Rape Case Exoneration Provides Another Mark Against DA

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2972607492_848584e3ac.jpgA pretty good article earlier this week in the Davis Enterprise on the rape case of three men who had been accused of rape, sodomy, kidnapping and charged with 63 counts.  Sound familiar?  Except this time the accused facing near certain life times, were found innocent by a court of law that issued the verdict on Tuesday.

We did not sit through the trial and we only know press accounts of the case, but it has all of the familiar elemnts.

According to Dain Weiner, attorney for one of the accused, the woman made up accusations after she slept with one of the defendants and did not want friends to know what had happened.

The woman alleged that the three men assaulted her on Jan. 25, 2008, at the Lexington Apartments, 1100 Olive Drive. She told Davis police she was restrained and sexually assaulted repeatedly before she was able to free herself.

Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin, the prosecutor of the case, issued a statement:

“While we respect the jury’s verdict, we believe the evidence told a different story. The victim had bleeding, rape-related injuries and the defendant Mostafa Noori had the victim’s blood on his clothing.  The victim was very brave to come to court and relive this horrific nightmare.  The victim was put on trial by the defense and she was re-traumatized. We are satisfied that the truth has been told.”

It seemed all set for the same verdict except for one thing, the victim had told authorities the exact time she was allegedly assaulted.  However during the trial, the defense was able to prove that she was on the internet, instant-messaging with a friend, at the time she gave.

Is this a vindication for our system or just another example of an overzealous prosecutor who might have nabbed three more people were it not for the fortuitous discovery of exculpatory evidence?

One of the victims certainly did not talk about victory.  All of them felt their names had been dragged through the mud.  These young men had bright young futures.  One had been accepted to medical school before his arrest but that admission was rescinded when the official learned of the charges.  Apparently the jurors made him promise to go back to medical school.

“Hopefully this won’t have an impact on what I’ll do in the future, but I’m paranoid. I’m really paranoid.  It’s just so easy to Google someone’s name. Hopefully I’ll get my way back to med school. The jurors made me promise I would.”

Another of them quoted as saying:

“I don’t think I’ll ever get back to where I was. If you Google my name you’ll find things calling me a rapist. You’re not supposed to pre-judge us. But it’s still out there. If I ever apply for a job, if I ever apply for anything, I’m going to assume I didn’t get it because of this.”

Then there is the financial turmoil.

The son of Pakistani immigrant who fled during the Russian invasion to build a family in America and live in peace now has his family left sleepless and financially depleted after a $1 million bail bond and legal fees from the two year court battle.

According to the article Dain Weiner is considering filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Davis.

But we are left with a number of questions that unfortunately we will not get answered.  The prosecutor, in this case the District Attorney’s office, has the discretion to prosecute cases as he sees fit.  There is very little that can be done to oversee that authority.  That office has the power to in a lot of ways ruin people’s lives even when a jury acquits the accused.  In this case, the financial and emotional turmoil are tremendous. 

There are a lot of questions that need to be addressed.  To some extent we can argue that despite the high cost to the accused in terms of their lives, the system worked here, but how close would it have been not to have worked.  If these guys were truly innocent, had the instant messaging record not exists, would these men have still been convicted?  That alone ought to haunt us, because we have seen in a so many cases, possible innocent people behind bars.

Ponder this as well, each time the District Attorney’s office gets a conviction, we get a press release.  The local newspapers run the article virtually unedited.  That is how the District Attorney controls the flow of information.  Guess what, no press release here.  So other than the fact that this was high enough profile for some of the press to follow, we would never have known.  The District Attorney wants praise when they do the job well, but they are not going to accept responsibility otherwise.

