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New Times / Commentary

The following article was posted on May 14th, 2014, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 42

District attorney candidates don't offer solutions

Rape is too serious an issue to be handled the way it's been handled

BY MICHAEL FALLON

Your article “Life after rape” by Colin Rigley (May 8) points out how in a population of 276,443 persons in San Luis Obispo County, with approximately 135,181 residents being female, 17,573 to 24,333 (12 percent to 18 percent, according to your article) are statistically at risk of being raped. Again, referring to your article, 34.4 people per 100,000 actually report being raped every year in this county. That represents 95 actual people who have reported being sexually assaulted in San Luis Obispo County. Of these 95 reported sexual assaults, your article claims, a little more than 7 percent are actually prosecuted.

Statements by both candidates for San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office in your article offer very little in the way of real advice or hope for these victims ever getting to see their attackers legally punished for their crimes. They both offer platitudes and nebulous ideas that neither account for the present lack of prosecution, nor give hope that the future will be much better under their respective administrations. Neither points out that he has been in a position of authority in the District Attorney’s Office for quite some time, whereby one can only conclude that they both have already had opportunities to correct these shortcomings but failed to act.

Tim Covello says that he advocates strengthening collaboration and cross training with other agencies and organizations. These other agencies and organizations have been available to Mr. Covello for quite some time. One has to wonder why this interaction has not already taken place? What significant changes and improvements can we expect from this newfound promise to work with others? Will this only produce more meetings, resulting in little or no change to the present process?

Dan Dow, while verbalizing his “understanding” of victims being upset at the lack of prosecution, goes on to cite “ethical obligations” not to prosecute cases in which the District Attorney’s Office believes they do not have enough evidence to obtain a verdict. Mr. Dow promises to add more prosecutors to the plight of sexual assault cases, implying that the three prosecutors already assigned are inadequate to improve results.

Neither candidate even made mention of his own staff of investigators or how these county employees could or would ferret out the required evidence to make prosecution of these cases more successful. Neither candidate made mention of what steps the District Attorney’s Office could or would apply that would result in teaching the local law enforcement agencies to gather the required evidence enabling the district attorney to achieve convictions of these sexual predators.

The New Times article also did not pose the question to either candidate as to cases that the District Attorney’s Office has already declined to prosecute when there appeared to be adequate evidence, statements, psychological test results, and other positive indicators provided by law enforcement, and many of the other county agencies and organizations looked to by these candidates, for victims claiming sexual assault.

According to the Rape Recovery Center in Utah, rapists look for victims who are vulnerable. New Times has clearly identified that the citizens of San Luis Obispo County are certainly vulnerable to sexual assault. The article attests to the lack of consequences for the criminals committing sexual assault. It has also shown through the publication of this article that neither candidate for the Office of District Attorney has any concrete solutions for this problem that were voiced to your reporter.

This New Times article has only scratched the surface of exposing some serious deficiencies of the application of justice and the treatment of victims in San Luis Obispo County. Further follow-up should be done by New Times so that this important matter not be lost in the time following this election. You have exposed a serious problem that needs to be fixed for the good and safety of every resident of San Luis Obispo County.

We the taxpayers and voters of San Luis Obispo County have an ethical obligation to believe that our tax dollars are being applied to protect the people and property of our county. The process of plea bargaining is cited as “a necessary part” of the justice system, but should only be applied as an expedient to justice and not as a mechanical method to expedite the judicial process while minimizing the impact to the district attorney’s budget. Maintaining a high conviction rate at the expense of true justice and citizen safety should not be the goal of the District Attorney’s Office. Our tax dollars are provided to the District Attorney’s Office with the expectation of prosecution for crimes and the application of justice to keep our county safe. Plea bargained “slaps on the wrist” will not deter future criminal activity or repeated sexual assaults.

P.S. A bit of personal advice for Mr. Rigley: A professional writer and journalist would be well advised to believe the scribbling on a public toilet wall or the hallucinations of your personal horoscope rather than to believe or quote anything that appeared in Cal Coast News, however anecdotal it appears to be.

 

Michael Fallon lives in Cayucos.Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.