San Diego State Rape Case Ends Without Charges
Brenda Tracy is a sexual assault survivor who goes to schools across the country to discuss her experience. When she was asked to give a speech to San Diego State University, she was unaware that the football players who were the target of her speech were under investigation for a gang rape committed at a house party. Today, the investigation has ended without criminal charges filed against any of the men, including one whose pro football contract was terminated after the charges. Tracy says this sends the wrong message.
While the investigation has resulted in a failure to press charges, a civil case against the perpetrators survives. Three players are accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl while she was passed out. The men contend that they did have sex with the girl, but was not aware she was 17. The victim contends that she told at least one of the men she was a high school student prior to sexual intercourse.
One of the three men is accused of spiking the girl’s drink when she was already visibly intoxicated. After he had sex with her, he brought her inside where the other men passed her around. The men contend that this was done with the girl’s consent. She says that she went in and out of consciousness as the men continued to rape her. She said that she believed that there was video evidence of the assault and someone recorded it. The teen reported the incident to San Diego police the next day.
Something bad happened, but was it illegal?
Statutory rape charges are only triggered when a defendant knows an individual is a minor at the time of sexual intercourse. In other words, it would have been very difficult for prosecutors to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that these men belong in prison for the next decade or more based on the allegations.
The next question would be: Was she too drunk to consent? The answer is probably yes, but how do you prove that? In a civil trial, jurors will be asked to decide the matter on the basis of whether the plaintiff’s story is more likely than not. In a criminal trial, the standard is much higher, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Regardless, no matter what happened and whether or not it rises to the standard of a crime, something unconscionable happened and no one deserves to be treated that way. The university is conducting its own investigation and the civil trial remains active.
Prosecutions for rape crimes, particularly those coming from universities, can be very difficult to prosecute. The defendants almost always raise a consent defense when there is evidence of actual sexual contact. That leaves prosecutors attempting to prove that the defendant did not consent beyond a reasonable doubt. Statutory rape requires proof of what the defendant knew at the time. So viable defenses remain possible even in cases of moral deficiency.
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