At the end of the day, we should be asking a lot of tough questions here that unfortunately, we will never get the answers to.  How powerful is the position of prosecutor that even in exoneration, a person’s life may be altered.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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26 thoughts on “Rape Case Exoneration Provides Another Mark Against DA”

  1. outraged

    To Mr. Greenwald and People’s Vanguard: the only victim in this case is the poor girl, who was in fact raped by four, not three, men. I don’t understand how they were found not guilty, as the victim did everything she was supposed to do following the assault: she called the police immediately, and then went directly to the emergency room, where she was treated for EXTENSIVE damages. They had DNA evidence, plus evidence of non-concentual forced attack. She couldn’t talk for days because she was so hoarse from her horrified screaming. These men complain of financial burdens and their names dragged through the mud? These men have destroyed a woman’s life forever. And now because they are free to injure another woman, she is terrified and unable to go back to any semblance of her life before the attack. Her family is also financially devastated by this mess, not the mention emotionally drained, and now horrified by the justice system we have in America. Did you know that one of the men violated his restraining order just to mock her, showing up at her work? I thought things were different now, but it turns out the women’s movement is still in the dark ages, where the victims are STILL “asking for it.” Please in the future investigate both sides of the issue, as you admit you were not in the courtroom, and did not receive both sides of the story, nor did you see this brave girl relive for ONE ENTIRE WEEK on the stands what she endured. No one in their right minds would have endured what she went through just so “her friends wouldn’t know.” You are ridiculous and I am horrified that you do not even QUESTION their “innocence.”

  2. David M. Greenwald

    I’m open to hearing all sides of the issue. The jury obviously ruled based on something. But juries have been wrong before. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in helping me understand how guilty parties were found innocent (in a county where innocent parties are often found guilty).

  3. Alphonso

    The Davis Enterprise should be commended for publishing the outcome of the case – most papers show little interest in Not Guilty verdicts. It seems to me that all papers that publish crime allegations should be required to print retractions and erase names from internet sites once not guilty verticts are given.

    It is easy to understand how a case like this could happen. The DA, the Davis Police Department and the largest Davis institution (UCD) all are under significant pressure to overlook and distort the truth when it comes to sex related crime.

    The Yolo DA’s office has one priority and that is winning cases. With very few exceptions they will bury the truth to win at all cost. Ms. Serafin (the DDA) will probably get a negative review for “losing” this case.

    The Number One crime priority of the Davis Police is Sex Crime and they will bend over backwards to demonstrate success. Did they really bother to investigate the evidence in this case? – probabaly not! I would like to know the specific police officers who “investigated” this case. Also, the Davis Police should show the same level of interest in arresting people who falsify sex crime allegations.

    The University focuses on being politically correct and that has led them to fabricate sex crime data. One of the people who promoted this “rape story” was the same UCD administrator who fabricated the sex crime data and used it to get grant money from the federal government. A person could not operate like that unless people above her condoned her activity.

    Obviously rape is horrible, but it is sad that the institutions set up to combat it can not be honest. Something to think about next time you sit on a jury.

  4. Rich Rifkin

    DAVID: [i]”a county where innocent parties are often found guilty.”[/i]

    Often? WTF? Any evidence to support that claim?

    In the last 10 years, there are only two cases I recall where a conviction was overturned; and in one of them the convicted was never found to be “innocent.” If there are many others, I plead ignorance.

    The first was the case where a car was searched for a gun by police; and they did not disclose that they found no gun. This was a material fact, because the defendant had been accused by a bouncer of having threatened him with a gun and the defendant said he had no gun. The second was a murder case in which a defendant was convicted after he confessed. However, his Miranda rights had not been read to him; and he was subsequently [i]found guilty[/i] of manslaughter. In that same case, a number of others were found guilty, too.

    There may be other cases where convictions were overturned. But if it is only a few cases in a decade, your accusation that juries in Yolo County have “often” found [i]innocent[/i] parties guilty should be withdrawn.

  5. David M. Greenwald

    Rich: I should have added, “imo” they are innocent, since they were found guilty by jurors and as yet not overturned on appeal or new trial. I’m working on a few at the moment, they are not ready for publication just yet however.

