Photo: EPA / CARLO ALLEGRI / EFE
Most New York City prosecutors rejected a higher proportion of sex crime cases in 2019, compared to a decade earlier.
That is particularly the case in Manhattan, where prosecutors rejected 49% of cases of sexual assault in 2019 – the last year for which reliable data are available -, much more than 37% in 2017. The data excludes most sexual crimes against children and certain non-violent crimes such as stalking.
The amount of reports of rape made to the police increased by about 20% from 2017 to 2019 as a result of Harvey Weinstein prosecution, the famous former Hollywood producer sentenced to 23 years for rape and sexual assault in New York in 2020 and this week was extradited to California on similar charges.
The movement #MeToo (“Me too”) generated a lot of coverage and hopes that people who committed sexual assaults would be held accountable more often. But after examining crime and prosecution data in recent years, and talking to women who said they were assaulted, The New York Times concluded that Little has changed in the way the city’s criminal justice system handles rape charges.
In part, that may be because There are inherent challenges in prosecuting sexual assault, particularly when the attacker is not a stranger and alcohol is involved. Some experts believe that prosecutors are not yet ready to navigate those challenges.
“At the end of the day, if the perception is that the attorneys in our office are somehow disrespecting the victims, that’s unacceptable,” he said. Cyrus R. Vance Jr., District Attorney for Manhattan. “We as an office have to deal with that and educate our attendees on how to improve their interactions with survivors and victims. “
Conviction rates for sexual assault cases are often much lower than for other violent crimes: 44% of those cases resulted in a Manhattan conviction in 2019, compared to 79% of first-degree homicides.
Audrey Moore, a first assistant prosecutor in Manhattan, said her office has tried to better train prosecutors on the effects of trauma on victims and how to deal with cases of alcohol-related rape.
The issue also became a focus in the race to succeed Vance, who did not run for reelection. Alvin Bragg, a former federal prosecutor who won the Democratic primary in June and is a frontrunner for the November general election, vowed to revamp the sex crimes office..
Bragg said he planned to speak to survivors and “restart” the sex crimes bureau “from scratch.” He also said that he wanted assess why certain cases are rejected, and that the probability of a conviction should not be a determining factor in what complaints the prosecution is pursuing.
Since 2017, #MeToo movement against sexual abuse has generated dozens of similar complaints against executives, politicians, priests, intellectuals and celebrities around the world, both as men and women. Currently the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is being investigated after being denounced by several relatives for alleged sexual harassment.
Glad @nytimes is asking why prosecutors reject sexual assault cases. Having spent time in special crimes, many DAs simply don’t spend enough time with victims to understand their points of view, leaving zero hope of effectively presenting them to a jury. https://t.co/WecBUBy4S4
— David Henderson (@OakCliffLawyer) July 19, 2021
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.