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Leonard Pitts: Celebrity convictions don’t mean justice for most

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So what does all this tell us about justice?

“All of this” means Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years on Tuesday and R. Kelly to 30 years the following day. There is no doubt that it is an indisputably good thing to see these punishments handed down. And it’s hard to blame anyone who finds reason to be happy in it.

Joining them is also difficult.

Understand: You won’t regret the possibility of the 55-year-old former R&B hit producer and 60-year-old former socialite getting old under federal supervision. He manipulated and raped the child and she induced the child to be raped by the monster Jeffrey Epstein. So the promise of a long-term stay at the Grey Bar didn’t break any hearts.

But again, it also brings a little satisfaction. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace of the Eastern District of New York may disagree. As he told reporters covering Kelly’s case, “I hope this sentence serves as my own testimony that it doesn’t matter how powerful, rich or famous the abuser is, or how small they may make you feel. Justice only hears the truth.”

A man’s reluctance to fight a lawyer after a gruelling trial is a well-deserved victory. This is what he deserves. At the same time, however, people cringe at this noble statement of justice. Especially considering that accountability is hardly the norm that sexual predators are concerned about.

To illustrate this, consider some of the horrors of recent years.

As Judge Marcia Silva of Middlesex County, N.J., said that a 16-year-old boy forcibly raped a 12-year-old girl — which left her bleeding — “it is not a special order heinous or cruel crimes”.

Like Judge Matthew Murphy of Niagara County, New York, who placed a 17-year-old defendant on probation for raping multiple 15- and 16-year-old girls because sending him to jail was not “appropriate” “.

Like Judge Aaron Persky in Santa Clara County, California, sentenced convicted rapist Brock Turner to six months because anything harsher “would have a serious impact on him.”

Like Judge James Troiano of Monmouth County, N.J., who refused to try an alleged teenage rapist as an adult because he “comes from a good family.”

But even those vivid examples don’t paint the full picture. Let those judges say those bizarre words and make those bizarre rulings, and the case must go to court. Most don’t.

According to the National Network on Rape, Abuse and Incest, one in six women will experience an attempted or complete sexual assault in her lifetime. For every 1,000 attacks, only 50 people were arrested and only 25 people were imprisoned.

These poor numbers—to be fair, the statistics on robberies and assaults aren’t much better—do not give confidence in the justice system. As far as our current view is concerned, they argue that sexual assault survivors, the vast majority of whom are women, have been failing to do the right thing, as those grieving dismissal judges did.

So you know what these cases say about justice? After years of blatant disregard for the law, with enough media pressure and public attention, high-profile offenders could be held accountable, they said. Repeat: possible. If your situation doesn’t fall within these parameters, you’re out of luck; you’ll likely be watching helplessly as your attacker gets away with it. You might be forgiven for thinking it’s not like justice at all.

Just another rape.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. You can contact him by:
[email protected]


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