  6. E Roberts Musser

    I assume the three defendants were acquitted, because there was REASONABLE DOUBT in the minds of the jury as to their guilt. However, the police cannot make an arrest and the prosecution cannot bring a case unless there was probable cause to believe a crime was committed. I really fail to see that the police or prosecutor did anything untoward here, based on the evidence that appears in the newspapers/blogs.

    Just remember O.J. Simpson was acquitted in criminal court, but found liable in a civil court for the murder of two people.

  7. Alphonso

    I find it hard to believe that 63 counts (all based on a reasonable effort to evaluate probable cause) could be summarily tossed out by a jury – all 63 counts.

    Also remember the System is based on the simple concept that a defendant is Innocent Until Proven Guilty. These people were found not guilty – they went in innocent and came out innocent. There is no fuzzy middle ground.

  8. civil discourse

    I think you The Vanguard are treading on very sensitive ground here without much base, and in doing so you are inviting very speculative commentary. You are not presenting any new evidence. You have no personal account of the trial. You are in fact using a newspaper article about a RAPE CASE (which heavily quotes the defense attorney) to build your own case against the DA. A rape case where the defending attorney was a slick high paid person and did a great job in turning public opinion. Where you there to see that “..even the court staff were happy,” as their attorney alleges? I doubt it.

    I think it was a bit careless to use the rape case in this way. They are really never that clear cut- rape case after rape case shows this to be true. Just because the DA didn’t get a conviction doesn’t mean something very bad didn’t happen. To then take the Davis Enterprise article at face value without doing your own work is kind of shocking actually, especially considering the subject matter.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    Civil: I disagree. If there wasn’t the jury verdict, I’d agree with you. But with the jury verdict, we have a case that many have told me was questionable and the jury essentially agreeing with the outcome. If someone wants to give me evidence to the contrary, I’m all ears.

  10. Rich Rifkin

    Speaking of rape cases gone bad … I missed this story when it was reported last week, but a man in Florida was freed after spending 35 years in prison ([url]http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/july-dec09/dna_12-18.html[/url]) for a rape of a child which DNA has proved he did not commit. The case dated back to 1974.

    The News Hour interviewed the innocent man and Barry Scheck, the director of the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University ([url]http://www.innocenceproject.org/[/url]), which has freed hundreds of men wrongly convicted of rape. Interestingly, the common flaw in most of those incorrect convictions was mistaken identity. That is, the person who was raped pointed out the wrong person who committed the rape and testified in court that, “He is the one who raped me,” when in fact (if it happened) it was someone else who perhaps looked like the rapist.

    That is what happened with James Bain in Florida. The child who was raped described his attacker and it fit Mr. Bain; someone then suggested it was Bain; and when Bain was brought in the police became convinced (despite his alibi) that he was the one. The child (perhaps prodded by police) agreed it was Bain; and the jury convicted him.

    Here is an excerpt from the News Hour: [quote] [b]JEFFREY BROWN:[/b] Mr. Scheck, James Bain was held longer than anyone now exonerated by DNA testing. But is his case unusual in any other way?

    [b]BARRY SCHECK:[/b] No. As a matter of fact, what’s remarkable about his case is that it’s a single-perpetrator sexual assault case with a mistaken identification. And the single greatest cause of the conviction of the innocent has been eyewitness misidentification.

    [b]JEFFREY BROWN:[/b] Eyewitness, in most of the cases, you still find that that’s what lead to the wrongful conviction?

    [b]BARRY SCHECK:[/b] Yes. I mean, we know what the causes of wrongful convictions are, eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, invalid or improper forensic science, prosecutorial police misconduct, or inadequate lawyering, jailhouse snitches. Those are the causes, but the one that has caused more miscarriages of justice is eyewitness identification.

