Sexual Assault Victims On Trial (Yet Again) In Maxwell Case

There isn’t much that Ghislaine Maxwell’s attorney can do in Maxwell’s child sex-trafficking trial except to put her accusers on trial.

Maxwell’s attorney Bobby C. Sternheim received permission from U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan to call as an expert witness in Maxwell’s trial Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist and “false memory” expert. Technically, Judge Nathan denied the government’s motion to block Loftus’ testimony.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Loftus has been an expert witness in more than 300 trials involving sexual misconduct and murder, including those of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, serial killer Ted Bundy and alleged pedophile Michael Jackson. She typically testifies that victims’ memories are unreliable and can be affected by the media or crass commercial concerns. She is a distinguished professor of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irving.

Loftus may be Maxwell’s only hope of creating a reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors and securing either a mistrial or acquittal.

A parade of women are expected to say that Maxwell, now 59, befriended them when they were young girls (some as young as 14), took them shopping and made them feel special, and groomed them for sexual assault by financier and convicted child molester Jeffrey Epstein.

Continue reading “Sexual Assault Victims On Trial (Yet Again) In Maxwell Case”

Outrage About China’s Treatment of Peng Shuai

There is more than a little bit of hypocrisy with respect to the outrage in the U.S. about China’s treatment of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s following her sexual assault complaint against Chinese ex premier Zhang Gaoli.

Things are not going so great in the United States for victims of sexual assault.

MONEY AND JUSTICE

I had to twice check the date on a story published this week by The New York Times because it seemed like a relic from the 1970s.

Christopher Belter, then 16 and a student at an elite private boys school, pleaded guilty to the sexually attacking four teens (including the rape of at least one victim). He faced up to eight years in prison but instead was sentenced to probation.

County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III of Niagara, N.Y., claims he “prayed over” the appropriate sentence in the case and concluded that “incarceration or partial incarceration isn’t appropriate” for Belter.

The Buffalo News reported that Peter M. Wydysh, an assistant district attorney, did not make a sentencing recommendation to the court. This is unusual, especially since Belter pled guilty to four counts of sexual attacks on teenage girls.

Is it purely coincidental that Belter comes from an extremely wealthy family?

Continue reading “Outrage About China’s Treatment of Peng Shuai”

The System Works Just Fine For The Harvey Weinsteins Of This World

Getty Photo

by Patricia G. Barnes

      • Note: Harvey Weinstein was found guilty on 2/24/20 of rape and criminal sexual acts after a trial in which six women testified that he had sexually assaulted them.  He was acquitted on three other counts, including the two most serious charges against him — that he is a sexual predator.

Ah, the irony.

Donna Rotunno, a lead attorney for disgraced movie mogul and alleged sexual predator Harvey Weinstein, recently penned an editorial for Newsweek  Magazine bemoaning the state of the U.S. Justice system.

She writes:

“The United States justice system has proven fair and effective throughout the history of our nation. But not always.”

Rotunno goes on to implore jurors in the Weinstein trial to do what they know is right, which is code for acquitting Weinstein.

The Weinstein jury told the judge Friday that they are unable to reach a verdict on the two predatory sexual assault counts but are unanimous on the other three counts. The judge told them to keep deliberating.

Contrary to Rotunno, the real problem with America’s justice system is not how it treats multimillionaires who can afford a team of pit bull advocates and jury consultants, but how it treats women and girls who are victims of sexual assault.

The system repeatedly fails to acknowledge that sexual assault is a serious injury suffered by one out of every five women. More than a third of the victims are raped before the age of 18. The vast majority suffer post-traumatic stress.

The system works just fine for the Weinstein’s of this world.

For the system to work for Weinstein’s victims, however, jurors must divest themselves of stereotypes about women and class prejudice.

If a woman is naïve, poor and desperate for success, she isn’t necessarily lying about being assaulted in a hotel room by the most power producer in the world.

If a woman isn’t the equivalent of the Virgin Mary, she does not forfeit her right to be free from sexually assault. Continue reading “The System Works Just Fine For The Harvey Weinsteins Of This World”

Ratchet Up the Consequences for Employers that Ignore Sexual Harassment

A perusal of recent headlines shows that companies will place their heads firmly in the sand to keep harassers on the payroll if the company is focused on short term profits.

Despite potential ruinous risk to reputation, costly turnover, lost work time and higher health care costs (among other things) the fact of the matter is that many employers  tolerate sexual harassment when the harasser is valuable to the organization. In some ways, the on-going wave of public sexual harassment incidents is similar to the problem with unsafe cars manufactured in the United States in the 1960s. It was cheaper for car makers to settle lawsuits out of court than to manufacturer safer cars.

In February, 21st Century Fox renewed Bill O’Reilly’s contract  knowing that he was in the process of settling a sexual harassment complaint by a news analyst, who eventually received a $32 million settlement.  O’Reilly, then  the most-watched figure on cable TV, had earlier settled several other sexual harassment claims out of court.

Producer Harvey Weinstein had several Oscars to his credit but he was a notorious bully for years, not to mention sexual predator (or worse). He also was known to engage in physical violence at the office on occasion.

TMZ says  Weinstein’s 2015 employment contract states that if the Weinstein Company had to pay settlements for his sexual or other misconduct, he must reimburse the company and pay an escalating set of fines: $1 million for the fourth and any subsequent instance.

Congress must insure employers that ignore evidence of sexual harassment face consequences that make it more expensive for them to do nothing than to act.

The complacency of Fox and the Weinstein Company demonstrates how little employers today fear the American legal system, which they count on to  work on their benefit. Typically, employers retain  human resource officers and legal staff who are trained to protect the company from sexual harassment complaints. Courts permit employers to make the legal process as long and difficult as possible for the victims, who often have few resources because they were driven out of their jobs by the employer and the harasser.

A recent development has made it even easier for employers. When the EEOC finds there is reasonable cause to believe the employer is guilty of sexual harassment, it offers a free and confidential mediation program whereby the employer can settle the matter – usually for peanuts – without even having to go to court. And it’s all secret!

Both Fox and The Weinstein Company knew or should have known of their employee’s abusive behavior but apparently they concluded the benefit of retaining the abuser outweighed the cost of paying the occasional out-of-court settlement.  What is needed is serious consequence for employers who ignore evidence of sexual harassment. And by that I mean serious.  A company that is making a profit of X billion should be ordered by a court to pay a percentage of its profit in damages. In that way, society will insure that employers take sexual harassment seriously.