DALLAS — A Dallas County district judge has ignited a firestorm of criticism and drawn national ire after she publicly implied a rape victim was promiscuous and was not "the victim she claimed to be."
The comments made by State District Judge Jeanine Howard to The Dallas Morning News angered the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, the victim’s family and advocates for sexual assault victims. The judge is also being criticized for giving the admitted rapist probation, for initially ordering that he do community service at a rape crisis center and for not making him subject to standard sex offender rules and regulations, such as that he have no contact with minors.
“We’re certainly disappointed with the statements that the judge made because of the message that it sends to victims and potential victims,” said Andrea Moseley, a high-ranking Dallas County prosecutor. “The truth is that he admitted that he sexually assaulted her, that she did not give consent, that she said 'no' and we certainly believe that no means no in these cases.”
She said she’s spoken to the victim’s family and “they’re hurt and they’re concerned to make sure that the truth is out there and obviously the victim feels like her reputation has been damaged.”
The judge refused to comment to WFAA. She removed herself from the case Friday and the case has been assigned to a different court. Prosecutors also filed a motion Friday asking that the new judge overseeing the case order 20-year-old Sir Young to follow the standard requirements for a sex offender – some of which are legally required.
Last week, Young pleaded guilty to the October 2011 rape of a 14-year-old girl in a practice room at Booker T. Washington High School, where they were both students. Howard sentenced him to five years of deferred adjudication probation, which would leave him without a conviction if he successfully completes it.
But, it was another unheard of condition that she imposed that initially shocked rape advocates. Howard ordered Young to serve “250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center” last week. The judge changed the probation condition after the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center said he wasn’t welcome there.
According to court documents, the judge originally made Young subject to standard sex offender conditions. Those conditions include refraining from contact with children, going though sex offender treatment, undergoing a sex offender evaluation and taking annual polygraph exams.
On Wednesday, however, Howard reversed course and decided that Young didn't have to be subject to those conditions – something that no one can ever recall happening in a case involving an admitted rapist.
“The two goals of probation are protecting the community and rehabilitating the offender," Moseley said. "And the judge in this case chose to put him on probation and didn’t do what's going to be necessary in our view to protect the community and rehabilitate the offender."
Prosecutors are most concerned that the judge didn't order Young to stay away from children, particularly given the age of the victim at the time of the rape. She was 14.
In explaining her decision-making to the Morning News, Howard said the girl texted Young asking him to meet her and she agreed to have sex with him, but didn’t want to do so at school. She also said the girl had several sexual partners and had given birth to a child. She also added that Young’s age at the time of the offense played into her decision. He was 18.
“She wasn’t the victim she claimed to be,” the judge told the newspaper. “He is not your typical sex offender.”
Bobby Villareal, executive director of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center, was appalled by Howard’s comments and says justice wasn’t served.
“This is an example of why people don’t come forward and report their sexual assaults because they are not only victimized at the time but the continuing game of shame and blame,” Villareal said. “They are put on trial again in the judiciary and the media. The things that were said were outrageous and some of them were actually untrue that were reported.”
Moseley echoed Villareal’s sentiments.
“Consent is not an issue and it wasn’t an issue because he admitted he didn’t have her consent,” the prosecutor said. “When consent is not an issue, a victim’s past is never appropriate for comment. That’s my problem with it as a woman and as a prosecutor. I was certainly disappointed in the message I think it sends to the community.”
Howard also defended her decision to give Young probation.
“There are rape cases that deserve 20 years,” Howard told the newspaper. “Every now and then you have one of those that deserve probation. This is one of those and I stand by it.”
Howard is a Democrat. She doesn't have an opponent for the November election.
Young is currently in the Dallas County jail serving a 45-day jail sentence, another of the conditions that Howard imposed. He also must serve two days in jail every October 4 — the anniversary of the rape — while he’s on probation.