    And we now know, after 30 years of really solid social science research, how to minimize that with best practices that can reduce the number of misidentifications, without reducing the number of correct ones.[/quote] The case in Davis at the Lexington Apartments was not one hinged on identity. It was a much harder nut to crack: Was it consentual sex or was it a rape? It comes down to who you believe. My take on why the jury believed the defendants and not the accuser was because the accuser’s story did not fully hold up: [i]”The woman had told authorities the exact time she was allegedly assaulted. But during the trial, Weiner was able to prove she was on the Internet, instant-messaging with a friend, at that time.”[/i]

  11. civil discourse

    To The Vanguard: I would expect more nuanced perspective here- Rich Rifkin has touched upon the larger story which is about Rape itself. Not easy to define, different definitions in each state, with both wrongful convictions and many rape cases never even prosecuted.

    You hint that you were told “this case was troubling” and so that leaves us to take your word for it.

    That is very unsatisfying from an intellectual standpoint.

    Barring the presentation of any evidence as to why “this case was troubling” for you, we must assume you always will agree with a jury’s verdict, since that is the sole evidence / justification you present.

    This conclusion seems contrary to the stated role of journalism and this blog.

    In addition, given the troubling nature of rape cases nationwide, and the Vanguards usual sensitive nature regarding issues of gender, this piece seems like something from Fox: shoot first and ask for evidence later.

  12. Frankly

    I’m happy that I do not have daughters to worry about, but these days I am just as worried about my sons being accused of “regret rape”. It is arguable that the life damage done to a man falsely accused of rape is as horrific as what a woman who is raped might experience post mortem. I wonder how the four young men from the Duke Rape case are doing today?

  13. Alphonso

    It is not the false accusation that you should worry about. That stuff happens and unfortunately it is human nature to lie about your own actions as well as the actions of others. What you really should worry about is how the “authorities” and the community react to the false allegations – is there going to be an honest evaluation of the facts or are they just going to go along the politically correct route and accept everything the accuser has to say? The problem in the Duke case was not the woman (even though she lied) it was the DA – Mike Nifond. He ignored the truth and made an effort to hide evidence from the defendants. I am convinced the same sort of bankrupt behavior exists in the Yolo DA’s office, I am specifically thinking of a woman who probably supervised the DDA in this particular trial.

    When the police and the DA’s office perform the way they are supposed to the community is much better off. I do not understand how 63 charges can be leveled against three (or four) people only to have the jury reject all of the charges. It is obvious there was a gross over stacking of charges – why did that happen? Some people were not doing their jobs and they were not being honest with the community.

  14. David M. Greenwald

    Civil: I have a few posts here but to this point no one has come to me to show me a different perspective on this case. I cannot work without people coming forward, almost every story I do that challenges official decisions comes from participants.

    Alphonso: That is the heart of the problem here. We see it time and again, usually the DA gets away with it.

    Jeff: I think that’s part of the problem, do you not? To me the prosecutor represents the state and should be more interested in “justice” than “convictions.” Sometimes justice means you don’t file charges or drop the case, sometimes it means you try to convict, but there needs to be a level of discretion that exists above the political.

  15. CheckYourself

    Outraged,

    Your posted comments are ignorant. All your information apparently, is either hear say or the crap you have read in the newspapers. You obviously have no idea what really happened. Well guess what, I was actually in court almost everyday for that trial. I heard both sides of the story, and after hearing all the facts, seeing all the evidence, and witness testimony there is no doubt in my mind (and the members of the jury) that all three men were completely innocent of all counts. Oh yeah, your comment about her in fact being raped by four men and not three is completely false. The “fourth” guy is the same person that you said,“Did you know that one of the men violated his restraining order just to mock her, showing up at her work”. Well guess what, the police found out that she falsely identified the accused, and made up the story about being mocked. You see the fourth guy was and hour away at the time of the supposed harassment, which was verified by cell phone records and witnesses. So the prosecution had no chance of getting a conviction, so they dropped the fourth guy with no charges, then her story magically changed from being raped by four men to three. And the rape test that was done was consistent with consensual sex not rape, and her hymen was still intact, (she is still a virgin) there were no EXETENSIVE damages like you stated. You are ridiculous, next time do a little research before you slander people on-line for your own enjoyment. Their names did get dragged through the mud, because of people like you who think they have the right to pass judgment on others.

