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Reunion Rape, 5

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running ran a (hopeless? hopeless!) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 5.

Good news or bad news for Williams?

Policies in the DA’s office around assault and rape, particularly at Williams, became an issue in the DA primary campaign over the summer when allegations surfaced of prosecutorial dismissiveness for rape allegations at Williams. The school reported the existence of allegation of over 40 rapes and assaults in recent years to police, but only one case was prosecuted by the DA’s office. Andrea Harrington, the Democratic nominee, and her allies see that as part of a history of looking the other way by the office, particularly at concerns incidents at the college.

Harrington announced in August that, if elected, she would “review all un-indicted complaints of sexual assault received by the District Attorney’s office in the last 15 years, including processing all untested rape kits.” Such a proposal would require a lot of work and would likely include a review of the conduct of the office with respect to a local college and law enforcement handling of evidence.

“I will make sure that we do a complete and thorough review of all rape and sexual assault cases which are within the 15 year statute of limitations,” Harrington said in a statement to The Greylock Glass.

1) Unless I am mistaken, there has no been a case of “stranger” rape at Williams in several decades, if ever. That is, every reported sexual assault has included the name of the alleged perpetrator (or has been a case in which the alleged victim knew the name of her attacker and declined to provide it). In other words, “processing all untested rape kits” is a giant waste of time, but does serve as a signal to all Harrington’s progressive supporters that she is one of them.

2) To the extent that this also refers to sexual assault cases in which the attacker is unknown, it might make sense. Indeed, it might make sense for Harrington to enlist some Williams faculty and students in the search because her small office may lack the resources for work like this:

In an astonishing bit of work, police were able to track down the man they suspect of being the Golden State Killer after matching his DNA with the DNA of distant relatives thanks to a commercial genetics testing company.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Williams could help Harrington bring some rapists to justice? On this surely all Ephs can agree.

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#1 Comment By fendertwedd On November 9, 2018 @ 9:07 am

Yes, but what would you have done.

What exactly would you have “Williams” do?

In general, civilian interlopers are not particularly helpful to LE investigations absent specific evidence (testimonial, documentary, forensic, etc.)?

#2 Comment By anon On November 9, 2018 @ 7:40 pm


Direct, circumstantial/ testimonial if it involves on campus allegations. 15 years is a long time to reach back.

Is there an entity in Berkshire County that has a higher rate or number of reported sex crime incidents than Williams?

I can’t think of one. Can you?

I am not sure that is the “help” DDF is thinking of…

#3 Comment By PhantomJ On November 9, 2018 @ 9:04 pm

David – Processing rape kits is important for reasons that go way beyond identifying the assailant. The rape kit in the Pucci case was apparently not processed until after the case was closed. It then revealed a vaginal tear, a very significant finding. That is unacceptable and wrong, period.

No matter what else we learn about this case, that fact alone is really troubling. Though I suspect we will learn more eventually. Pucci referred to a “faux” investigation and Linda Fairstein, who is apparently also involved, wrote a letter to the editor last weekend and said the following:

“The Berkshire County DA’s investigation of that assault was a travesty. It failed to follow and complete the most basic protocols for every step in the procedure: victim interviews, witness examinations, forensic testing, and the preservation of forensic evidence. By way of example, the prosecutors made their decision to decline the case even before the state laboratory announced its findings, which included evidence of the perpetrator’s wrongdoing.”

#4 Comment By fendertweed On November 10, 2018 @ 8:56 am

Agree w PhantomJ… that task isn’t [just] on Williams…

#5 Comment By anon On November 11, 2018 @ 10:23 am


But the liability for negligence could be.

Duty, breach of duty, causation, and harm. It could be argued…

#6 Comment By fendertweed On November 12, 2018 @ 11:06 am

… that doesn’t deputize Williams to step on LE tasks.

#7 Comment By anon On November 12, 2018 @ 12:18 pm


I agree. In fact, it would be a really bad idea if they did so- and probably add to the possibility of a valid negligence claim.

#8 Comment By Fendertweed On November 12, 2018 @ 4:22 pm

Yes… it is a tricky line to observe when there’s both possible criminal and civil liability (the former re: the perpetrator, latter re: any number of possible defendants).

Our advice (mine) to civil counterparts was always to try to avoid making decisions that could affect evidence, etc,, that the criminal side may need later, with more stringent requirements re: chain of custody (for ex..).

Very tricky when there are also potential medical-related issues, as here.