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Court Discusses Rape Shield Law

A female college student from Columbia University surfed the net looking for other Columbia students with whom she can chat. She began an online conversation through email with the accused who was also a student from Columbia University.

The accused shared his interests in the occult and the bizarre. He mentioned his fascination with a known photographer who used corpses for models. The woman shared her fascination with snuff films (pornographic films where the female is shown being slain by the person who was raping her). She and the accused began talking of possible plots for snuff films that they would create.

Two months of emails, chatting, instant messaging passed until the woman shared her phone number with the guy and he called her. They had several long phone conversations.
The woman shared that she was having a sadomasochistic relationship with another guy who was also from Columbia. She described the bruises she sustained and pain she suffered from the sadomasochistic sexual relationship she said she enjoyed bragging about to her friends. The other guy had an ex-girlfriend who was stalking her and telling her to leave her man alone. She gave the accused graphic details of her sadomasochistic relationship: that she was submissive and her boyfriend dominated her during their sexual encounters.

During one conversation, the woman told the accused that before she could go out on a date with her boyfriend, the boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend called her and asked her to bring her to the hospital because she had been raped. She told the accused that she postponed her date with her boyfriend to bring her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend to the hospital to be examined. It turned out that the ex-girlfriend was not raped at all but she only made up the rape story so that she will not go out on a date with her boyfriend that night.

Weeks passed and the woman agreed to meet her online friend (the accused). The accused asked the woman to watch a movie with her and she met up with him. However, they had dinner and since it was already past ten pm when they finished eating, the movies were closing. He suggested that they watch a movie in his apartment instead.

They drove around looking for video rental places where they can rent snuff films but they did not find any that they liked. The accused invited the girl up to his apartment where he offered her some tea and they leafed through a book of photographs. They also had a long conversation. When it was getting late and the woman expressed her desire to go home, the accused told her that he had several personalities and among them was a personality that did not experience pain. He invited the woman to twist his wrist and the accused became stern and he did not seem to feel the pain. He told her to take off her sweater and she did as he told her. He told her to take off her pants and she did that, too. He told her to take off each and every article of clothing she had on and she complied.

He then told her to lie down. She obeyed. He tied up her arms and legs to the bed post and he poured melting wax from the candles in his room which made her scream in pain. He then poured ice on the same areas he had burned with the molted wax and she screamed again.
He poured wax on her nipples, on her vaginal area and he bit her. He gagged and blindfolded her. He then sodomized her with a stick. He left the apartment for a while leaving her tied up on the bed and when he came back, she pleaded with him not to hurt or dismember or kill her.
All this time, the accused was talking to her, conversing with her the same way he had done during their phone calls. He told her that she should learn self-defense. He untied her and she tried to run away but he caught her and hog-tied her.

As she was hog-tied, the accused tried to examine her genitals. She struggled and the knots around her feet came loose. She stood up. The accused looked frightened and so she ran away. She fought him off and took her clothes from the floor and ran away and went home.
She said she took the subway back to her dormitory. She said she fell asleep and took a shower when she woke up and then she called her boyfriend. She told him that she had just been sodomized. She went to her boyfriend’s apartment and spent the night there.

The next day, when she logged into to a computer, she saw that there was a message from the accused saying that she left her gold chain behind. He said he would mail it to her. He then said that he didn’t think that he didn’t do her as much good as he had hoped and expressed hope that she had gotten home all right.

She then sent the accused another long email expressing her pain and how the pain had purged her. She said that she was bruised but that she had never felt so happy to be alive. She even quoted Edgar Rice Burroughs and said that their intercourse was overpoweringly delicious but also nauseating. They continued sending emails and instant messages throughout that day.

The woman filed a complaint of rape against the accused. He was charged, tried and convicted for kidnapping, sexual abuse and assault. The District Attorney during the opening statements portrayed the accused as a monster, a sadist who scanned the internet for prey; and the woman was portrayed as naïve and innocent.

During the trial, the accused tried to introduce into evidence the many emails the woman had sent her to try to prove that she actively engaged in conversation with the accused and told her that she enjoyed sadomasochism. The trial court allowed the emails to be presented but the trial court redacted the emails (blacked out portions of the emails) when they were presented to the jury.
The trial court removed those sentences and phrases from the email that according to the judge were prohibited by the Rape Shield Law. Before the Rape Shield Law, it was commonly held that the character of a woman’s chastity reflects the likelihood of her consent. Without the Rape Shield Law, the accused can produce evidence of the woman’s sexual promiscuity so that the jury will be more likely to believe that the woman actually consented to the rape.
The jury convicted the man of sexual assault, sodomy, and kidnapping. The accused appealed his conviction. He claimed that the trial court’s refusal to allow him to introduce the emails of the woman to him that portrayed her expressions of desire and fascination with sadomasochism, the jury was prejudiced against him. He also claims that he was unable to question the woman’s credibility while on the witness stand and use her emails to impeach her testimony.
The only question before the Court is whether or not the trial court erred in applying the Rape Shield Law by redacting the emails and refusing to allow into evidence the statements made by the woman that expressed her desire for sadomasochistic sexual intercourse.

The Court held that the Rape Shield Law prohibits the admission of evidence of a woman’s prior sexual conduct with the accused except when the evidence shows; the woman’s prior sexual conduct with the accused; of the woman’s prior conviction for prostitution. The law also allows presentation of any rebuttal evidence by the accused when the prosecutor presented evidence that the woman failed or refused to engage in sex or deviant sexual intercourse; that the accused is the cause of pregnancy, disease or the source of the semen found in the woman.

The Court held that the emails of the woman to the accused are not covered by the Rape Shield Law because it is not evidence of sexual conduct of the complainant but only evidence of statements made by the complainant. The difference is that the accused had the right to introduce the statements made by the woman in the emails which reflects her state of mind. The statements were not offered to prove the truth of what she said but only that she said them. Technically, these are not evidence of the woman’s sexual conduct but only evidence of statements she made, evidence of statements of interests in certain activities.

Evidence of the woman’s past conduct is sometimes relevant: the emails proved that the woman had an ongoing intimate online relationship with the accused that brought them to finally meet. The Rape Shield Law does not bar all evidence of the woman’s sexual conduct or character. There are exceptions such as when barring the emails will violate the accused’s constitutional right to cross-examine the witness and his right to present a defense.

The emails here bring an understanding on the motive, intent and state of mind. The emails also show that the woman had another sadomasochistic relationship with another man from whom she may have gotten the bruises. The emails prove that the woman was involved in an active master-slave relationship with another man. The emails also show that she had sexual encounters with her boyfriend prior to and immediately after the rape.

The emails show that the woman initially consented to the sadomasochism; that the accused understood from her emails that she was willing to participate in sadomasochism.

The emails also go into showing that the woman may have actually participated in making-up rape stories or fabricate rape charges because she related in her email that she helped her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend report a rape that did not actually happen. This will rebut the portrayal by the prosecution that the woman was naïve or innocent or that she was truthful.

The Court declared that the trial court erred in not admitting the emails without redaction as it prohibited the accused to fully confront the witnesses against him and prevented him from putting forth his defense. The conviction of the accused is reversed and the case for new trial.

Are you accused of rape? Are you wondering what evidence you can present to defend yourself against the accusation? You need to consult a New York City Criminal Lawyer. A New York Criminal attorney can tell you that you can present evidence of a relationship with your accused. A NY Criminal Lawyer can tell you that you can show that the woman made statements to you of her sexual preferences that led you to believe that she would enjoy rough sex. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates today and speak with any of their NYC Criminal Lawyers who can help you defend yourself and establish your innocence of the charges.