From Renegade Evolution comes news of a virtual rally later today that I will not be able to participate in, due to work. So, decided to cover it now. It involves Philadelphia Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni, who is up for re-election, just to make it interesting.
Deni made national news when she referred to the gang-rape of a prostitute as mere "theft of services":
A judge in Philadelphia has come under fire for a controversial ruling in which she reduced charges so that a man accused of raping a prostitute at gunpoint faced only robbery charges for "theft of services."As stated above, the Philadelphia Bar Association has publicly dissociated from Judge Deni's comments:
Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni earlier this month dismissed rape and sexual assault charges against Dominique Gindraw, who is accused of forcing a prostitute at gunpoint to have sex with him and several other men. Deni left intact charges of armed robbery for theft of services against Gindraw.
Prosecuting Gindraw for rape, the judge said in a subsequent newspaper interview "minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped."
The decision — and Deni's subsequent comments to a local newspaper — prompted about 40 complaints from around the country to the local bar association, said executive director Ken Shear, as well as a campaign by women's groups to encourage people to vote against Deni when she is up for reelection Tuesday
The Philadelphia Bar Association this week took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the ruling.
"I am personally offended by this unforgivable miscarriage of justice," said bar association chancellor Jane Dalton. "The victim has been brutalized twice in this case: first by the assailants, and now by the court."
"A victim is a victim regardless of how they come to be in that position," Dalton told ABC News.
Deni did not immediately return a message for comment left this morning.
Her lawyer, George Bochetto, said Deni "makes decisions based on the evidence presented in a court of law, not newspaper accounts of the story. She finds the chancellor's comments to be regrettable."
The accuser testified that she initially agreed to have sex with Gindraw and a friend of his in exchange for money, but that Gindraw refused to pay her, held a gun to her head and forced her to have sex with several men, according to a transcript of an Oct. 4 court hearing.
"She consented and she didn't get paid. … I thought it was a robbery," Deni told the Philadelphia Daily News.
MUNICIPAL JUDGE Teresa Carr Deni has invited the wrath of a very unusual source: the Philadelphia Bar Association.And that is why there is a virtual rally today, to GET RID of Deni tomorrow, November 6.
In a rare public reproach, Chancellor Jane Leslie Dalton yesterday denounced Deni for inflicting an "unforgivable miscarriage of justice" on a prostitute who was the victim in a preliminary hearing Deni presided over earlier this month.
"The victim has been brutalized twice in this case: first by the assailants, and now by the court," Dalton said in a scathing rebuke issued in a statement yesterday.
The sex worker had agreed to have protected sex with the defendant and another man for a prearranged fee, but was instead forced - at gunpoint - to have unprotected intercourse with four men.
But Deni dropped the rape and sexual assault charges against the defendant, and held him instead on armed robbery charges for "theft of services" from the prostitute. "She consented and she didn't get paid," Deni explained to me later. "I thought it was a robbery."
In the aftermath of outraged e-mails sent to the bar association, Chancellor Dalton felt compelled to read the transcript of the Oct. 4 proceeding herself.
And she was appalled by it.
Deni's ruling "belies a basic understanding of what constitutes rape in Pennsylvania," Dalton's statement said.
"Judge Deni's belief that because the victim had originally intended to have sex for money and decided not to because she didn't get paid posits that a woman cannot change her mind about having sex, or withdraw her consent to do so, regardless of the circumstances. We cannot imagine any circumstances more violent or coercive than being forced to have sex with four men at gunpoint."
The ruling reflects "in my opinion, a clear disregard of the legal definition of rape and the rule of law in this case," Dalton said.
"As Chancellor, a lawyer, and a human being, I am personally offended by this unforgivable miscarriage of justice."
And that's a courageous and dramatic comment for the head of a group that's far more likely to defend a judge than criticize one.
Dalton felt compelled to speak out because Deni is running for retention to a six-year term in next week's election.
Vote NO on Deni.
For immediate release
Rape is NOT an Occupational Hazard!
Sex Workers Join Women’s Groups and Sexual Assault Survivors’ Groups to Urge PA Voters to Vote ‘No’ on the Retention of Judge Teresa Carr Deni
Judge Teresa Carr Deni spawned outrage from all directions after ruling on October 4th that a sex worker that was raped at gunpoint by multiple men was NOT sexually assaulted, rather she was just robbed. Deni commented in an Oct. 12th interview that this case “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”
Grassroots activists around the country, including nationwide sex worker-led organizations such as the Desiree Alliance and regional advocacy groups from coast to coast responded with anger and disgust for Deni’s disregard of the basic human rights of the rape victim in this case. “Deni’s decision in this case sends a message that sex workers can be targeted for violence with impunity. Rape of sex workers is common, alarmingly under-reported, and rarely taken seriously by authorities,” Kitten Infinite of Sex Workers’ Outreach Project said. “Violence against sex workers is perpetuated by the state through discriminatory laws and judicial rulings such as this.”
Sex workers in the US and abroad are organizing and becoming more vocal about the violence and discrimination that they face. “Because prostitution is criminalized, our human rights and our boundaries are clearly not respected,” Mariko Passion, a board member from the Desiree Alliance commented, she continues, ”…forcing or manipulating sexual intercourse by fraud, fear or coercion is rape.” On Oct 30th, after considerable pressure from sex workers and feminists around the country, the PA Bar Association issued a statement condemning Deni’s action, stating that, “The victim has been brutalized twice in this case: first by the assailants, and now by the court.”
The Desiree Alliance applauds Association Chancellor Jane Dalton’s review of the matter and we find some satisfaction in the fact that the District Attorney’s office has re-filed rape charges against the perpetrator of this despicable crime. However, we still call on voters to vote ‘No’ on retaining Deni in the election on November 6th. The Desiree Alliance will hold a virtual press conference and rally on Monday, November 5th at 5pm Eastern for sex workers and allies to comment publicly about this case and how to prevent further discrimination against sex workers.
Who: Desiree Alliance and Affiliates
What: “Rape is NOT an Occupational Hazard!” Virtual rally
Why: Judge Teresa Carr Deni should not be retained as a Municipal Court Judge in Philadelphia
When: Monday, November 5, 2007, 5pm Eastern, 2pm Pacific
Listening to: Amy Winehouse - Back to Black