Saturday, September 27, 2003

Rape victim jailed; accused freed

Afraid or not, it's her duty to testify, judge says

By Sharon Coolidge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A rape victim is in jail and her accused attacker is free today after the woman's refusal to testify raised the ire of a Hamilton County judge.

Patrick Dinkelacker, a Hamilton County Common Pleas judge, Friday charged the 33-year-old Cincinnati woman with contempt of court, saying he wants to send a message: Not showing up for court - even if you're fearful of retaliation - is "slapping the court in the face."

The woman is the fifth victim or witness in the past month to fail to show up for trial in Dinkelacker's courtroom, forcing him to throw out the charges.

"There's a point here," Dinkelacker told the tiny blond woman Friday as she stood before him, shaking, her wrists handcuffed. "If victims don't participate in the system, we don't have justice.

"You claim you are a victim," he told her. "But, where's the guy who did something? You know where he is today? Free. Free, because you didn't come to see that justice was done."

The woman told police she was dragged into the woods near her North Fairmount home July 8 and raped by a stranger. Michael Lindsey, 25, also of North Fairmount, was arrested and indicted on rape and kidnapping charges.

Lindsey's attorney says his client is innocent. Three times the woman did not show up in court, forcing Dinkelacker to dismiss the case.

The woman explained that neighbors threatened her and her children, calling her a snitch. "I've already been hurt once, I don't know what will happen," she told her attorney, William Welsh. This way, she told him, "At least I'll be alive."

"We all have to play by the rules," Dinkelacker said before sentencing the rape victim to 10 days in jail. "You didn't. A judge doesn't want to see a victim in handcuffs."

Amy Howton, the sexual-assault response coordinator at the University of Cincinnati's Women's Center, said the sentence sends the wrong message to victims. "We're making it harder and harder to come forward and report a rape," she said.


• Oct. 1 update: Rape suspect back in jail
• Sept. 30 update: Judge releases jailed woman
• Pulfer column: Judge used the wrong messenger
• Editorial: Intimidated witnesses

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