Criminal Justice

Prosecutors Detain Alleged Rape Victim to Ensure Her Presence In Court


The detention of a 17-year-old alleged rape victim by Sacramento County, Calif., prosecutors has drawn protests from victims’ rights advocates and the girl’s lawyer.

Prosecutors say the girl’s detention is necessary to ensure that she appears in court to testify against the man she accuses of raping her.

But victims’ rights advocates and the teenager’s lawyer say the girl’s detention could discourage other sexual assault victims from coming forward.

Both sides agree that the detention of a material witness, particularly a juvenile, is extremely rare, the New York Times reports. The girl, who has been held in a juvenile detention center since March 23, was scheduled to appear in court Monday at a hearing on her continued detention.

The girl was 16 and staying at a foster home when she was attacked last July, prosecutors say. The suspect, Frank William Rackley, 37, is accused of abducting her from a light rail station and raping her.

Prosecutors say the girl has twice failed to appear in court to testify against Rackley, who is also suspected of raping at least one other woman. They say they were reluctant to detain the girl, but that it was necessary for the public good.

But Lisa M. Franco, the girl’s lawyer, said her detention violated Marsy’s Law, a 2008 amendment to the state’s constitution that guarantees that victims will be free of intimidation during the criminal justice process.

“She’s afraid of confronting her rapist, and she doesn’t want to testify,” Franco said. “By imprisoning her it’s just punitive, punishing her for not wanting to testify, which is contrary to what Marsy’s Law stands for.”

Franco has proposed releasing the girl into a foster home with a GPS tracking device around her ankle.

Advocates for rape victims said the case could make it even more difficult to persuade victims to report sexual assaults.

“They may become reluctant to seek assistance if they feel this will trigger the criminal justice system and lead to them being forced to testify,” said Sandra Henriquez, executive director of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Rackley’s trial is scheduled to start April 23.

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