Last week the glorious US justice system brought us the acquittal of two NYC cops accused of raping an intoxicated woman they had escorted back to her apartment–this despite the fact that one of the cops admitted to climbing into bed with the nearly naked woman while his partner stood guard. This week we have a Pennsylvania jury failing to reach a verdict in the rape case of 31-year-old Jacquay Hall–this despite the fact that there’s a 911 recording of the assault in which the victim can be heard begging her attacker not to rape her while he tells her to “shut the fuck up” and threatens to “bust [her] up.” The same jury acquitted Hall of kidnapping, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful restraint and resisting arrest, but found him guilty of making terroristic threats and carrying a gun without a license.
According to the 18-year-old victim, Hall followed her down the street, pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her if she didn’t come with him. Unbeknownst to him, she had a cell phone in her pocket and managed to dial 911. For the next 24 minutes, she kept her phone turned on while he grabbed her by the arm and led her to an abandoned parking garage, where he raped her. On the 911 tape, the victim can be heard trying to talk herself out of being raped:
“I’ll give you my phone number and we can hang out or something… I wish you would let me go.”
She also offers to give him her bank card and asks him, again and again, to leave her alone:
“Please don’t do anything to me, please. Please leave me alone. Please. No. Please don’t do anything to me.”
Hall is heard repeatedly telling the victim to “shut the fuck up” and threatening to “bust her up.”
At one point, she tells him:
“Please don’t do this. I don’t want to have sex.”
To which he responds:
“Too late. Shut the fuck up.”
Eventually she says:
“I’ll do anything you want. Please don’t hurt me, please.”
911 dispatchers were able to determine the victim’s general location based on the closest cell phone tower, but Hall had already raped her by the time police arrived. When Hall and the victim heard the sirens, she told him she had no idea why police were in the area, reminding him that she hadn’t screamed. She then told him she urgently needed to use the bathroom and when he allowed her to go, she ran toward the approaching cop cars.
The defense, of course, has a different theory of the case (don’t they always). According to defense attorney Kevin Abramovitz, Hall and the victim knew each other and she “set him up” because she owes him money for drugs: “This was not a stranger rape. This was not a yank-someone-off-the-street, snatch-and-grab situation. This was a situation where the parties had a prior business relationship…”
Well, that makes it okay then.
Of course Abramovitz doesn’t deny that intercourse took place but claims it was consensual (as defense attorneys always claim whenever there’s DNA evidence in a rape case).
I’m skeptical about the defense’s contention that the two knew each other and she owed him money for drugs. It seems to me that if this had been about her owing him money, he would have, you know, demanded the money she owed him at least once. Moreover, based on what I’ve read about the 911 recording, nothing on the tape suggests that the two had a prior relationship. Seems to me that the defense cooked up this story after the fact in an effort to explain the tape-recorded evidence.
BUT: If they did know each other (as the jury apparently believed since they acquitted on the kidnapping charge) and she did owe him money, this in no way changes the fact that she said very clearly that she didn’t want to have sex and he responded by threatening her with violence and telling her to shut up. You’re not entitled to rape someone because they owe you money or they stole from you or for any other reason. It shouldn’t even be necessary to say this but apparently it is.
Another troubling aspect of this case is that the victim’s going along with the rapist, flattering him and pretending to be “into it,” is held up as evidence that this was consensual sex. Remember, this guy had a gun and had already threatened to kill the victim. She begs him to let her go and when that doesn’t work, she tries to bargain with him (I’ll give you my phone number, we can hang out; take my bank card but please leave me alone). When she realizes that she can’t stop him from raping her, her focus shifts to getting out of there alive and avoiding physical injury. And, speaking from experience, the best way to do that is to convince your rapist that you’re into it. It’s a smart survival strategy when confronted with a dangerous individual who has threatened to kill you, and it sure as hell shouldn’t be held against the victim. What was she supposed to do? Fight a guy with a gun?
And let’s not forget that she pretended to be into it knowing that the police were listening. If she hadn’t really been scared and especially if she was just trying to make it appear like she was being raped, as the defense alleges, she wouldn’t have done that. Her actions make sense only if her primary concern was survival. And then they make perfect sense.
I don’t how the eight women and four men on the jury were split, but when it’s not possible to get a rape conviction in a case with an armed assailant and a 911 recording of the actual rape, it’s easy to see why so many rape victims feel that pressing charges would be an exercise in futility.