage-worthy than whatever tests Sharper may or may not have to face.
posted by billiebee at 2:15 PM on April 14, 2015 [14 favorites]

Today, studies show that only about one in three victims report sexual assaults in the first place. Of those reports, Department of Justice statistics show, less than 40 percent result in an arrest, a far lower figure than for other major crimes such as murder or aggravated assault.

I wouldn't have thought the arrest rate was anywhere near 40%. The article links that figure to the FBI's records for 2010, when they only were tracking data associated with "forcible rape" [ugh], so I suppose that explains it somewhat. The statistics don't seem to include conviction rates. The FBI changed its definition of rape in 2013.

(Thank you for this post.)
posted by argonauta at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2015

Really fantastic reporting.

Thanks for posting.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:21 AM on April 15, 2015

Deadspin, of all places, talks a bit about what the plethysmograph is supposed to achieve, and why the science behind it might not be sciency.
posted by Mezentian at 7:22 AM on April 15, 2015

« Older The Richer and the Poorer   |   (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments