My View: Sonne is Acquitted, But Justice is Far From Served

restorative-justiceYesterday the news came down that Thaddeus Sonne was acquitted of the charge of rape, for an incident that happened last August in downtown Davis near the train depot.  We had several reports that it was a very emotional moment for all involved.

One of the Vanguard Court Watch interns said that “the look on Sonne’s face was (as cheesy as it sounds) the look of justice.”  If you have ever seen the look of someone acquitted, you know the look.

While there may be a tendency to say that the jury got it right, and now Mr. Sonne can move on with his life – frankly this is a story that is all too familiar.

The fact is that Mr. Sonne is quite fortunate.  Mr. Sonne’s case moved through the system at lightning speed, getting through a preliminary hearing and a trial in just over five months.  Many cases take years to resolve – years of time in custody, years of time living in uncertainty.

It is not enough that the jury got this one right and the system worked, because in so many ways the system failed all of us in this case.  It failed Mr. Sonne and it certainly failed the young lady who was certainly a victim of something, even though I do not believe she was a victim of rape.

The victim in this incident did not want criminal charges pursued.  She made that clear in the police station, she made that clear in her testimony, and she made it clear to some in the community.

The evidence against Mr. Sonne was ambiguous, at best.  The victim claimed to have been so drunk that she did not remember what happened.  The police caught a glimpse of what happened but failed to see the context of it.  Were they watching a rape, as they assumed, or two drunk people struggling to have sex and suddenly realizing they had an audience?

And while Mr. Sonne seemed to be caught completely off guard by the allegations of rape, he acknowledged that he had heard her say “no.”

My generation was the first to be taught that no means no.  But what we don’t know in this case was when she said “no” and why.  She doesn’t know either.

So on what evidence are they trying this case?  This whole case screams reasonable doubt.  In fact, there is nothing other than doubts in this case.

So, at the conclusion of this case, I have to wonder the same thing I wondered when it started, the same thing I have wondered in numerous other case – why was this case prosecuted?

A week ago I posited, what if, instead of a criminal trial, the victim and defendant in the Sonne case engaged in a restorative justice program?

Imagine if Mr. Sonne would have to go around the state with the victim and lecture college students on the dangers of heavy drinking and the consequences that drinking might have on people’s lives.

Imagine him, traveling around lecturing “take back the night” for rape prevention groups, about similar issues.

Instead of going to prison, being punished for a specific period of time, or having the jury not be able to reach a guilty verdict and either hang or acquit him, he could be engaging in a dialogue with the female, understanding her concerns and how he may have unknowingly done her harm.

The fact is that there are horrific crimes that occur every day, some of them in this county, and there are bad people that need to be put away because they are a danger to their fellow residents.

Is Mr. Sonne one of them?  Is he any danger to the community?  If anything, he is going to learn from this lesson and avoid repeating the mistakes that he has made.

So I have to, once again, question the judgment to put this case forward, particularly in light of the reticence of the victim to pursue this.  This is not a case of the rape victim living in fear of her assailant – this was, at most, something that was murky and ambiguous in a drunken haze.

There are some who look at a case like this, like hundreds of cases like these and not just rape cases, but like dozens of other cases that we have covered in the county, and wonder why, why prosecute this?  Is this really an effort to justify sexual assault grants?  Is this really about cash for convictions?

We are not just talking about sexual assault cases, but many, many different cases.

At the MLK Day event, Cruz Reynoso did not come out and use the term cash for convictions, but he described it to a “T.”

“We have serious problems of prosecutorial discretion in the country and in a place called YOLO COUNTY,” Former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso told the audience.  “I have seen so many cases where the district attorney will add enhancements to the person being prosecuted and then will drop them when the person agrees that they are gang members because then they can get out of jail.”

“By having a greater number of folk identified as gang members then the DA’s office can get more money from the federal government and the state to fight gangs,” he said.

He did not say cash for convictions, but that is what he described.

The DA’s office, perhaps in an effort to change its image, perhaps being pressured, has created a Multi-Cultural Community Council.  The council is made up of a lot of good people.

On February 28, they are putting on their first Multi-Cultural Community forum.  According to a press release on Friday, “The forums are an outgrowth of efforts by the Yolo County’s Multi-Cultural Community Council to enrich understanding of Yolo County’s diverse population and to celebrate how cultural knowledge expands our ability to accept and appreciate differences.”

While one might question the motivations here, given some of the people involved in this event, it may be a step in the right direction.

The problem is that, from where I sit, this is not the issue that needs discussion in this community.  The issue that needs discussion is the perception in the community by many that some people are singled out for prosecution for very questionable crimes.

Mr. Sonne is only the latest of these people.  But unfortunately, the questions about why Mr. Sonne was prosecuted will not be the subject of a community forum – at least any time soon.  We will not have the DA’s office sit down with the Vanguard and explain themselves to the people of this community any time soon.

And so we are left with a disconnect.  A segment of this community does not trust the DA’s office to act in the interest of justice for all in this county.  Instead, we see selective prosecutions and acts that appear to suggest political or fiscally motivated prosecution.

Justice was indeed served for Mr. Sonne in the form of acquittal, but how many others in this county will never be so fortunate?

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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63 Comments

  1. medwoman

    I have a question for anyone with greater knowledge of the law than I.

    In this case, if did not matter that the woman involved did not want to press charges and apparently said so, presumably many times. Presumably this is because the accused was felt to represent a threat to the community.

    However, in cases of domestic violence, I believe that nothing moves forward legally unless the victim is willing to press charges. Is this correct ? And if it is correct, does anyone besides me see a major failing of our system ? Does it not seem ironic that the person who is under direct daily threat and often socially and economically dependent upon the abuser is forced to stand up to the abuser, often with the well being of children hanging in the balance, while in this case, the wishes of the alleged victim were not even considered ?

    This of course is not an indictment of the DA or of processes in Yolo county ( that case I think has been very well in this instance) but of a legal system that seems to over charge in some cases
    and woefully fail to protect in others.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Medwoman: It is untrue that in a DV case, that if the victim does not wish to prosecute, it will not go forward. I once saw a case where the victim testified for the defense and he was still prosecuted and convicted.

    The reason is that for many years DV and rape victims would often get skittish if not fearful of retribution. And so DA’s removed the decision from their hands.

    In a way, that serves some people, but it also harms some in cases like these or in cases where charges were fabricated or embellished.

    The judgment rightly belongs in the hands of prosecutors, but they have to use their discretion better in cases like these.

  3. medwoman

    Thanks for the clarification. Admittedly, my comment came only from what has been reported to me by my patients which is certainly not a reflection of the law itself or how it is enforced. For further clarity,
    do you know if the alleged victims are routinely asked whether or not they wish to press charges ?
    If this is the case, I can see how it could be a source of confusion.

  4. JimmysDaughter

    Medwoman’s comments are eerily timely, I was wondering the same thing. Just finished reading a book about the Natalie Wood mystery death. (It appears she was battered.) I then did a mental calculation of the battered women I’ve known: 11. 6 never left the abuser (Some were years ago & I hope that stat is better.) 1 died in his hands, 2 left with only the clothes on their backs. So yes, there’s a dire need to prosecute even when the victim requests otherwise. But in the case of sexual assault, I believe the victim should have a right to decide, because she goes on trial, too.

  5. JimmysDaughter

    P.S. Other 2 women, I lost track of. I hope Mr. Sonne does do some speaking at colleges & high school. I also hope he looks into volunteering for the Innocence Project.

  6. Phil Coleman

    The woman was characterized as a “victim of something,” with the something other than criminal rape. I’m reminded of a remark by a very wise attorney said to me many years ago, “Today, everybody is a victim.”

    In this case, the woman seems to have been victimized by poor judgment and excessive alcohol consumption. I’m curious where responsible self behavior enters into the equation.

    Responding to medwoman’s query about prosecutor discretion with a reluctant complainant, most times a prosecutor requires that the victim be willing to prosecute before the case is charged.

    Technically, the prosecutor represents the “people” and can prosecute a case without victim support. All prosecutors are overburdened with criminal cases and welcome opportunities to reduce the workload when available.

    Sexual assault and domestic violence have a traditional history of victim ambivalence before, during, and after a prosecution. There are many reasons for this to be discussed perhaps another time.

    In the past 3 decades, there has been an emergence of stronger public pressure for more rigorous prosecution of DV and sexual assault cases regardless of victim attitude. This was a very weak rape case and perhaps the Yolo DA was influenced by public pressure to prosecute. Irrespective of the verdict rendered in this, an similar cases, those whose sole purpose in life is to criticize the Yolo DA is assured of the opportunity to do so.

  7. Siegel

    I have a few problems with the former Davis Police Chief’s comments.

    First – the idea that everyone is a victim is very dismissive. I agree that she seems to have been victimize by poor judgment and excessive alcohol consumption, and I am certain that responsible self-behavior was missing in this case, but it almost strikes me as the defending the rape of a woman based on her attire. In this case, she was victimized perhaps less by her own conduct on the night in question, and more by the fact that she was unable to let it go because the advocate for the people decided that they knew better what was best for her.

    As you note, this was indeed a very weak rape case, if you can call it a rape case at all.

    At the same time, you write: “Irrespective of the verdict rendered in this, an similar cases, those whose sole purpose in life is to criticize the Yolo DA is assured of the opportunity to do so. “

    While the grammatical construct here is atrocious, I wonder what the purpose of your cheap shot: “those whose sole purpose in life is to criticize the Yolo DA” – of whom do you speak? And do you not find this an inappropriate vehicle to admonish those, no matter who they might be?

  8. Michael Harrington

    Most of us were not at the trial, and we know that you really have to hear the witnesses and evidence to be able to judge. And even then, none of us were at Our House, saw them leave, or what happened later.

    The jury has spoken.

    The two young people involved here have hopefully learned something.

    The students and others reading the stories have perhaps learned something from this debacle suffered by others.

    And, Our House had two reportedly drunk customers walk in, and they were served a lot more alcohol, right? Has Our House staff been disciplined? Have they learned anything? Isn’t there a rule about refusing new drinks to someone obviously drunk at the bar?

    All in all, the community has learned something here.

  9. JustSaying

    madwoman, David is correct that victims of “legitimate rape” historically have been reluctant to call for the perpetrators’ punishment. Shame, public exposure of their situation and defenses that attempt to show that the victims deserved or encouraged the rape by her unsavory past sexual history, her clothing, her behavior just before the rape, etc.

    As you point out yourself, domestic violence victims have added complications that discourage their cooperation–worries about bread-winning and other family support and fear of violent retribution. JimmysDaughter provides a snapshot of the victims’ dilemma.

    If you take a broader look at the justice system, you see that the DA’s office is representing all of us (society as a whole, “the people”) when deciding prosecuting even in the face of true victims’ understandable reluctance and fear. While neighbors’ petty disputes might call for the “do you want to file charges” question, alleged victims of violent crimes don’t get offered such an option.

    P.S.–Forcing Mr. Sonne into a “restorative justice” program or allowing him to “plea bargain” to accept supposed-victim conferences and speaking tours as an option to a trial doesn’t make sense. Why should an innocent person be expected to take on any such burden? I’d say we should keep restorative justice as an option for the guilty and reduce our reliance on prison sentences for “do justice.”

  10. Ryan Kelly

    I think these two young people have learned something – that police are not always truthful and you shouldn’t talk to them if you are suspected of some crime, people over 30 years old are not to be trusted, and, next time, get a room. Don’t expect talks at high school or events. We are all crazy as far as they are concerned. I agree with the Public Defender sentiments – “Is this really happening?”

  11. medwoman

    [quote]alleged victims of violent crimes don’t get offered such an option. [/quote]

    I am not sure that this is always the case. Again referencing a recent encounter in which a patient presented to me with obvious physical bruising allegedly inflicted by a family member. She reported to me that when the police arrived on the scene, she was asked the question of whether or not she wanted to press charges. I am not sure if her reporting of the incident was accurate, but if it was, it would seem to contradict this statement.

    [quote]Why should an innocent person be expected to take on any such burden?[/quote]
    I think that this may be the wrong question in terms of prevention of these kinds of debacles. The question for me is not should an innocent person be expected to, but would an innocent ( or guilty person) be well served and willing to take this on as a means of community service.

    This could be a win/win situation for the young person who has been involved in such an event in terms of resume building with public speaking, community service, peer counseling and public health experience to say nothing of building self confidence and for the community as a whole in exposing young people to the real world consequences of binge drinking from someone to whom they can relate.

  12. Siegel

    “that police are not always truthful and you shouldn’t talk to them if you are suspected of some crime”

    As an attorney who practiced for more three decades in this county and others like it, this is the best lesson you can learn.

  13. medwoman

    I can see a great deal of potential good coming from what I perceive as a misadventure in prosecutorial over zealousness in a case that merits a great deal of community reflection. What I would like to see would be some kind of forum with invitations to students from UCD, members of the local health community ( possibly an ER doctor ), owners of local establishments serving alcohol, representatives of the police force and possibly representation from the prosecutors office.

    Any thoughts on such a venture ?

  14. David M. Greenwald

    “-Forcing Mr. Sonne into a “restorative justice” program or allowing him to “plea bargain” to accept supposed-victim conferences and speaking tours as an option to a trial doesn’t make sense. Why should an innocent person be expected to take on any such burden? I’d say we should keep restorative justice as an option for the guilty and reduce our reliance on prison sentences for “do justice.” “

    A lot of misunderstandings about what restorative justice is. First, “forcing” is not a word that is conducive with rj, no one gets forced to do anything.

    Second, rj is not a process just for the guilty.

    Something happened that caused harm – it wasn’t rape – but it still caused harm and rj is a process that can bring about a better resolution.

    More on that next week.

  15. JustSaying

    Phil, your comments usually are the epitome of informative, measured observations.

    Today, you take on even-true victims, suggest that prosecutors use lack of victim reluctance as an excuse to reduce their workloads, and use the fact that the Vanguard is a hotbed of DA bashing to allege that some participants engage in such criticism as their “sole” purpose.

    Hyperbole coming from getting up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?

    More to the point, what are your views on “restorative justice” and the proposal that it would have a better option for the two principles than a trial?

  16. JustSaying

    David, you’re the last person from whom I’d expect to hear that plea bargaining is not a form of force. Or, do you not see the “rj” option as a firm of plea bargaining even if confessing guilt wouldn’t be a requirement? If the accused gets the choice “rj or a trial,” a guilty person might be attracted to the option.

    Why do you expect innocent people to spend a moment of community service as a restorative justice project evolving from unjust criminal charges? Why do you expect victims of violence to participate with their perpetrators in such an enterprise, although a few forgiving souls (God love ’em) hove worked even with the murderers of their own children?

    No need to disregard my concers as “a lot of misunderstandings about what restorative justice is.” I look forward to your upcoming articles(s) to see how accused-but-factually-innocent people and factually innocent victims of rape and other violence could be expected to forego trials in favor of restorative justice alternatives. And how you’d keep favoritism and abuse from sun a program.

  17. David M. Greenwald

    “David, you’re the last person from whom I’d expect to hear that plea bargaining is not a form of force. “

    It’s not a plea bargain either.

    I see rj as a process whereby the parties involved sit down, and freely determine what harm was done, what needs have arisen, and whose obligation is it to meet those needs?

    How do I expect innocent to spend a moment of community service? If in the process of the discussion, they decide that a harm was done and there is a need to address that harm, then I would expect that to occur. Just because a rape did not happen in this case, does not mean a harm was not done.

  18. JustSaying

    Even if it doesn’t involve actually pleading guilty, it is a bargain made with a factually innocent person in exchange for not going to trial for a crime. Just as you’ve repeatedly pointed out, such deals have built-in coercion elements.

    I keep claiming I’d never plead guilty to a crime in which I wasn’t involved. I’d contend that I’d not agree a year or two of restorative justice service rather than a trial for an unjust charge. (Of course, I’ve never faced a DA saying “the risk of two years or time served for a lesser offense.”)

    Your expectations for a victim of violence to participate before guilt is established are as questionable. The first ones to “volunteer” will be the same partners who beg for no prosecution and return to face repeated beatings and death.

    You sugget that restortive justice can work when no crime actually happened, just that “harm was done.” I wholeheartedly agree with the proposition that this type of non-criminal harm resolution could well be kept out of the courtroom through discussion and acts that more satisfactorily serves society as well as the voluntary participants.

    Advancing the concept to eliminate trials of guilty perpetrators and victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes is a giant step too far. If victims want to relieve some of the fate that otherwise would befall their attackers for a greater good, fine. It’t not an appropriate option, however, until guilt is admitted or determined.

    Innocent people should not be expected to engage in anything other than a trial that requires guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In order to help keep innocents from paying for crimes they didn’t commit, we’re fine to allow guilty people be judged as “not guilty” in the name of greater overall justice. But, let’s take care in claiming “no crime occurred” when there’s a “not guilty” verdict–they are not synonymous, right?

  19. Anonymous Pundit

    Based on media reports, this is a case that should never have been filed, an opinion apparently shared by 12 jurors. Justice was not served. Mr. Sonne was wrongfully prosecuted by the District Attorney. Justice would be a class action victory against the Yolo DA for wrongful prosecutions. Where are the attorneys jumping forth to win one for justice? They are too beholden to the kangaroo courts that butter their bread.

  20. curious

    Hmmm… i bet it would control the number of wrong cases brought to court if the D.A.’s office was somehow penalized for losing cases that were decided by some group, that they should have never been brought to court in the first place…maybe take the funds from their paychecks to pay for the proceedings instead of the taxpayers paying for them…just a thought…

  21. Anonymous84

    I created an account on this website in order to clear up some misconceptions and potentially some uninformed opinions.

    Background- I grew up in Southern California, in Los Angeles County. I am 28 years old and Hispanic. I am a guy.

    I served as Juror #7 in this trial, and according to the judge I am allowed to now speak openly about it so long as I am not negotiating any sort of compensation for these comments. I speak here freely, and by my own will. I have not made any negotiations for payment in any way with the the owner of this website, or anyone else for that matter.

    I’ll start off by stating one of the most important pieces of information that most people still don’t know, regarding the trial in general. This is that I along with 1 other person on the jury were extremely unconvinced of Mr. Sonne’s innocence, up to and even after the verdict was decided. We had both agreed that what we saw in the evidence was that something occurred over the course of 5-10 seconds, and it had appeared that it was non-consensual intercourse, which meant that regardless of how short the duration was, the law was still broken.

    I do believe that the prosecution made it very difficult for herself and her case by missing quite a few opportunities for questioning, as well as not asking [i]enough[/i] questions. Like, if the victim “only recalled saying “no, no stop” and nothing else, then how can she remember, or even know for sure that she was either raped or not? If a police officer is telling you after you’ve become “conscious”, that she had seen you being raped, why would you immediately think she was lying if you weren’t even conscious of the events? In my experience if your “blackout drunk”, typically you don’t recall anything at all for that period of time. So why would she try to protect the person that police are saying assaulted her? Sounds eerily familiar to the typical battered-wife cases to me. On a side note, she had called her then-boyfriend while in the back of the police car, and stated to him, “I was raped.” This makes absolutely no sense if she was saying nothing happened to the police.

  22. Anonymous84

    Something else that although circumstantial, raises serious questions in my mind, was that the police officer that spoke to the victim, recalls her specifically stating, “yes i told him no i didn’t want to have sex, and i tried to push him off but he wouldn’t get off. BUT he didn’t rape me.” And also, the victim stated to the officer that she “only wants to protect Thaddeus.” All of these statements were not denied by the victim in her testimony, she only stated that ” she couldn’t remember or recall saying a lot of things to the officer.”

    I honestly think that what was going on here, was the classic situation of a young, scared, and shameful victim going through the obvious motions of denial. This happens with domestic violence victims and rape victims alike. In this case, I believe that coming from a somewhat dysfunctional home may have caused something in this young woman’s mind to make her think that she couldn’t explain this to her family and that events like this would only bring “more drama” (victims own words) to the household. I repeatedly asked the other jurors, would any reasonable, logical, mature adult keep something that serious from their own parents for over 5 months? Would that same person go through the trouble of canceling her counseling appointments because it would cause “drama”? It made absolutely no sense to me as how she could justify that, but what did click with me was that this behavior in general lines up so closely with someone who is in total denial of the event. In all honesty, I had felt like she was so ashamed of the event that she used the denial to make herself believe, just like so many millions of battered women do, that it was no big deal. That since she may have not remembered it, she can say it “never happened” in her own mind, and thus not have to deal with the usual depression that follows events like this. She seemed entirely eager to get someone that she hardly knew off the hook. I fail to see that she did this because she felt “bad” for him. She refused to even stare in his direction in court. So much so that the defense attorney said, ” Let me move over here (moving to the center of the courtroom) since it seems that you cant see me very well. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE knew that the reason she wasn’t looking in that direction was because the defendant was staring at her the entire time and it obviously made her uncomfortable. Now does that sound like she “cared” enough for him to vouch for his innocence? I really find that hard to believe.

    One of the main reasons that the jury was not convinced of the police’s statements, was that both officers had made adjustments to their initial testimony on where they had begun to hear the words “no, no stop.” Officer Piro for example, initially testified to 25-30 feet where he clearly heard those words. And at this trial, changed his testimony to 30-40 feet. He also stated that he heard those words once at 30 ft, and again at 10-15 ft. Officer Bestpitch I believe had initially stated that she had heard voices as far as 60 ft away but could not understand what they were. She then, at this trial, stated that after having gone out to measure the distances with an independent investigator as well as the D.A., that she had realized her measurements were off, and that she felt 30 ft was around where she heard the words clearly. One thing I feel gives them both credit here, is that both of them pointed out separate landmarks as to where they both heard the voices, which indicated to me that they did in-fact hear a voice say those words, and that it was at around 30 ft. Now, a lot of people would call me naive, but I have a really hard time believing that two police officers with around 20 years of experience between them, would conspire to frame this young man or do things to make sure he was found guilty. They showed absolutely no indication that they were even remotely interested in his guilt or innocence throughout the proceedings. I kept asking myself, why would they lie? I couldn’t come up with a reasonable answer.

  23. Anonymous84

    So here you finally have the two officers, both stating that it took them AT LEAST 5-10 seconds to walk that 30 ft. You have another second or two, after they turn on their flashlights, since according to an eye-witness, the two didn’t respond at all to the light being shown on them. So this makes it a total of at least 6 seconds now. (again this is all direct evidence from eye-witness testimony at this point) They say the words “Davis police.” Then Mr. Sonne jumps up and says ” Oh shit, I’m sorry.” Officer Piro, Officer Bestpitch, and an eye-witness all stated, that up until the point when “Davis police” was said, Mr. Sonne showed NO indication of stopping his actions, no indication of confusion, no indication of hesitation. 6 seconds. Officer Piro recalled him being very alert, and not very drunk. But a bit nervous. You then have BOTH officers stating that the girl appeared to be crying, with officer Bestpitch stating that the girl rolled over and into the ‘fetal position”. These actions all indicate to me that something was being done to this girl to illicit a feeling of either pain, or violation. Couple that with the fact that EVERYONE involved with the case agrees that she said ” no, no stop no” multiple times, and the picture starts to clear up. In photographs taken by the forensic examiner, she showed signs of scrapes on the back of her hands and knuckles. She had blood on a few fingers of one hand as well. Apparently Mr. Sonne had earlier confessed to foreplay, not knowing the woman was menstruating. This indicated to me, that the officer was correct in stating that she had seen the victims arms or hands being held down above her head which wouldn’t have allowed the “blackout drunk” woman to even have a chance at trying to get up.

    Most of the jurors in deliberation felt that a big possibility for her saying the words “no, no stop” was because she was facing in a direction to see the police approaching, and thus could have been saying this to alert Mr. Sonne to quickly get off of her. The problem I have with this is that, if she was really aware of the approaching persons, It would make much more sense to simply say ” someone is coming, stop.” Instead, she was repeatedly saying “NO, NO stop”. It doesn’t seem logical to me to say No when you want to indicate that someone is about to catch you doing something. Again, the officers heard nothing coming from the defendant in the way of conversation throughout the whole ordeal.

    So there it is, from my point of view. 5,6 or even ten seconds, in my opinion, seems like more than enough time for an “alert”, yet buzzed person to at least make a motion towards either getting up or moving to the side. Which apparently didn’t happen. (the defendant admitted this) Ill say also that hearing the words ” Sometimes its almost like a dare…” just absolutely turned my stomach. I had never heard such a ridiculous excuse for ignoring the words “no, no stop” in all my life. I too was asking myself, is this really happening? But only because the case seemed so blatantly obvious at that point.

    A couple of things I should add, a couple of jurors repeatedly made comments about wanting to “get this thing done”, and “Ide love to have the rest of the afternoon to myself”. I think I also heard something like ” I would hate to have this carry over to Monday.” I really couldn’t believe that they would say those things, and tried to ignore them. But once its said, its said. There was no taking that back. And I will say two of those people were the ones that were actually being very absolute in their decisions. As well as trying to make statements in a way to suggest that- “there is no other option here”. I believe I also heard on a few occasions, “Look, these two kids just want this all to go away”, indicating to me that this person wanted to use that as a reason to find a quick verdict. It really didnt surprise me that among all the jurors, there were only two or 3 of us that had what I would call thorough notes. I often found that jurors were recalling testimony incorrectly, because they had not taken notes. And yet when recalling such things, seemed very adamant about convincing others that it was true. I had to read through my own notes and correct people numerous times.

  24. Anonymous84

    Although I feel in the end like I was 99% certain he committed a crime, that 1% is what forced me and the other juror to concede to the others’ arguments. That 1% of doubt that maybe things were not as they seemed. There were other ways things could have happened that night I will admit to that. Are they likely? I certainly don’t think so after seeing the evidence. Do I believe he is truly 100% innocent? I cant say that with any sort of confidence. The law says I have to believe he is guilty, beyond any reasonable doubt.

    [b]Random facts about the case (some of this is circumstantial):[/b]

    [i]-Friend of defendant says Mr. Sonne was angry that night since he thought that he was “moving in on” this girl when he knew Mr. Sonne liked her. So much so that in a restroom conversation, Mr. Sonne had punched the wall.

    -The alleged victim stated that the defendant’s friend made a comment to the affect of “We should go find Thaddeus because he gets angry when hes drunk sometimes, and might get into a fight.”

    -The eye-witness at the train station has a grand daughter (was also at the train station that night) that was a product of a supposed rape. However, the father (never convicted of rape) has raised this girl for the last 8-9 years without issue.

    -Eye-witness (grand daughter) stated that she had seen the girl lay on the ground, and the male get on top of her.

    -Eye-witness (Grandmother) Stated that she had seen the girls legs and arms go limp at one point while the male was on top of her, as if to say she looked unconscious.

    -Alleged Victim apparently “lost” her underwear while still at the bar.

    -There is no evidence that anyone in the group, including the victim and defendant had anything to drink other than water at the bar just before the events occurred.

    -A week prior to the events, the defendant had grabbed the alleged victim by the arm hard enough to cause slight bruising a day after. He had later apologized that same day for his actions. Alleged victim indicated to him that she was no longer interested in continuing their courtship. [/i]

  25. JustSaying

    Anonymous84, thank you for taking the time to report your experience as one of the jurors in this case. It’s fascinating to compare what you saw, here and concluded as opposed to the intern reports that we’ve read. It’s Rashomon rehashed for sure. Many things that appear to have been significant to you completely escaped the notice of our reporters and, likely, visa versa.

    As you can see, many here decided that no rape occurred and the DA should be sanctioned for even charging Mr. Sonne–not an unusual assertion in cases covered by the Vanguard–even while evidence still was being presented.

    A couple questions: 1.) What did you make of the medical expert testimony (one said her injuries were consistent with the force of rape and the other who said the odds were that her injuries came from earlier, consensual sex) and 2.) Why did you decide that 99% wasn’t enough “beyond reasonable doubt” to stick with your original conclusion and hang your jury.

    Finally, do you feel that both the accused and supposed victim got “justice”and that the defense and prosecution attorneys handled their sides of the case in a way that you would have expected?

    (And, David, can you vouch that Anonymous84 is the person he claims to be?)

  26. Anonymous84

    @JustSaying

    Well, to reassure you that I am who I say I am, I was wearing glasses throughout the trial. I had a white jacket sometimes and I sat in the corner of the box nearest the prosecution.

    Anyhow, on to your questions.

    1) I felt that listening to the nurse practitioner, it sounded like she had a lot of experience. The prosecution tried extremely hard to prove that her testimony was concrete, basically because she had already seen the medical exam report. I felt that when the defense expert went up he may have been caught in a “white lie” when she confronted him about stating over the phone, that he was more qualified to make conclusions about the photos since she was only a “nurse”. A cheap shot, sure. Was it true, he avoided the question, but made it apparent that this is what he was thinking. He did say it was unfair. In the actual photos, you really couldnt see much in the way of injuries. If any normal person were to look at them, you could conclude that there was nothing there. I did remember seeing some remnants of what may have been menstrual blood. I noticed the things that the nurse had said were abrasions, and while they did seem to be reddish spots, they certainly werent excessive. Nor did they appear to be extreme. The “pebble” or “rock” she said was found in the anus, well, it simply didnt look like anything similar to an actual rock. It was yellowish and looked more like a seed. This was something the entire jury seemed to be in agreement on. Besides, it was only visible pretty high into the anus, and that could have only happened if there was anal sex, which there was no indication that it had occurred. Personally, I would say the “injuries” that were noted could have been caused by the defendants fingers, or the act of dry sex. I feel like it was a combination of both.

    2)Well, we kept reading the law as it was written in the jury instructions. It stated that if a person had the intention of having sex by force, after hearing a reasonable request to stop, then he was guilty. Even if the sex began as consensual. It also stated that inebriation wasn’t an excuse to commit such acts. But then, we get back to the whole thing about innocent unless we can prove guilty without a reasonable doubt. There were a couple of scenarios that were posed by our jury foreman and a couple of other people that clearly pointed to the slight possibility of there being a reasonable explanation for the way things went. This basically revolved around the issue of context, the fuzziness in the distance made(for most) the idea of nailing down a concrete amount of time that elapsed difficult. The fact that testimony seemed inconsistent, even if only slightly, just kept making me feel more and more like I couldn’t say with complete certainty that he was guilty. I started out as neutral, and leaned so far towards guilty. I wanted to say that yes, there is no other way this situation could have gone, but in my own mind, being a rational person, I knew i would be wrong to say that. In the end, I felt, under multiple pressures, that we had to make a decision. And I guess in my mind I felt like I had to make that decision on that day. Maybe in retrospect I should stuck to it, and hung the jury. I wasnt thinking about that possibility during deliberations though.

    3)I feel that the attorneys handled themselves rather well. Even if the defense took some pretty disrespectful pot shots, at the eye-witness(grnadmother) when making the comments about her daughters supposed rape. That was a pretty emotional moment in the case. Aside from that, I think she got what she wanted, which was for nothing to happen and things to go back to “normal”. Whether or not this event will impact her or her relationships in the future, I cant say for sure since she refused to show very much emotion on the stand. But I know that psychologically, she was impacted by this, and there is a possibility that it is going to effect her in some way. Justice on his part? I would say he got a pretty fair trial, given that the odds usually arent in the defendants favor in cases like this. Most people understand that when a guy is accused of date-rape, people tend to make up their minds from the get-go, something the defense was arguing vehemently. I think he may have gotten the decision he feels is fair, but I cant say that the case was carried out to the fullest extent on either side. So in general, I would say that an incomplete justice was served, if any.

  27. eagle eye

    It is good to note that Lt.Pytel, a few years ago at a public meeting, claimed that the DA prosecutes EVERY case the police send to his office. The only exception is cases of mutual combat in which it is too difficult to determine who is at fault.

    Thanks to Anony. for spending so much time sharing his perspective.

  28. David M. Greenwald

    Just Saying: “And, David, can you vouch that Anonymous84 is the person he claims to be?”

    How could I do that? I can say, based on what I read I believe Anonymous84 is one of the jurors, the details there seem accurate. Antoinnnette is the one who attended the entire trial and I think she would disagree with this juror.

  29. David M. Greenwald

    I don’t want to get into a debate with a juror on this…

    But a few quick thoughts on areas where I had a different take.

    First, I still have a question at what point she said “no no stop.” That gets into the heart of a reasonable request to stop. As I understand it, they were drunk, messing around, engaged in foreplay, he tried several times unsuccessful to maintain an erection and finally succeeded not very long before the police arrived.

    Second, the victim doesn’t remember enough of the incident to tell us when she first said no.

    Third, the juror mentioned that she called her boyfriend and said she was raped in the car. The juror assumes that is evidence that she was raped even though she would not tell the officer the same thing a few minutes later. To me that could just as easily be a cover statement as an admission. After all, she was just found having sex with someone who was not her boyfriend by the train tracks.

    It is possible that she could be trying to forget to put this behind her, but we do not know that.

    To me this was a fairly clear cut case for acquittal.

  30. JustSaying

    I asked because i remember you’d vouched for a similar anonymous report. And, Antoinette likely can compare his description of himself.

    Of course, Antoinnette viewed the trial differently; that was obvious from her reports. That’s why Anonymous84’s postings are so fascinating and informative.

    Vanguard trial stories are notoriously defense-biased. I’ve long since given up hoping for a fair trial report. I’m resolved to the fact that the purpose of Court Watch is in conflict with principles of objective reporting. At first, that bothered me; no more, it is what it is. At least, there seems an improved effort to show two sides.

  31. David M. Greenwald

    Just Saying: I thought it was informative as well. I think I actually talked to the other anonymous poster, can’t remember for sure. But I’m 99% sure this person is who they say they are. Too much detail about the case not to be.

  32. medwoman

    First I want to thank Anonymous for taking the time to post his thoughts and reactions. Several of his comments and those of subsequent posters gave me pause for thought.

    “[quote] I along with 1 other person on the jury were extremely unconvinced of Mr. Sonne’s innocence, up to and even after the verdict was decided.[/quote]

    Fortunately for Mr. Sonne, in our legal system, one does not have to be “convinced of innocence”, what one must be is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of guilt. It might seem that this is merely a semantic game but I would disagree. I think it is a critical component of our legal system.

    Which brings up a second point. What degree of certainty, or lack thereof, constitutes “reasonable doubt”. For me, a 1% chance that he did not do it would certainly constitute reasonable doubt. It seems that others with only this degree of uncertainty would see this as enough certainty to convict. I interpret “beyond a reasonable doubt” to mean that if you can see any other alternative than the charge being made as a possible explanation for what happened, then you cannot convict since you are admitting to reasonable doubt. I would be very interested in how others interpret this jury direction.

  33. medwoman

    JustSaying

    [quote]Vanguard trial stories are notoriously defense-biased.[/quote]

    I believe that you are referring to trial stories written by David himself. The articles written by the interns seem to be substantially different from David’s writings both in style and in tone.

    An example, in the story about the fatal accident involving the delivery driver, the author cast doubt on the testimony of the defendant stating that she felt it peculiar that he would remember facts and details from that day distant from the accident, but not remember events immediately surrounding the accident.
    This is clearly a claim not biased toward the defendant and I think it is to David’s credit that he let it stand as written even though her opinion is not supported by our knowledge of patterns of post traumatic memory loss.

    My sole purpose in pointing this out is that I think that the articles from the interms should be judged on their own merit and not compared to the previous writings from David. I personally do not know the interns and therefore cannot speak to their philosophies regarding our judicial system of their opinions of the Yolo County prosecutors office. I just think we should give them some time to find their voices before
    judging them in terms of David’s perceptions and biases as it would seem you were aiming for in your last sentence.

  34. JimmysDaughter

    “Many cases take years to resolve – years of time in custody, years of time living in uncertainty.”

    In this regard, the wrongfully accused becomes the real victim. Often they use up their life savings, or go into debt,to pay attorney fees. Even if the real victim sues the accuser in civil court and wins, the accuser rarely has the means to pay the real victim back the money.

  35. K.Smith

    [quote]A couple of things I should add, a couple of jurors repeatedly made comments about wanting to “get this thing done”, and “Ide love to have the rest of the afternoon to myself”. I think I also heard something like ” I would hate to have this carry over to Monday.” I really couldn’t believe that they would say those things, and tried to ignore them. But once its said, its said. [/quote]
    This is one of the things in Anonymous’ comments that most concerned me. You shouldn’t feel “rushed” when in deliberation.

    This was precisely my experience when I sat on a jury back during the summer. It was a much more “low stakes” case (vehicle theft), but our decision still sent the defendant to prison for 7 years.

    When we first went into deliberations, we took a quick poll, and 3 of us were convinced that there was some level of reasonable doubt. We were immediately made to feel like we were “stupid” by the other jurors, and they attempted to rush us in our decision. This made me [b]extremely [/b] uncomfortable, because the jury was overwhelmingly made up of affluent people from Davis (with maybe 2-3 exceptions), and the defendant was a poor Hispanic from Sacramento.

    Moreover, several jurors kept trying to discuss aspects of the trial that the judge specifically stated were not to be discussed (e.g. that the fact that the defendant did not take the stand in his own defense should not be “read” to be any kind of admission of guilt). And guess what? Almost half of the jurors kept wanting to bring this up. Along with “wanting to get home because I have better things to do.”

    When someone’s life is about to be impacted by a decision I’m participating in making, I want time enough to deliberate to my satisfaction that I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. We just wanted the -time- to do so, and the environment for this was quite hostile.

  36. medwoman

    JimmysDaughter

    Excellent point about the additional costs of our system to the wrongfully accused. I see this as one of the major drawbacks to prosecutorial immunity. If our prosecutors had something real at stake, such as financial reparation if they were found to have falsely accused someone, I think there might be a significant reduction in overcharging, or charging in clearly questionable circumstances.

    I am curious about the views of others regarding “prosecutorial immunity” especially when many prosecutors use their “win/ loss” ratio as part of career building.

    What I woud see as a better metric would be the number of times that a case was justly settled in as cost effective a manner as would be compatible with the safety of the community. Now that would be something to build a career on.

  37. JimmysDaughter

    KSmith- I faced the same difficulty, years ago, being a juror on a DUI trial. We immediately took a vote: almost all jurors found the man guilty because “the police wouldn’t have pulled him over if he wasn’t drunk”, even though he was on the cusp of the breathalizer. We had expert witnesses that stated the breathalizer’s calibrations & the error rate of the breathalizer. We had medical proof the man sustained a work related injury when acid splashed in his eyes, yet jurors kept referring to his “bloodshot eyes”. The jurors, to be brutally frank, seemed too lazy to read the testimonies, especially the scientist’s testimony. One woman just wanted to criticize the defense attorney’s outfits (triple digit day, she wore a light linen suit that got wrinkled halfway through the day). Another juror pressured me relentlessly because it was the last day of court before a holiday weekend & she had reservations at Tahoe, and did not want to cancel them to appear the next Tuesday. I was one of two jurors who wanted acquittal. In the end, he was guilty of being impaired but not dui, as I recall. Later an attorney friend advised me that I could have passed a note to the bailiff to explain a juror was pressuring me to change my vote due to Tahoe plans. Maybe the judge could have discussed this with us. Lessons learned.

  38. JimmysDaughter

    “I am curious about the views of others regarding “prosecutorial immunity” especially when many prosecutors use their “win/ loss” ratio as part of career building.”
    My only view is to quote the one and only Tony Serra:

    “Thus the radical lawyer pledges him or herself to fight injustice wherever it appears. The radical lawyer isn’t interested in obtaining judgments for money or litigating for rules that result in property or disputed funds being dispersed. No. The radical lawyer is only interested in obtaining liberty and freedom for oppressed people. The radical lawyer will always be on the side of the underdog, will always oppose the status quo. That’s what allows for change and reform.”

  39. JustSaying

    madwoman, you make a good observation our system’s burden of proof standard. Fortunately for ALL criminal defendants, we agree that it’s better to set free a guilty person free than to mark and punish an innocent one.

    A juror Isn’t required to get to “all doubt,” only eliminate the doubt that a reasonable person would have. If the leftover 1% is unreasonable doubt, 99% is just fine. Jurors (at least me and those I talked with about this) struggle to assure that this high standard is applied. We certainly agree that it’s not simply semantics, but a critical component of justice. K.Smith also points out her own dedication to this principle in spite of pressure from other jurors who had already decided.

    I’m sure you’ll agree that Anonymous84 did his job the way the system insists. Apparently, some jurors remain unconvinced of Mr. Sonne’s innocence yet have reasonable doubt that the prosecution met the required burden of proof. This is not a unique situation. It says, conversely, that a not guilty verdict doesn’t mean that a crime did not occur or, even, that individual judged “not guilty” is innocent. And, as you suggest, this is not a semantics game.

    Re. the Court Watch bias I observe. My judgment of Antoinnnette’s coverage of this trial is that it fits into a Vanguard tradition, established by David and visible in most coverage of criminal cases.

    This used to really trouble me because I thought the Vanguard would do better if it built its reputation as as an objective reporter accompanied by opinion editorials. After many arguments with David, I came to accept that a watchdog function doesn’t necessarily fit into the standard newspaper mold.

    Finding flaws in our criminal system or corruption in the Yolo County DA’s office might require covering the cases as a skeptic or already convinced that evil was to be found. Still, it’s somewhat counterproductive. It leads to critical players refusing to talk because they’ve decided no amount of cooperation will result in fair treatment. And it results in a “sky is falling” credibility gap that makes it difficult to decide which acts might be legitimately concerning. But, such is the fate of the constant gadfly.

    David can point out when he started using interns as court observers. While he’s only recently added their bylines, he’s relied on and acknowledged their efforts for a long time. The differences you’ve noticed in writing styles might very well be due to the fact that interns come and go.

    My biggest struggle with the predictable nature of the Court Watch is the predictable nature of the responses. Every story generates the same charges about the malevolent DA and the same wise observations from ever-smaller group which cautions that examples that the justice system has proven flawed somewhere doesn’t prove that Yolo County is operating illegally. (What’s our standard of proof for judging these folks?). Eventually, it’s just boring, and I just give up from time to time.

    Yet, I read, support and appreciate the Vanguard (except for its unrelenting DA vendetta) because I respect David’s effort and dedication to provide an alternative to the inadequate, troubled Enterprise. I also share many of his concerns about the under-served in our society and those treated unfairly by our systems.

  40. medwoman

    JS

    [quote]madwoman,[/quote]

    I have been called this by a fine assortment on this blog including Rifkin. I would only take umbrage if people start referring to me as this in my professional capacity ; )

    Also, I totally concede your point on the interns who do indeed come and go.

    [quote]Fortunately for ALL criminal defendants, we agree that it’s better to set free a guilty person free than to mark and punish an innocent one.
    [/quote]

    I am not sure to whom you are referring with your use of the word “we”. While I am sure that you and I would agree with this statement, it is unclear to me from the examples provided by KSmith and JimmysDaughter that this is true of the majority of jurors, some of whom at least seem more concerned about rushing to judgement in order to get back to their personal lives, than they are in arriving at a just decision. I find these kinds of quotes appalling if not surprising. That a “jury of our peers” would choose to ignore or discount expert testimony, not care enough to take notes, or prejudge a case because “the police would not have stopped him if he were not drunk” is absurd and frankly dangerous.

    I would like to relate a brief story about how the police sometimes over reach. I was the passenger in a car with a friend who, in a very well lit area, had forgotten to turn on the headlights. We were pulled over.
    He passed two roadside sobriety tests, as well as two different breathalyzer tests. The police were still not satisfied ( with regard to what, I am not sure) but then proceeded to ask me how much I had had to drink.
    When I honestly answered one cocktail four hours earlier with dinner, they clearly did not believe me.
    They proceeded to administer a breathalyzer test to me ( the passenger ) not once, but twice before they would let us go. My point in relating this episode is that our police do not always act in a reasonable or responsible manner. To me, this was not an issue of ensuring our safety, but rather harassment, for what purpose I cannot imagine. But although my friend was clearly sober by all of their own tests, I ultimately agreed to drive home at their request simply to be done with the whole distasteful mess. Now I was 58 at the time of this episode. I can only imagine how this type of stop plays out with young people or minorities who are believed by many to be more likely to be engaged in nefarious or illegal activities.

  41. JustSaying

    [quote]“I am not sure to whom you are referring with your use of the word “we”….I find these kinds of quotes (from KSmith and JimmysDaughter) appalling if not surprising. That a ‘jury of our peers’ would choose to ignore or discount expert testimony, not care enough to take notes, or prejudge a case because ‘the police would not have stopped him if he were not drunk’ is absurd and frankly dangerous.”[/quote]I won’t challenge reports from these two or Anonymous84 that some jurors behave wrongly, even as far as breaking the law as jurors.

    Human nature is partly why only judges get to judge independently and juries of peers don’t allow one or two people to rule and there are remedies for jurors who feel forced toward doing the wrong thing. (Juror pressure also tends to keep other jurors on the right track by reminding a wayward individual of the judge’s instructions.)

    You’ve shared your story before to illustrate, I think, a different point. Police stop people all the time. Anyone who thinks this determines guilt is a dangerous fool and likely would be eliminated from a jury pool during voir dire or could be dumped from the jury if it’s affecting fair deliberations. Or, could contributing to overturning a verdict.

    Back to your question about what I mean by “we”–in this case, I’m referring to our society.

    I hope David responds with some information about how long and how he uses interns. To be clear, I think this is yet another good, valuable thing about the [i]Vanguard[/i].

  42. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]I hope David responds with some information about how long and how he uses interns. To be clear, I think this is yet another good, valuable thing about the Vanguard. [/quote]

    Since you ask… How we have operated the court watch program has shift dramatically since last September.

