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OUR VIEW: Group exploits rape victim to smear Buck (vote here)

By: Wayne Laugesen
October 13, 2010
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Desperation has led ProgressNow Colorado to track down and exploit a woman who reported a date rape five years ago. ProgressNow is using the case in a disgusting effort to portray Republican candidate Ken Buck, the Weld County district attorney, as a monstrous misogynist who approves of rape. It may be the lowest point in a political season that’s known for its sleazy, deceptive, negative campaigns.

At issue is a woman who sought charges against her former boyfriend, claiming they had sex against her will. If her claim can be proved, the perpetrator belongs in prison. Nonconsensual sex is rape. While it’s easy for activists to announce righteous revulsion and opposition to rape, it’s quite difficult for a prosecutor to convict a defendant of rape, let alone date rape. Here’s what The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health” says of rape convictions: “Only half of all alleged rapists are ever arrested. Of these arrests, only 3 in 5 result in prosecution, and only half of the cases that are prosecuted are strong enough to be brought to trial. In the end, fewer than 1 in 6 of the cases that do go to trial result in conviction.” The book explains that most trials involve hostile defense tactics that hurt victims with accusations of seduction.

Date rape convictions are especially unlikely. Typical cases consist of “he said” v. “she said” and not much more. The defendant has the advantage of a presumption of innocence; the victim is burdened with providing proof. Throw alcohol into the equation, and conviction becomes even more far-fetched. Add a hint of seduction by the victim, such as partial nudity before going to bed with a defendant, and conviction becomes almost impossible. Even jurors who want to convict cannot do so lawfully without proof beyond reasonable doubt.

That’s what Buck faced when he explained to the victim why he could not pursue conviction. He explained with compassion that a jury would not convict because of information the defense would use. He said a jury might interpret her complaint as “buyer’s remorse,” a statement misrepresented by opponents to make it sound as if Buck questioned her motives. Buck advised her of other legal remedies but warned that they may lead to hurtful defense attacks. To be certain he was making the right call, Buck asked the office of then-Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy, arguably the state’s most aggressive sex crimes prosecutor at the time, to review the case. Lacy’s prosecutors concurred with Buck.

Does Buck lack compassion for victims? Hardly. He is the first prosecutor in the country to achieve a hate crime conviction involving a transgender victim. He has an impressive list of high-profile rape and date-rape convictions. His department’s relentless prosecution of rapist Brandon Bradshaw resulted in a 192-year sentence.

But facts mean nothing in games of cheap political smack. ProgressNow activists know that most voters abhor rape and know little about the law, so they’re exploiting this victim’s trauma in order to defame a candidate they don’t like. They know some voters may confuse Buck’s decision with approval of rape. It’s an act of idiotic political malice. — Wayne Laugesen, editorial page editor, for the editorial board

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