    Think before you wirte!

  16. Frankly

    To me the prosecutor represents the state and should be more interested in “justice” than “convictions”

    David: agreed. However, I would add to this the irrational, media-driven social outrage that percolates throughout our society until we form a lynch mob. Let’s say the DA dropped this case… what would the media response have been? What would the general societal response have been? I suspect the media would have fanned the flames of societal indignation that these three men (who are already defined as “pigs” or “dogs” in our politically-correct pop culture) where getting away with rape. Look at the Duke Rape case… it also included race. Was Nifong dammed if he did and dammed if he didn’t? In the end, Nifong deserved our indignation because of his procedural lapses and lies. However, assuming he hadn’t made a mess out of the case, might he also have been chastised for losing?

    My point is that we need to look in the mirror and also pay attention to how the media responds. In my mind, the media is culpable because it continues to fan the flames of race and gender wars. There is a comfortable template of Pulitzer potential that they just cannot let go of. Like the Duke Rape case, the vast majority of Americans were scratching their head in disbelief. Rapists and racists exist, but when the media gets hold of the story we are force-fed the perspective that they are lurking around every corner, and the Nifongs of this world are justified in their actions.

  17. David M. Greenwald

    I don’t disagree with you. I think most prosecutors for media and political reasons think that they have to err on the side of over rather than under prosecution, fewer people will go after them for that.

  18. d.a.iscorrupt

    First off it is extremley obvious that Outraged works for the prosecution. There is no one else on this earth that has a motive to LIE like that. Every single word in that post is a lie. And to think I actually felt sorry for you when the jury would laugh and roll their eyes at you. Michelle I know you are bitter that you lost the case but get over it. I was in court each and every day lets address these lies, shall we.

    she called the police immediately——LIE. In fact she did not call the police, neither did any of her friends. Her own friends testified that she was happy, excited and laughing afterwards. She told her roomate she hooked up with the guy, when her roomate said which one, the “victim” replied the cute one. Afterwards she asked her roomate for the plan b pill, when her roomate didn’t have it, only then did the victim get upset. She’s upstairs looking for plan b, actually gets on her phone calling people for the pill while the four “rapists” are downstairs. She doesn’t tell anyone she was raped, she doesn’t even call the police.

    then went directly to the emergency room, where she was treated for EXTENSIVE damages—LIE. She went to the emergency room and nothing was found except for FECAL MATTER IN HER ANUS. That’s it. Not a one bruise, scratch or any sign of struggle. Both expert witnesses testified that her “micro trama” (redness in her vagina) was from consensual sex. To prove the point they had photos of injuries from consensual sex that were way worse than the redness she had.

    DNA evidence—–LIE. THERE WAS NO DNA EVIDENCE AT ALL. The county spent lots of $$$$ on all the testing and it all came back negative.

    She couldn’t talk for days because she was so hoarse from her horrified screaming——LIE. This happened at a party. Over ten people testified (including neighbors that share walls w/ the apt) AND NO ONE HEARD SCREAMING. Her friends were five feet away from the bathroom where she claimed she was raped and they didn’t hear one scream. But the “victim” did run out of court during her testimony. Ran about 100 yards from the courthouse, on the ground floor while everyone including the jury was on the 2nd floor. She screamed at the top of her lungs that “she’s so fucking pissed” and EVERYONE in the courtroom heard her, through marble walls. That pretty much sealed her faith right there.

    she is terrified and unable to go back to any semblance of her life before the attack—-LIE. She got to study abroad, join a sorority and get a 4.0 the following semester. She is doing perfectly fine!