    Since September, every intern has to work for a minimum of 10 hours a week – which translates to three “shifts” – a shift is either a morning or afternoon session approximately 3 hours. And then an additional hour for our weekly meeting. They also commit to a three month or one-quarter term.

    Basically what has happened is that the Vanguard takes up more and more of my time just running it, raising money, doing the stories, making sure that the interns are in the right place. That time last year encroached on my ability to get into the courtroom on a consistent basis and has led to a new shift in January, where the interns are now not just going and taking notes for me to review, they are writing up summaries and stories about their court experience and we publish their accounts about four times each week.

    I’m taking on a more editorial role – putting the pieces together, making sure we get the names write, and then providing context with either systemic stories or editorials.

    One thing that I do not do is tell the interns what to write. We are still a watch dog group, but the account should be more balanced and in fact a lot closer what you see as the ideal.

  43. medwoman

    [quote]Anyone who thinks this determines guilt is a dangerous fool and likely would be eliminated from a jury pool during voir dire or could be dumped from the jury if it’s affecting fair deliberations. Or, could contributing to overturning a verdict. [/quote]

    I would hope that this would be true. However, from my experience with jury selection, I have been called three times but never selected ( as I have been told because I am a doctor and each of the times I was summoned involved drug related issues), this does not seem to be the case. I have yet to hear the question asked about whether or not the fact that the police made the stop would influence a potential jurors decision making process. I have however, been excluded upon stating that I do drug use counseling. Go figure.

  44. Anonymous84

    [quote]I don’t want to get into a debate with a juror on this…

    But a few quick thoughts on areas where I had a different take.

    First, I still have a question at what point she said “no no stop.” That gets into the heart of a reasonable request to stop. As I understand it, they were drunk, messing around, engaged in foreplay, he tried several times unsuccessful to maintain an erection and finally succeeded not very long before the police arrived.

    Second, the victim doesn’t remember enough of the incident to tell us when she first said no.

    Third, the juror mentioned that she called her boyfriend and said she was raped in the car. The juror assumes that is evidence that she was raped even though she would not tell the officer the same thing a few minutes later. To me that could just as easily be a cover statement as an admission. After all, she was just found having sex with someone who was not her boyfriend by the train tracks.

    It is possible that she could be trying to forget to put this behind her, but we do not know that.

    To me this was a fairly clear cut case for acquittal.[/quote]

    So I would like to answer your questions, and maybe be a little more clear that my views reflect how I feel about the trial, given the evidence I was shown. In jury selection I was only asked 2 questions I believe by Ms. Zambor- the prosecuting laywer. This was whether I think no means no, and if I think that alcohol should have any bearing on that. I answered by saying that alcohol should have no bearing on whether someones right to say no shouldnt be affected by the amount of alcohol theyve consumed. I still believe that, and the law states that very clearly for both the suspect and alleged victim.

    1) The question of when she said “No, no stop” is exactly the area that I along with a second female juror, were trying to understand. Most of the jurors had agreed with each other that since the officers had made changes to their testimony, between this and the prelim trial, that their testimony of when they heard it, for how long, and how many times was no longer trustworthy or accurate. And so most of them, including our foreperson had come to the conclusion that it could have been as little as 1 second before they arrived, thus creating the doubt that maybe the girl had seen the cops coming, and then said the words. Me and the other juror were extremely reluctant to completely discount the officers testimony based on a change of 5 feet. One thing that the defense really harped on, was the fact that when Ms. Zambor went out with Officer Bestpitch (female officer), the independent investigator had heard them saying something involving a re-measurement, and the other officer. Obviously this was pointed out to us in order to prove that there was a possibility that Officer Piro and Bestpitch may have altered their testimonies after the prelim trial in order to make their accounts match up better. Basically an accusation of conspiracy or collusion on behalf of the officers and the DA in order to make the case seem more believable. And so I say again that I feel, the initial
    (prelim) testimony of 25-30 ft by Officer Piro, was good enough for me to go off of. This is when he said he heard “No no stop.” And he stated heard it again at the 10-15 foot mark. He says it took approximately 5-10 seconds at least to get from that 25-30 ft, to the point of saying “Davis police!”.

  45. Anonymous84

    2) I believe that you are correct, in that she didn’t recall when she said no, or why, but that she does remember saying it. Most of her statements at the scene were taken down by Officer Bestpitch. Since she was the one that questioned her. I find absolutely no reason that Bestpitch would alter her statements in order to make the case more clear-cut. She had no motive, in my mind, to do such things. And so although this is circumstantial evidence at best, it is coming directly from a trained police officer with a good track record, and its something that I felt I couldn’t just discount entirely. (this wasn’t the view of the other jurors apparently)

    3)The way the events went, as explained to us, was that the officer placed her on the Amtrack station bench, where she was fading in and out of conciouisness. The officer then proceeded to try and administer a P.A.S (Breathalyzer) test and take some photos. She also tried to ask a few questions but was having a hard time getting a coherent response from the victim. The officer then placed her in the back of the patrol car because she felt it was getting cold outside. After being placed in the back of the car, the victim stated that she had become concious or “reasonably aware” of her surroundings again. She remembered “waking up and screaming” in the back of a police car. She then admits to sending a text message to a friend that was at the bar which said ” im in a police car, I think Im getting arrested”. At this point she said she still didnt know why she was in the police car, but then, when asked about the phone call she made just moments later, she said she remembered saying to him “i was raped.” She stated further that she doesnt recall why she said that. At this point the police officer had approached the vehicle and taken the phone away from her and said to the person on the other end of the call, that the victim was ok and in police custody, and hung up the phone. I believe this is the point at which the officer began asking the main questions. Unfortunately the officer did explain to the girl at this point, “we found you on the ground crying having sex with this person.” I believe she then stated something to the effect of, “do you know you were being raped?” This is when the statements I explained in an earlier post were said by the alleged victim.

    Some things to make note of, the eye witnesses recall, when they initially saw the two persons, the girl had a hard time standing and her head seemed wobbly, indicating that she was obviously very drunk. Nobody in the trial indicated that the defendant was just as drunk. Breathalyzer tests on both of them at the scene came out to a 0.236 for the victim, and 0.17 for the defendant. Seems like a pretty huge difference to me.

  46. Anonymous84

    When considering the way this article was written, I believe that your intern was basically swaying in the same direction that most of the jury was. The main difference here is that we got to see quite a bit of the evidence up close afterward. I feel that most people in the jury were very quick to hang on the words of the defense lawyer, since his grandiose way of speaking was at times very convincing. He did seem very well prepared for the case in general.

    I personally felt that a lot of the things that he was pointing out required us as a jury to stretch our ability to reason pretty far. But that’s just me. I could be totally wrong in this. In my defense, there was at least one other person who thought the same thing. I think there were only 3 of us witnesses that were within 10 years of age of the victim and defendant. The others on the jury were closer to their 40’s and older. Our jury foreman was actually an environmental lawyer for the federal government and was very pleasant to speak to. He was really adamant about allowing me to point out every argument I could think of. He really wanted me to be heard and I appreciated that. He also stated to everyone in deliberations that, even in finding the defendant innocent, he wasn’t saying that he felt the defendant was innocent, just that he couldn’t say without reasonable doubt that he was guilty.

  47. Alan Miller

    The restorative justice solution appears more of spiritual solution to be conducted voluntarily in the context of one’s place of worship or agreed upon clergy. While possible working in individual cases under government umbrella, on a large scale such a system inevitably will take on all the pitfalls it attempts to solve. Idealistic, but doubtful in execution.

