Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dowagiac Rapist is allowed to plea his way out of rape charge

On Friday January 7th 2011, Mr. David Donley was sentenced in Cass County Circuit Court by Judge Michael Dodge to a prison term of 12 ½ to 40 years. This sentence is the result of a plea bargain between Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz and Donley.

Donley was arrested by Dowagiac Police after a rape complaint was received from a Dowagiac women in June of 2010. According to Court records, 8 charges were authorized against Donley. The charges include: 2- First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, 1- Home Invasion, 1- Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, 1- CCW Concealed Weapon, 1- Felonious Assault and 2-Resist and Obstruct charges.

According to testimony, Donley forced his way into the victim’s apartment at knife point and raped her twice. During Donley’s stay at Cass County Jail, three additional charges were added for criminal behavior while in custody. Donley was designated an Habitual Offender by the prosecutor. Mr. Fitz also asked that Donley be required to wear restraints to protect people attending the hearing.

Prosecutor Fitz agreed to drop the 3 Criminal Sexual Conduct charges and the 3 charges added while Donley was in jail. In exchange, Donley would enter a No Contest Plea relating to the five remaining charges. Certainly a dangerous criminal is off the street for a very long time, but is it long enough?

As Mr. Fitz pointed out in his recent presentation at the Rotary Club in Dowagiac, Michigan’s Department of Corrections are trying to solve their budget problems by letting out more violent criminals. Mr. Fitz asked the question; “How does releasing more murderers, armed robbers, and CSC offenders make you safer?."

The problem with not prosecuting Donley’s CSC charges has its own set of consequences. First and foremost, the victim has not received justice for the rape crime committed against her. If Donley didn’t commit the rape, most of the other charges would have never been lodged against him. The second problem is with the plea agreement. When Donley gets out of prison, he will not be required to register as a sex offender. It is as if the rape never happened. How will this keep us safer?

According to the Prosecutor, Donley is a Habitual Offender. Donley’s sentence is 12 ½ to 40 years and, if I understand Mr. Fitz’s article correctly, the truth-in-sentencing legislation will require Donley serve at least the minimum. If Donley had been prosecuted and convicted of 1st Degree CSC, the penalty could have been as much as imprisonment for life.

In an April 25,2008 article in the South Bend Tribune, Linda Baechle, then Exec. Director of the YWCA, wrote; “Rape should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The victims are humiliated, embarrassed, frightened. When the perpetrator is not prosecuted and sent away, the survivor is fearful of being alone and always looking over her shoulder for the rapist. The rapist is still out there. She may encounter him at the market or dry cleaners. She will never feel completely safe again.”

Criminal Sexual Conduct cases, involving adult women, are just not a priority for area prosecutors. According to the Michigan State Police website, their Michigan Incident Crime Report (MICR) for Cass County, lists 38 complaints reported in 2008 with only 3 arrests. The same report shows 25 complaints reported in 2009 with 3 arrests. Arrests do not mean there are prosecutions. The Prosecutor’s office must authorize charges before anything happens. So very little is done in Cass County in regard to these complaints.

Danny Inman of DASAS told the Rotary Club in December of 2010 that sexual assault is the number one under-reported crime in the country. Only 5% of the victims tell police, and 15 of 16 perpetrators walk away free. According to Inman, statistically, 94% of assault victims are telling the truth, but it is hard to get a conviction.

If a person is raped at knife point, and she is asked about her assailant’s sentence, which excludes rape charges, what do you think her answer would be? With so few prosecutions of CSC cases involving adult women, justice is hard to come by. Counseling, mood-altering drugs and time are the only options for most victims.

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