Commentary: Columnist Attempts to Try and Convict Sonne, Acquitted by Jury, in the Press

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By Antoinnette Borbon

I would like to take the time today to write a response to Debra DeAngelo’s column published in the Davis Enterprise, “If you’re drunk, ‘no’ doesn’t have to mean ‘no.

First, I would like to say that a case such as this was bound to bring forth controversy. However, controversy should not take away the weight of the facts in this case.

I remember the opening statements from both sides, and like Ms. DeAngelo, I was biased toward guilty as the prosecution painted a seemingly exact rendition of what happened on the night of August 16th. 2012.

However, unlike Ms. DeAngelo who never was in the courthouse, I was there almost every day, and on the few times that I could not personally make it, the Davis Vanguard was there, represented sometimes by the director of the Court Watch himself, David Greenwald.

Ms. DeAngelo was not only not there herself, but the account she relies on is from reporter Lauren Keene, who also was not there except for the last two days of the trial, and for part of the preliminary hearing last November.

But as the witnesses came one after another, day after day, it became clear we did not know who was telling the truth. There were more holes in this case than a piece of Swiss cheese. We heard testimony from eyewitnesses who changed their stories overnight, or differing accounts from one officer to the next.

We heard expert testimony which could not conclusively state the alleged victim even had injuries conducive to rape. We heard from Joseph Palacek, the prosecutions’ own witness, about how the amounts of alcohol in the defendant’s system were in question.

We even heard from the alleged victim herself. When asked that night, “did the defendant rape you?,” her reply to the police was “no!” And yes, Ms. DeAngelo, we are aware of the fact victims who are raped are ashamed and feel guilt when they are raped, but the question remains as to whether this was a rape.

Along with testimony, we viewed photos taken but, coincidentally, none were taken of the defendant’s fingers which could have proved he was telling he truth about holding the alleged victims hands intertwined in his. This would have raised questions about the testimony given by an officer on the scene about how she saw the alleged victim’s arms pinned down.

Even Nurse Rickpatrick testified that there was physical evidence to substantiate defense claims and thus no findings proving her arms were held down. Not to mention the fact that one of the eyewitnesses stated she saw the girl’s arms lying to her side, completely contradicting the statement given by Officer Bestpitch.

Ms. DeAngelo may not know this because, again, she was not in the courtroom.

So whom do we believe? The police or the eyewitnesses or neither?  Both, in fact, seemed to have changed their statements, from the night in question to as early as the next morning.

As to the alleged victim saying “no,” did anyone ever think maybe the tampon left inside her made it somewhat painful to have intercourse? Just a thought, but it raises questions about what she meant. Or was she telling him to stop because, as Defense Attorney Dan Hutchinson pointed out to the jury, she saw the flashlights pointed toward them as the officers walked up?

I would also like to bring to the public’s attention that the defendant is NOT some huge man like Ms. DeAngelo paints him out to be, but rather a small young man, with a weight not much greater than the alleged victim’s.

In conclusion, yes, the jurors believed the evidence Mr. Hutchinson presented before them and rightly so.  After listening to and viewing all the evidence, we have no choice but to believe enough reasonable doubt was raised in this case, and this being said, a juror is obligated to render a “not guilty” verdict.

It is always easy to assume things and believe hearsay and lies, when in fact there was only one eyewitness who saw the whole thing that night. All we have is what and who from that testimony, which one attorney used to expose lies and fight for truth and justice – and his name was Dan Hutchinson.

Debra DeAngelo may well believe that, as a columnist, she is simply entitled to her opinion.  Under the law, Mr. Sonne is entitled to not only the presumption of innocence but the benefit of reasonable doubt.

Ms. DeAngelo may not be bound by those standards, but the jurors were.  She is certainly entitled to her opinion.  She may think she knows what happened, she may believe she knows what happened, but she doesn’t know what happened beyond any reasonable doubt.

Ms. DeAngelo believes that having read an article from Lauren Keene and the Davis Enterprise that she apparently knows more than the jurors who acquitted Mr. Sonne.

What Ms. DeAngelo has attempted to do is try to convict Mr. Sonne in the press.

Mr. Sonne was acquitted in a court of law and should be entitled to get his good name back.  But Ms. DeAngelo knows better.  And since the jury did not make Mr. Sonne pay, she wants to do it for them.

