There is a difference between violent rape and other forms of sexual misconduct, just as there is a difference between the inappropriate touching of a child and that of an adult. We all recognize that in the cold light of day. Perhaps that is why Al Gore is being given a pass.
The former vice president apparently invited a masseuse up to a Portland, Oregon hotel room in the Hotel Lucia in 2006. While there, he apparently made "unwanted sexual contact", needing more than a little kneading. The woman's lawyer contacted the police, but when she refused to be interviewed by law enforcement the case was closed for lack of evidence. The woman's lawyer said she intended to sue Gore civilly.
It sounds an awful lot like a shakedown to me, although one really does question the wisdom of inviting a woman up to one's hotel room for some innocent flesh pressing.
Apparently, the civil suit did not turn out as well as the woman hoped it would, because in 2009 she finally turned up at the police station to make a complaint.
Multnomah County District Attorney Michael D. Schrunk told reporters this week that the case was closed initially because "the woman was not willing to be interviewed by the Portland Police Bureau and did not want a criminal investigation to proceed." The case remains closed now.
I'm not rooting for the prosecution of Al Gore. But I cannot help wondering whether he is getting a pass because of his status. I suspect there are many men in Portland labelled sex offenders for mere unwanted touching of another adult. Why are these men labelled sex offenders? Is it because they lack Gore's status, wealth and power?
The testimony of a single witness, if believed, is enough to convict of a crime in the United States. In sex cases, that is sometimes all the state has, especially in child sex crimes. When a prosecutor decides in some cases that one witness is not enough, the public is right to wonder how such distinctions get drawn. Does a prosecutor have too much power when he or she can pick or choose whom to prosecute without review by any court or judicial officer?
Al Gore is lucky. He won't be charged with a sex crime. He won't be required to register as a sex offender. He won't be required to attend sex offender treatment where he will be required to admit to deviant desire or be sent to prison.
Al Gore caught a break. Good for him. But what about all the other guys who are destroyed by a criminal justice system that cannot distinguish a violent rape from an embarrassing mistake?