A Clearwater County Sheriff’s deputy was recently in court to answer charges that he sexually assaulted a ninth-grade student at Bagley High School.
Authorities arrested 31-year-old Deputy Neil Dolan after the unnamed alleged victim said the two had sex in Dolan’s office while he was wearing his uniform and service revolver. Dolan, who was an assistant football coach and school resource officer, was placed on administrative leave. Dolan had a fine reputation in the community and a spotless record. “I’ve talked with school officials and nobody had red flags; this came out of nowhere,” remarked Clearwater County Sheriff Darin Halverson. “A lot of people had him at their family functions [and] that’s why it is tearing the community apart.”
If convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (the complainant is at least 13 years of age but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 48 months older than the complainant and in a position of authority over the complainant), Dolan could serve up to thirty years in prison.
In a word, yes. In the United States, the word of one witness is usually enough to convict a defendant. Furthermore, in most cases, the jury exclusively determines the credibility of the witnesses. However, these cases are difficult to prove. A St. Paul sex crime lawyer need only establish reasonable doubt.
Lack of physical evidence is extremely common in criminal sexual conduct prosecutions. Since as many as 90 percent of these complainants know their attackers, delayed reporting is the norm. For various reasons, mostly denial or fear, many alleged victims do not report acquaintance sexual assault cases straightaway.
The above case is a good illustration. The alleged incident occurred in June 2017, and authorities did not make an arrest until November 2019. So, there is almost definitely no physical evidence of sexual penetration. In fact, there may not even be any physical evidence, such as security camera footage, proving that the alleged victim was in the defendant’s office that day.
Reliance on the alleged victim’s story changes the complexion of the case for St. Paul sex crime lawyers. The focus becomes not the incident itself, but the alleged victim’s credibility.
There is another dimension here as well. Mostly for religious reasons, some jurors have a problem with single-witness criminal sexual conduct prosecutions. If St. Paul sex crime lawyers can prevent Ramsey County prosecutors from removing such jurors, it is much easier to establish reasonable doubt in the mind of at least one juror. And, that’s all a defense lawyer needs to do.
Most people know that the alleged victim’s sexual promiscuity is not relevant in a criminal sexual conduct prosecution. Since the alleged victim’s consent is irrelevant in statutory rape cases, such evidence would be inadmissible in these matters anyway.
However, under Rule 404, evidence concerning the complainant’s honesty, or lack thereof, is relevant and admissible. If the alleged victim cheated on a math quiz in eighth grade, that fact is probably relevant. Likewise, if the alleged victim told friends she spent a week at Disneyland when she was only there six days, that fact is probably relevant as well. The possibilities are almost endless for a diligent St. Paul sex crime lawyer.
The line of attack is simple. If the alleged victim was untruthful about these many other things, there is a good chance she was untruthful about the charged incident.
Colloquially, St. Paul sex crime attorneys call this approach the “sink and ink” defense. Once jurors begin deliberating, they may spend so much time sorting through evidence about the alleged victim’s credibility that they lose sight of the central issue.
Roughly the same evidentiary rules apply to the defendant’s character. If anything, they are a bit broader. Rule 404(a) states that “a defendant may offer evidence of the defendant’s pertinent trait.” In a criminal sexual conduct prosecution, a “pertinent trait” could be sexual abstinence. It could also be the defendant’s honesty.
This approach has some concerns. The judge may cut off such evidence if the prosecutor has not challenged the defendant’s credibility. In that situation, evidence of the defendant’s credibility could be considered illegal bolstering.
Additionally, it’s important that a St. Paul sex crime lawyer not cast the defendant as the “good guy” and the alleged victim as a liar. That approach almost always backfires.
No-physical-evidence criminal sexual conduct cases require a special touch. For a free consultation with an experienced St. Paul sex crime lawyer, contact Capitol City Law Group, LLC. Go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.