Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Abuse of Power...

If you haven't been following the case of the 14 year old girl who had been held since May 10th in isolation at the Summit County Jail because she refused to testify against a man she denies molested her, the 14 year old was released today.

Her mother states her boyfriend saw the girl having sex with 20 year old Galo Sanchez-Pesantes on Jan. 20 on a couch. The girl denied having sex and refused to write a statement for police.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal on May 16th:

Prosecutors had to drop their case against Sanchez-Pesantes last week and recharge the Akron man after the girl failed to show for his trial on May 8. The girl's mother found her the next day and called police, who took the teen into custody.

The teen, jailed since Wednesday, insists she is not a sex abuse victim and is demanding a lawyer be assigned to represent her, court records show.

However, jail officials said Monday she cannot speak with anyone without permission from county prosecutors.

Prosecutors say the teen is a material witness and is being held in jail for her own protection.

Today she was released because the Ohio 9th District Court of Appeals ruled Monday that her incarceration without a hearing, plus her detention in an adult jail, violated the law.

Prosecutors said they were not surprised by the ruling. Nonetheless, they had asked the appeals court to allow another hearing that would have extended her jail stay.

``The fact that the (juvenile) is being held in an adult facility by itself renders her detention unlawful,'' (appellate Judge Lynn) Slaby wrote.

The girl was ordered to jail May 10 as a material witness by Common Pleas Judge James Murphy who attempted to place the girl in the county's Juvenile Detention Center. Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio blocked the move, saying she could not legally hold the girl. In court papers, Teodosio cited a federal law barring juveniles who are not accused of a crime from being placed in detention. Judge Murphy then had the girl taken to the county jail on May 10th.

Further clouding this story is her mother claims the girl is a chronic run-away who uses alcohol and hangs out with older men. Her mother had no problem with the girl being held in an adult facility. Her mother is quoted as saying, "``I hope she's learned her lesson. But I will be there for her, support her and love her.''

This situation is wrong on so many levels, but I'm going to address only the legal issues. If the girl states she was not molested there will realistically be no case. Locking her in jail and not allowing anyone to have access to her without the permission of the prosecution appears to be an attempt to force her into saying what they want. The fact that a judge knowing that another judge stated the incarceration would be illegal ordered her to be held in the county jail should be creating demands for this judge to be disciplined. The fact that the prosecution also knew this was illegal should be creating huge attention. This should also be creating demands for rules to be established to protect children, if a parent locked a child in their room for 23 hours straight for that many days, Children's Services would investigate.

If this was a situation of statuatory rape, since the girl is under the age of consent this doesn't seem to be the way to go about getting cooperation. If she was truly a victim this makes her even more of a victim, at the hands of the judge, the prosecution and her own mother. The fact that it took so long to get her released and the fact that there was no one advocating on her behalf is disturbing.

Hopefully she got her ice cream which she stated she wanted and her family will get some much needed counseling. What will happen when this case is re-heard on May 31st?

Prosecutors and the girl's mother hope the teen will not run away and will testify at the trial of Galo Sanchez-Pesantes...

He's been free on bond during all of this, I hope for her sake she testifies and truthfully. If he really didn't molest her? It should end there. If he did? Let's hope it comes out and that somehow the legal system makes some much needed changes before this happens again. The legal system is supposed to protect children, not further victimize them.

(This was written for the Carnival of Ohio Politics which is hosted each week by Paul Miller of Northwest Ohio Net)