After the trial, Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson told Lauren Keene: “This case, in my opinion, should never have been charged, and the jury’s quick verdict reflects this fact.  I was happy to see Mr. Sonne walk out of the courtroom a free man – vindicated by a jury from his community – and into the arms of those who care about him and always believed in his innocence.”

I agree.  And nothing Ms. DeAngelo says will change that.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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12 thoughts on “Commentary: Columnist Attempts to Try and Convict Sonne, Acquitted by Jury, in the Press”

  1. rusty49

    Thank you Antoinnette for rebutting Debra DeAngelo’s disgusting column. I felt exactly as you do when I read her article. Even though the victim herself said “NO” she was not raped, along with all the other doubting evidence, DeAngelo chose to work around that and still paint the defendant as guilty. If you ask me DeAngelo seems to have a chip on her shoulder and took it out on Mr. Sonne. But sorry Debra, this was not the right rape case to attack the defendant on.

    I normally don’t bother with DeAngelo’s columns as I find her writing boring and too left wing slanted for my liking. I only read her this time because it was about this case. Believe me, I won’t waste my time anymore. In my opinion she slandered Mr. Sonne, is there any avenue where he can get recourse against her? If not it’s sad that a columnist has that much protection that they can smear someone publicly and get away with it.

  2. medwoman

    There are two aspects of Ms.DeAngelo’s column that are troubling to me.

    1) The apparent disregard for our legal principle that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.
    Regardless of Ms.DeAngelo’s personal belief or preferences, it would appear the prosecution was not
    able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Sonne was
    guilty. Within our system, this means by definition that he is innocent. Whether or not a given
    journalist likes the outcome is irrelevant.

    2) The tone in which the article was written smacks of persecution. I absolutely defend Ms. DeAngelo’s
    right to say what she likes in her column, however, I think this particular diatribe did nothing to
    support her credibility and certainly cast doubts about her judgement.

  3. eagle eye

    I’m glad Ms. Borbon took the time to respond to Debra’s defamatory column.
    I never read Debra, she’s often disgusting, and I don’t know anyone
    else who pays attention to her either. She fills up space in the
    paper – that may be her only value to the Enterprise.

    There are few comments posted – this article says it all for us.

  4. marabjones

    Thank you all for the support! This was a tough case to listen to and write about but I am grateful for the opportunity to have done so. Yes, it can be difficult to keep our personal opinions out of these trials but it is my goal to report the story just as I hear it, see it. So if I make a few things unclear, you will have to forgive me, for it takes me hours to put them together…lol! I am often so exhausted, just trying to get them written on time and in my own particular writing style. But too, must admit this case took a bit of an emotional toll on me as I watched the whole thing unfold. I became a bit obsessed with bringing the truth to light , losing sleep over it! Often times I had to fight back tears especially during the viewing of Thadeus’s interrogation tape; it was so painful to watch, especially as a mother. I am just so thankful by the grace of God, Thadeus was defended by an honest and decent man, who with the help of an awesome investigator, Ms. Bly, set free an innocent young man. I felt ashamed for Ms. DeAngelo and her persecution of not just Thadeus but Dan Hutchinson as well. Her remarks were filled with pure guile. Thank goodness she is not our judge…. And one thing I did want her to know, yes, I was one of the ones who lovingly took him into my arms, but not to reward him for bad behavior, but express to him my prayers had been answered every single day of this trial…. And in the end, the only eyewitness to it all had made His presence known thru the not guilty verdict.

    Kindly, Antoinnette

  5. JimmysDaughter

    Lauren Keene and Debra DeAngelo present good reasons to never, ever buy the Davis Enterprise. I hope the citizens of Davis never spend one penny on that rag. Don’t even buy it for your picnic day schedule. Get it for free online. Don’t reward poor “journalism” with your hard earned money.

  6. marabjones

    You are very welcome, “jimmysDaughter.” It just sickens me to think the people of Davis may believe that terrible article, but at least the people who read this website will get the truth! Thanks for reading!

    Kindly, Antoinnette

  7. marabjones

    You are very welcome, “jimmysDaughter.” It just sickens me to think the people of Davis may believe that terrible article, but at least the people who read this website will get the truth! Thanks for reading!

    Kindly, Antoinnette

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