Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Worthwhile for Whom?

Imagine that you are a nineteen-year-old girl, horrified that a videotape of you having sex has been circulated to dozens of people. Legislators have watched it. Bloggers have had it "described to them," and portions of the tape have shown up on television news shows. Imagine how embarrassed, how ashamed, how violated you would feel. Now, imagine that a prosecutor, someone who said they believed that you were a victim, someone who you thought was on your side, was the one who distributed that tape, in response to a request, and without so much as a fight.

I don't know about you, but I think that people who distribute videotapes of teens having sex ought to go to jail.

Yet, in the Genarlow Wilson case, that's exactly what Prosecutor David McDade did. According to Shannon McCaffrey with the Associated Press, McDade, to comply with open record requests, admitted giving out about 35 copies of an amateur video showing Wilson receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl and having intercourse with another 17-year-old girl. The tape was used as evidence at trial, and McDade claims that compliance with Georgia's Open Records Act required that he give the tape to those who asked for it. That may be, but he didn't even bother to object to the requests. And he didn't even bother to obscure the faces of the victims.

And, this is not the first time the tape has been made available. Erick Erickson wrote about it on Peach Pundit in February:

I think, if I could get my hands on it, it would be worthwhile making the video tape of the incident available to the public. Even blowhard Bill O’Reilly who championed Genarlow has had to back away from his position after seeing the tape.

In the post, Erickson says (in the comments) that he has not seen the tape but has had it "described" to him. Apparently, O'Reilly did see it. But, for whom was releasing the videotape worthwhile? Certainly not to these young women or their families. Certainly not to the court. Only worthwhile to McDade.

This prosecutor has made what is important to him perfectly clear: bolstering his "position."

To do that, McDade has now put personal promotion ahead of protection of victims. McDade could have objected to complying with the open records requests. He could've forced a hearing on the issue, just as he has time and time again on other issues in this case. But he didn't. He claims that those who don't want the tape seen are disingenuous. "Most of those who do not want people to see the tape know that it is damning to their position," McDade said. This case is not about positions, it is about people's lives, and any argument that Mr. McDade would now make that his actions are about protecting victims is completely obscured by this act.

No matter where one stands on Wilson's sentence, the prosecutor should have taken extraordinary steps to protect these young women from the additional humiliation they now must feel. This is just wrong.

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