Specializing in the representation of crime victims, women and children.

President Obama needs a refresher course on rape law, and the guts to condemn Bill Cosby

By Wendy Murphy    Jul. 22, 2015

For The Patriot Ledger
July 16, 2015

Earlier this week, President Obama spoke at the annual convention of the NAACP and declared this country’s criminal justice system “skewed against black men.”  He also said black men suffer much harsher penalties compared to white men who commit the same crimes.

Hearing the President’s remarks, I thought only about Bill Cosby, and
how he hasn’t suffered any penalties at all.

Days before Obama’s speech, it was reported that Cosby admitted under oath to obtaining sedatives for the purpose of drugging women for sex. But Obama said not a word about the criminal justice system’s inadequate response to Cosby’s actions, leaving many to wonder – Isn’t Bill Cosby a black man?

It’s hard to feel sympathy for the plight of persecuted black men with Cosby constantly in the news — facing not a single criminal charge. There’s little chance people will ever care about the very real problem of injustices perpetrated against black men so long as Bill Cosby evades justice with the President’s tacit approval.

Obama’s two daughters are the ages of several of Cosby’s victims (a couple of victims were only 15), and Obama said in a speech in 2014 that he understands the way sexual assault causes lifelong harm to victims, yet he continued to ignore the suffering of Cosby’s victims, even as he tried to address the story during a press event this week when a reporter asked him about Cosby’s admission to drugging women.

Obama replied that if a woman is drugged without her knowledge, and then a man has sex with her “without her consent,” it is rape.  The President needs a refresher course in rape law.  Drugging a person without their knowledge makes the sex act rape.  It is not necessary to also prove non-consent.

And why didn’t the President say anything supportive about the victims?

It wouldn’t have been politically controversial because nobody with a conscience has supported Cosby for a long time. All the President had to say was, “Bill Cosby does not deserve this nation’s respect, and if our criminal justice system is inadequate to redress his actions on behalf of the victims, then we need to fix the system.”  Obama could also have said, “the problem of racism in our prison population is made worse by the favorable treatment of wealthy black men, and if we are ever going to treat all black men fairly, we cannot show favoritism toward wealthy men of any color.”

The President should have said say those things, but he didn’t, because women don’t matter very much in this country compared to wealthy men like Bill Cosby. This is the harsh truth about violence against women generally.  Under the law, the word of one victim is sufficient to prove rape, but when the offender is a rich guy, even dozens of victims and a confession don’t cut it, not because the evidence isn’t strong enough but because too many prosecutors care less about women, and more about funding their re-election campaigns.

Cosby is accused of dozens of sex crimes, from the 1960s through the mid-2000s, in at least ten different states, but not a single law enforcement official has called for Cosby to be prosecuted.  Some news stories blame the statute of limitations, but in most states the clock stops running when an offender leaves the jurisdiction, and there’s no doubt Cosby “left” many of the states where incidents took place.

This “stopping of the clock” exception is why so many priests faced child sexual abuse charges even decades after the abuse ended.

At least 17 victims reported incidents in California, where Cosby has a home, so it’s too late to file most of those charges, although one of the 17 was in 2008 and is clearly within the window of opportunity. Why isn’t the District Attorney in Los Angeles jumping at the chance to file SOME charge, so that SOME justice can be done for all the California victims?

Other incidents allegedly occurred in Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Colorado.  In most of those states, criminal charges are still possible because Cosby hasn’t spent enough time there for the clock to run out.  The District Attorney in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania admitted as much about a 2004 incident, but he said in 2005 that the evidence was “insufficient” to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.  Someone should ask him if he still has such an absurd view of the evidence, and if he does, he should be run out of office.

Even if criminal charges are never filed, President Obama should declare his support for Cosby’s victims and explain why violence against women, like racist violence, is a civil rights issue.  And he should state in no uncertain terms that all sex offenders should be held accountable, including wealthy black men.

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