    Did you know that one of the men violated his restraining order just to mock her, showing up at her work?———LIE. Her co-workers and managers came and took the stand. Their version of events contradicted EVERYTHING she claimed. She told her manager that someone she had a restraining order is in the restuarant, he offered to call police. She told him not to and to just allow her to leave. She was crying when she was talking to him, he felt bad and let her leave. She claims she begged him to call the police and he refused. Her other manager who was walking into the restuarant while she was walking out testified that she was laughing and smiling on her way out. Per cell phone records and witnesses the man she claims was at her job was actually an hour away!!! If he really did violate the restraining order he would have been thrown in jail, but he wasn’t. COINCEDENTALLY it was her birthday weekend when this happened, its pretty obvious she was trying to get out of work by any means necessary!!! This woman is a sociopath and the jury saw right through it.

    Furthermore the bathroom she claimed she was raped in by four men, couldn’t even fit three people total.

    This is a case of false allegations, THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE. The jury knew what was going on very quickly. Thats why after the verdict was read they were talking to the defendants, hugging the defendants family and requested to meet their mothers. Does this seem normal???? Is this was jurors who have a reasonable doubt do??? NO.

  19. d.a.iscorrupt

    I assume the three defendants were acquitted, because there was REASONABLE DOUBT in the minds of the jury as to their guilt. However, the police cannot make an arrest and the prosecution cannot bring a case unless there was probable cause to believe a crime was committed. I really fail to see that the police or prosecutor did anything untoward here, based on the evidence that appears in the newspapers/blogs.
    E. Roberts Musser

    You know what happens when you assume???? YOU have no idea what you are talking about. The rape shield laws make it to where the (false) claim itself is considered probable cause. Meaning as a man even if you have never met the accuser, if there is an overzealous D.A. (like in Yolo County) you can be thrown in jail. I actually hope this happens to you or someone you love just so you can be more intouch with reality, because you are not. This case had ZERO EVIDENCE but you know an overzealous DA will make something out of nothing.

  20. Alphonso

    d.a.iscorrupt said-
    “This case had ZERO EVIDENCE but you know an overzealous DA will make something out of nothing.”

    I know the defendants may want to walk away from this and hope the matter will just go away. I think it would be better if they openly talked about what went wrong. You have already described how the victim lied, but what were the failures of the Davis Police and the “investigation” done by the DA. Why are they considering suing the City of Davis?

    Who were the police officers involved in the original arrest and follow up investigation? Was the report honest and did they make any effort to investigate the “claims” of the “victim”. If we have the names we can keep track of people doing inferior police work – sort of a reverse crime mapper.

    The typical MO of the DA is to pile up the charges and then offer some sort of “deal” – the deal is a corruption of justice because the defendants must agree to doing something they really did not do, but it does allow the defendants to end the process with relatively minor penalties. What offer did the DA offer in this case?

    What do you think of the Yolo “Justice System”? I can guess but I would like to hear your comments.

  21. d.a.iscorrupt

    The investigation was very biased, the jurors agreed and told the defense so. There were MANY mistakes and important things that were looked over. Very incompetant “investigation.” I wont go into specifics.
    Yes a deal was offered, but the defense was not interested in ANY deal under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. These boys not only were “not guilty” but INNOCENT. Why would they take a deal of any kind??? They have bright futures that include med school, so anything on their records could potentially ruin their futures.

    The head detective on the case is who you need to keep track of for inferior police work.

  22. bachha

    63 counts each equaling 189 in one evening for the three! Once again the tactics used by the Yolo County DA to influence the jurors. Thank God there was a concrete evidence to exonerate them. Had it not been for the internet chat at the precise time the crime supposedly occurred, they all would be facing the same years as Ajay Dev got sentenced to. 378 plus years. Outrageous! It is interesting how there were several posts written by ‘Outrageous’ in favor of Ajay Dev and here someone uses the username of ‘Outraged’ to defend the accuser. The problem with defending Ajay’s case was that he was guilty before innocent in the eyes of the jurors. Yolo County DA office only cares about how to raliroad someone into the prison system, even if it means sending an innocent person to prison see(www.advocatesforajay.com). All my blessings to these three men into bankrupting Davis and yolo county with lawsuit.

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