Also, how do you all feel about the reporter? The headline makes me feel queasy.
A Philadelphia judge dropped all sex and assault charges at his preliminary hearing.
Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni instead held the defendant on the bizarre charge of armed robbery for - get this - "theft of services."
Deni told me she based her decision on the fact that the prostitute consented to have sex with the defendant.
"She consented and she didn't get paid . . . I thought it was a robbery."
The prostitute, a 20-year-old single mother, agreed to $150 for an hour of oral and vaginal sex on Sept. 20, according to assistant district attorney Rich DeSipio. The arrangements were made through her posting on Craigslist.
She met the defendant, Dominique Gindraw, 19, at what she thought was his house, but which turned out to be an abandoned property in North Philadelphia.
He asked if she'd have sex with his friend, too, and she agreed for another $100.
The friend showed up without money, the gun was pulled and more men arrived.
When a fifth man arrived and was invited to join, DeSipio said, he asked why the girl was crying - and declined. He helped her get dressed so she could leave.
It's true the prostitute negotiated sex with the defendant - but not unprotected gang sex at gunpoint.
"The Legislature has defined sex by force as rape," said DeSipio, accusing the judge of "rewriting her own laws."
DeSipio said Judge Deni's ruling was based, not on the law, but on moral contempt.
"Certainly if a jury wants to make that judgment, they're entitled to. But for a judge to make a judgment on a human being - I've never seen that before."
Deni did seem contemptuous of the victim:
"Did she tell you she had another client before she went to report it?" Deni asked me yesterday when we met at a coffee shop.
"I thought rape was a terrible trauma."
A case like this, she said - to my astonishment - "minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped."
The defendant was charged in an identical incident involving a 23-year-old woman four days later, DeSipio said.
Neither woman knew the other and both told identical stories. The other men involved in the attack couldn't be identified.
DeSipio was so stunned by Deni's ruling in the first case that he refused to present the second one.
"I wouldn't demean her that way," he said of the second victim, calling the proceedings "a farce."
Judge Deni then threw out the second case for failure to prosecute.
Police Detective Jack Ryan, who investigated the incidents, said the victims in the two cases "were in fear for their lives. Since they saw one of the doers really well, it crossed both of their minds that they'd be killed."
Deni's decision to drop the sex charges is " frankly, appalling," he said.
Deni acknowledged that her ruling and remarks would be controversial.
"I know I'm going to get killed on this."
But she said she has to "sleep at night with what I decide."
And on the night of Oct. 4, when she ruled in the preliminary hearing of this case?
"I slept well."
Certainly the victims don't inspire much sympathy.
Why waste taxpayers' money for what some people consider an occupational hazard?
There are enough sympathetic victims without wasting time on prostitutes who ask for trouble, right?
But crimes are prosecuted not out of sympathy for victims, but to maintain the rule of law in a civilized society, to punish a criminal and prevent further crime.
I like Deni, but reducing rape to theft of services?
It's an insult. And it's more evidence of the skepticism and contempt most rape victims - prostitutes or not - confront when they seek justice in court.
DeSipio said he'll file to reinstate the charges in both cases right away - before a different judge, of course.
Hopefully, the next judge will be better able to differentiate between a violated business agreement and a violent attack. *
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