  48. medwoman

    [quote]the officer placed her on the Amtrack station bench, where she was fading in and out of conciouisness.[/quote]

    This brings up another concern for me which I did not mention previously since it is quite peripheral to the legal aspects discussed so far. Given the potentially lethal nature of alcohol toxicity, if indeed the woman was “fading in and out of consciousness” what she needed was immediate transport to an ER, not questioning on the scene by the police. Something about this does not quite add up for me since I am sure that our police would recognize the possibility of alcohol poisoning in a young woman unable to remain conscious.

  49. David M. Greenwald

    Anonymous84: Just for clarification – this article was written by me as a commentary on how this might have better been handle. There are previous articles written by Antoinnette, the intern. I personally saw Piro’s testimony and the victim’s testimony but nothing this week.

  50. Roger Rabbit

    The system worked in that the jurors held the DA’s Office accountable by not letting them ram a conviction on the suspect. However, the DA does not care and has no accountability for abuse of authority, wasting tax payer money, wasting court time, and charging every crime in an attempt to bully people into taking a plea deal.

    Every eligible jury person in Yolo Country should take note. Once the people decide that the DA is crooked, unethical and untrustworthy, they are the only ones that hold him accountable, every Acquittal sends a message to everyone in the county. The more acquittals that come, the more politicians and others that support Reisig’s unethical behavior and abuse of his powers, then and only then will someone step in.

    The people, every jury member can shut DA Reisig down by simply voting Not Guilty on every case, that is the best vote of “No Confidence” that can be sent. A DA that cannot get a conviction tends to send a strong message of incompetence.

    I know I would never vote Guilty on a case with DA Reisig in charge of the DA’s Office. I know too many times of hiding evidence, misleading witnesses, making deals with felons so they say what you want and intimidation of Dep DAs, county officials and others so Mr. Reisig can get what he wants. It is pretty bad when a local DA makes Congress look Trustworthy – but congrats Jeffy Boy, You make Congress look good…

  51. JimmysDaughter

    I don’t understand why the police officer took the woman’s phone away & hung it up. Sexual assault is a traumatic event. If the officer believed the woman had been traumatized, why not let her speak with a supportive friend? Sounds like a power play to me. Same with forcing med woman to do the breathalizer when she was a passenger. There is no law that forbids a drunk person from being a passenger in a car. Another power play. I also agree with medwoman- with alcohol poisoning, every second counts. He should not have asked her if she needed an ambulance. He should have provided one.

  52. JustSaying

    JimmysDaughter and medwoman both raise good issues about how this victim was treated by police. One has to wonder whether this treatment of a seriously drunk person following what police knew could be a rape affected her later (lack of) cooperation with authorities.

    What do SOPs and training call for? Prompt medical attention and modern rape testing/questioning techniques seem appropriate in this situation.

  53. Anonymous84

    [quote]This brings up another concern for me which I did not mention previously since it is quite peripheral to the legal aspects discussed so far. Given the potentially lethal nature of alcohol toxicity, if indeed the woman was “fading in and out of consciousness” what she needed was immediate transport to an ER, not questioning on the scene by the police. Something about this does not quite add up for me since I am sure that our police would recognize the possibility of alcohol poisoning in a young woman unable to remain conscious.[/quote]

    The woman was not lethally drunk by any means. Although she was drunk to the point of “blacking out”. Which is quite common. Even so, she was still able to stand a walk, if a bit unsteadily. We got to hear testimony from an expert who worked at the lab where the blood samples were later sent to confirm alcohol levels. He stated that according to most studies, approximately a 0.5 blood alcohol level is usually enough to be considered potentially fatal for most average people. He also stated that tolerance to alcohol use is really just a measurement of how well people are able to mask their level of intoxication. Even if doing so subconsciously. This young woman was less than half the 0.5 b.a.c. So I dont believe she was in any immediate medical danger, other than potentially passing out and injuring herself by falling. Also, she apparently was making statements clear enough at one point for the officer to understand that she was somewhat coherent.

    [quote]I don’t understand why the police officer took the woman’s phone away & hung it up. Sexual assault is a traumatic event. If the officer believed the woman had been traumatized, why not let her speak with a supportive friend? Sounds like a power play to me. Same with forcing med woman to do the breathalizer when she was a passenger. There is no law that forbids a drunk person from being a passenger in a car. Another power play. I also agree with medwoman- with alcohol poisoning, every second counts. He should not have asked her if she needed an ambulance. He should have provided one.[/quote]

    This seems to me to be common sense. Of course the officer wants to make sure that the young woman was not changing her statements based on a possible phone call. She also did not want the facts of the alleged crime to be circulated to parties that were not-involved. This causes them to have to pull more and more witnesses, which in turn just creates more possibilities for stories to change. The officer didnt know who was on the other line. I feel she was just doing her job by telling the other person the woman was safe and in police custody.

    [quote]JimmysDaughter and medwoman both raise good issues about how this victim was treated by police. One has to wonder whether this treatment of a seriously drunk person following what police knew could be a rape affected her later (lack of) cooperation with authorities. [/quote]

    There was no direct indication to us that the young woman was even conscious of her actions until she awoke in the back of the police car. After which she was clearly cooperating by answering most of the questions to the best of her knowledge. Keep in mind, even if she had become aware of herself at that point, she was still very drunk.

    [quote]Anonymous84: Just for clarification – this article was written by me as a commentary on how this might have better been handle. There are previous articles written by Antoinnette, the intern. I personally saw Piro’s testimony and the victim’s testimony but nothing this week.[/quote]

    That makes more sense now. Thanks for the clarification.

  54. JimmysDaughter

    Anonymous 84, thank you for replying to so many posts to explain your unique experience as a juror, which none of us were able to experience. I guess sometimes people will just disagree. I disagree the police officer had any reason to take the cell phone out of the woman’s hand and hang it up. I find that very bad manners. I think the officer should have asked the woman to hang up her phone, and also should have told her friend where they were taking the woman. If I was that friend, I may not have believed it was an officer and I would have been frightened & worried. I would have probably called the county jail to find out if my friend had been arrested. I just don’t understand why the officer did that. Thank you for taking the time to explain your views as a juror. Very enlightening.

  55. JustSaying

    Anonymous84, I concur with JimmysDaughter’s comments about appreciating your ongoing participation. The [i]Vanguard[/i] has been able to enhance only a couple of the hundreds of trial reports with detailed comments from jurors. Defense attorneys are happy to feed their contentions to these reports; prosecutors refuse to give [i]Vanguard[/i] representatives the time of day.

    I may have overstated medwoman’s diagnosis, but she’s the only expert that I know of here. Your second opinion benefits from alcohol test results, but I still wonder if officers on the scene could have been as confident as you seem to be.

    It just seems that officers coming across a bleeding, violently raped, falling-down-drunk victim would send her to the ER to be treated, tested and questioned since they had the alleged perp in custody. There, specially trained rape-victim law enforcement experts could have done their duty while she was being evaluated for health problems.

    Officers must wonder if the woman might have been more cooperative with investigators if they’d treated her more considerately at the scene.

  56. Mercy4all

    a woman claims she was violently raped, pulled down on gravel outside a bar and in public violated. a defendant claims both were drunk and consensual sex got out of control and misunderstood by the police. you want them to go on the “restorative justice tour” your version of Rodney King’s “why can’t we all just get along” thats not how it works nor should it. not if the alleged victim was your daughter. not if the defendant was your son.

    charge it prosecute it and your overbearing, abusing power. fail to do so, exercise discretion which years ago probably would have led to declining this one and and your insensitive to victims of sexual violence. tough world to be a prosecutor, tough world to be a cop. tough world to be a public defender when you have no choice but to take it to the 12 and risk everything for a client that faces a charge more serious than anything short of murder. everyone seems to have done what needed to be done here in the world which frankly politics built. and the 12 most importantly. you might want to go a little easier on the system, David, lest we get one you’ll like a whole lot less.

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