Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rape: A 'Mere One Month'

Typically, prosecutors are political animals. They prefer to prosecute cases, especially cases of violence--murder, rape, the garden variety crimes that outrage a public. Not in the case of the teenage girl in Florida, who at 15 began a "relationship" with a 23 year old man (who was aware of her age). In the state of Florida, as in most states, the age of consent is 16. Anything less is considered rape, statutory rape (in cases of consent), or some variation thereof (depending on the state jurisdiction). Amazingly, the prosecutors decided not to press charges. You will truly treasure State Attorney Nicole Pegues's explanation for why the perpetrator was allowed to get away with his crime.

Story Behind Teen's YouTube Rape Plea

Documents detail girl's disturbing relationship with cleared man

MAY 16--The Florida teenager who posted an emotional YouTube video describing her alleged rape gave police a troubling account of her relationship with a 23-year-old man who recently was cleared of sexually assaulting the girl.

In police interviews, the 16-year-old girl, identified only as Crystal in her video, describes meeting Casey Mundling, 23, at a party in mid-2007. At that point, while still 15, Crystal began having sex with Mundling, she told investigators. The teenager's claims were recorded during an interview with an Orange County Sheriff's Office detective last November (a transcript from that session can be found below).

Crystal also provided a handwritten statement describing her months-long relationship with Mundling, whom she accused of "always getting me drunk, high on cocaine and pills" before they had sex. A sheriff's report notes that Crystal told investigators that when she quarreled with Mundling he threatened to harm her and her family if "she said anything to anyone." Crystal added that she was transported to a local hospital last June "because she was upset and tried to commit suicide."

Based on Crystal's statements, Mundling, pictured in the mug shot at left, was arrested last November and charged with lewd or lascivious battery, a felony. Since she was a minor at the outset of the couple's relationship, prosecutors contended that Crystal could not legally consent to sexual intercourse.

But records indicate that prosecutors were far from gung-ho in pursuing a prosecution of Mundling. Included in documents released by the State Attorney's office are a prosecutor's notations from March indicating that Crystal's father "wants this to be prosecuted. I really don't know the reason. He has full knowledge of [his daughter's] lifestyle and his is similar." A late-2007 e-mail from prosecutor Nicole Pegues to a sheriff's detective notes, none-too-enthusiastically, "I guess I have to charge this case."

Citing "prosecutorial discretion," Pegues eventually declined to file a case against Mundling "due to the consensual nature of the sexual encounter" and the fact that Crystal "was a mere 1 month from her 16th birthday" when she began having sex with him.

Earlier this month, after Crystal and her father learned of Pegues's decision, the teenager recorded and posted her YouTube video, which can be found above. In that clip, Crystal--for the first time--claims that she was raped by Mundling. In her prior police statements, she repeatedly told probers that the sex was consensual and that, "I wanted a guy in my life 'cause my mom's boyfriends have never been there for me. And my dad wasn't there so I thought alright he's older maybe he'll respect me, but it didn't go like that."

During a contentious May 5 conversation with a prosecutor, records show, Crystal's father was "only concerned w/threats (UTube, press, etc.)" and "indicated he will sue."


I am typically not a prosecutorial-minded person. Before my career in academia, I went through law school and considered becoming an attorney. I did not become a lawyer in large part because of the moral qualms I had about the profession. There are so many innocent people churned and grinded through our criminal justice system. Nevertheless, that does not mean that worthwhile laws should remain unenforced. I do not know too many people who think it a public good for grown men to have sex with underage children.

It is common knowledge in the legal community for most prosecutors not to bring cases in which the offender is within a few years of the underage person (in all cases, both of the sexually active parties are teens and oftentimes underage). However, it is also commonly known that once you are out of your teens (i.e., 20 and above), if you have sex with someone who is below the age of consent, not only is it a prosecutable offense, it is expected for the prosecutor to file charges and take the case to court. The only time you use discretion is when you are convinced that there is not enough evidence. The fact the prosecutor admits that there is sufficient evidence, but that she is only letting the rapist go because the girl was a month away from being 16, tells you all you need to know about the work ethic and care for protecting underage girls from 20-something men in Nicole Pegues's world. I am sure if a 23 year old man was having sex with Pegues's 15 years, 11 month-old daughter, her view on that "mere month" would be quite different.

Not insignificantly, the girl signed an affidavit accusing the man of drugging and feeding her alcohol before the sexual trysts, which would be more than enough for most any prosecutor in this country to file charges (people are sent to death row on less). But what is 30 days when rationalizing someone having sex with underage girls?

By the way, here is the information for prosecutor Nicole Pegues. You can tell her what a wonderful person she is for exculpating rape as a justifiable offense if committed within a month of being legal. I am sure she will enjoy hearing from you.

Assistant State Attorney Nicole Pegues
Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office
415 N. Orange Ave.
Orlando 32802
telephone (407)836-2400

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