Rob Sanders: Sexophrenic Tool?

When common sense fails, claim some variant of exceptionalism. That's what Kenton Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders in Ohio has done. You see, he wanted to convict Nicole Howell, a teacher in her mid-twenties, of first degree sexual assault. He wanted her in prison. He wanted her registered for life as a sex offender. He wanted to destroy her because he believed she had consensual sex with a sixteen-year-old student at Dayton High School.

It took a jury little more than an hour to acquit Ms. Howell. And now the former teacher has sued Sanders. Sanders' defense?

"Sex crimes are not like bank robberies. They typically do not take place on security cameras in front of a room full of witnesses. Ifg prosecutors ignored cases like this, few, if any sex crimes would ever get prosecuted."

Maybe that's what the jury was trying to tell the the Ohio prosecutor: Too many cases like this are being prosecuted, and for no good end.

I don't know whether the jury nullified the law in the Howell case. The defense was not not consent but denial. Apparently, prosecutors ignored exculpatory evidence, including a polygraph exam than Ms. Howell had passed. The state ignored the fact that it was Howell who reported rumors of the contact to school officials. The state ignored the fact that the so-called victim at first denied the rumors. Ther state ignored the fact that the alleged victim could not identify prominent features of Ms. Howell's, features any but a blind lover would recognized.

The prosecution ignored all that it did not want to see and focused on what it wanted: Ms. Howell's hide. And it did so because sex crimes are "oh-so different." This swill is unworthy of a serious professional.

Ms. Howell has filed suit against the state's attorney, claiming damages for her ruined career and reputation. She is unlikely to enjoy relief. Prosecutorial immunity is virtually impenetrable. And Rob Sanders, the prosecutor, is far from chastened by this defeat; he is defiant, and is taunting Ms. Howell's lawyer, baiting him as a showboat in the press.

Prosecutors make great show at closing argument of holding accused person's accountable for their alleged crimes. But when a prosecutor errs, he hides behind immunity. And then, as does Mr. Sanders, he tells the world he'd do the same thing all over again. These cases are special, you see. There is often but a single witness, and why would that witness lie? We need to protect the world against sexual predators.

Ms. Howell was no predator. The predator in this instance was the state. It stalked this woman and sought her destruction. And when it failed and someone tries to hold it accountable, it claims immunity from accountability.

Penetrating prosecutorial immunity is hard. I try it once every couple of years. But the law is harsh. A prsoecutor performing as an advocate can do almost anything so long as what he does is consonant with his function as an advocate. I wonder why ministers of justice get carte blanche to destroy lives, however?

There simply needs to be some corroboration requirement in single witnesses cases. Under Mosaic law, prosecution for murder was only possible on the testimony of two witnesses. This rule bled into the common law, and was eventually swallowed whole. One witness is enough for most crimes these days.

One witness was almost too much for Ms. Howell. How many other defendants have sat in courtrooms, sometimes many years after the events complained of, and been unable to mount a defense to ancient allegations because, quite frankly, the allegations weren't true, and so much time had passed that there was no reasonable possibility of recalling an alibi?

We'll never know. What we do know is that prosecutors regard these cases as special. We permit them to do so because hysterical governs our response to allegations of sexual misconduct. We're sexophrenic, all right. Sex sells by mesmerizing a consumer; and when it doesn't sell, it terrifies. We become strangers to ourselves and to the truth and few seem to care.
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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis


Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

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