Wednesday, October 29, 2003

This time, the accused rapist was the real victim

Peter Bronson

Objection overruled.

The judge who jailed a rape victim to make her testify was right.

The critics who accused him of felony insensitivity were politically correct, but legally wrong.

The alleged rapist turned out to be a victim. The rape victim turned out to be a liar.

"Did I make the right decision? I truly think I did,'' said Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker. "I hope I never have to do it again. I would never want to victimize a victim.''

Dinkelacker said he and his family took a lot of flak from the press. "But there was not one negative reaction from anyone connected to law enforcement or other judges,'' he said. "I had tremendous support.''

On Monday, a jury took only an hour to find Michael Lindsey, 25, not guilty, after the woman who accused him admitted that she lied to police, prosecutors and two grand juries about being dragged into the woods and raped. She said she went into the woods to sell sex for $20, then changed her mind and was raped.

Lindsey's court-appointed lawyer, William Flax, believes the woman was raped at English Woods that July night. But in his closing argument to the jury, he speculated she chose to blame Lindsey because he was the neighborhood "oddball,'' a shy loner who had emotional problems as a child. She was afraid to report the true attacker, Flax said. "She's scared to death of the people she hangs out with.''

Flax said he was angry an innocent man was arrested twice and spent more than three months in jail. The "terrible nightmare'' should have ended when the woman refused to testify and charges were dropped in September, he said. "But there were a few loud-mouthed feminists around making a lot of noise. Everybody was afraid to say let it go.''

Flax told the court the woman had a criminal record and a history of ignoring court orders.

"That wasn't my consideration,'' Dinkelacker said. "You don't make an accusation like this and just walk away.''

After he sent the woman to jail for five days, she told a second grand jury the same story, accusing Lindsey of kidnapping and rape. By forcing her to go through with a trial, Dinkelacker exposed the truth.

Lindsey's cousin, Cheryl Murdock Owens, described him as "a very soft-spoken, gentle Christian man.'' She visited him in jail and told him, "The Lord knows you're here. Fight for victory.'' He never lost faith, she said.

The jailing of an alleged rape victim set off media alarms, and Flax was called by national TV shows that wanted to turn it into "a mini-Kobe Bryant'' circus, he said.

"The justice system has been politicized,'' he said. "It's harder to defend these cases. It's almost mandatory to prosecute, no matter how flaky the victim is.''

Dinkelacker said he had a duty to make sure both the accuser and the accused got justice. "You have to follow it through,'' he said. "This is one where a lot of gray areas came into play.''

Here's one of those gray areas: Humane rules that protect rape victims can be cruel injustice when the accusations are false. If the case had been dismissed to spare a victim who was too afraid to testify, Lindsey would walk out forever labeled a "rapist.''

Thanks to a judge who had the courage to do the right thing, the truth set him free.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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