Claremore Daily Progress

February 19, 2013

Rape victim’s mother angry with DA

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — The mother of a 13-year-old rape victim is outraged that District Attorney Janice Steidley plans to offer the suspect a plea bargain against her wishes.

This is the second accusation that the DA is facing from a parent of a minor victim as the father of an 8-year-old brought a similar issue to light last week.
Last week, the DA’s office declined to file charges, but after a public outcry by the victim’s father, Steidley then announced the case would remain open.
This week, the mother of another young victim will get her day in court, but she is not  waiting to voice her concerns about the way the District Attorney has been handling the case.
The victim was 12 at the time of the alleged multiple rapes and was sodomized by the 17-year-old suspect, according to the victim’s mother.
However, the suspect was not charged with sodomy and the District Attorney’s Office is claiming the victim gave consent for the sex acts, she added.
“This young man is a habitual offender and you are allowing him to plea out as a juvenile delinquent, so he may walk free and clear on his 18th birthday in August 2013,” the mother wrote in an email to Steidley, “This is outrageous.”
Assistant District Attorney Sean McConnell disagrees with the victim’s mother, explaining that the Youthful Offender Act and Oklahoma State Statutes are the issue in this case.
“This child is not a repeat sex offender, there is nothing in the evidence that he has any previous sex offenses,” McConnell said.
McConnell would not provide a comment if the juvenile suspect has prior criminal history.
“The suspect was charged based on the totality of the evidence,” McConnell said.
The law offers only a window of opportunity to prosecute offenders in this age group and the suspect could be required to remain in custody until his 19th birthday, McConnell added.
“The likelihood of the suspect being treated as an adult is unlikely,” McConnell said.
A court order psychiatric evaluation determined the suspect should be tried as a juvenile, he said.
 “I agree that the victim’s mother is not happy with the options that are in front of us. We are trying to make the best of the situation that we have within the law,” McConnell said.
In the email, the victim’s mother clearly states that she is not in agreement with the plea bargain that she believes was misrepresented to Judge Terrell Crosson last week.
McConnell said that they [the victim and her mother] did not need to attend a hearing last week, then proceeded to enter the plea agreement against their wishes, she added.
It is not uncommon for victims to be told they do not need to appear at certain court proceedings, according to McConnell.
The mother said she and her daughter went to the hearing anyway. 
“Sean told the judge we were on board, but not liking it,” the mother said. “That is a complete lie.”
“There was not a plea agreement made on this case, it was a recommendation on how the case should proceed,” McConnell said. 
McConnell emailed the victim’s mother on Feb. 8 to explain the details of the proposed plea agreement.
The agreement would have the suspect transferred from jail to the sex offender unit at Shadow Mountain to receive drug treatment, sex offender treatment and permit him to earn his GED, according to the email.
The mother wanted the suspect tried as an adult, requiring him to register as a sex offender.
The disagreement prompted a meeting with the ADA.
“Sean told me that he did not represent my daughter, he represented the state of Oklahoma. He said he was the ADA and could do whatever he wanted,” the victim’s mother said. “Sean said he could try the case any way he wanted, that he was doing this as a courtesy to me. He said my daughter gave consent to the rape. That he has answered my phone calls and emails. Sean told me to calm down and that he could drop the charges if he wanted to.”
McConnell completely disagrees with the mother’s statement. 
“That is not how the conversation went,” McConnell said.
He also explained that he had multiple meetings that lasted more than two hours with the victim and her mother. 
“There are parts of the law that needs to change. It is my disappointment that it has come down to this, I thought we the victim’s mother and I, had a pretty good understanding of what the law allows,” McConnell said.
The 13-year-old victim tried to contact Steidley herself last week, according to her mother.
“I received a call from Nan Pope, victim coordinator for the District Attorney. I was told that my daughter was not to contact Janice Steidley. She [Pope] said, ‘who does your daughter think she is,’” the mother said.
The mother is outraged and questions if the victims bill of rights apply in Rogers County. The victim’s bill of rights is a list of statutes that provide certain protections to the victim.
This includes notification of court hearings, plea bargains and protection from harassment or threats.
The victim’s mother tried multiple times to get the District Attorney’s office to help protect her from the stalking and harassing behavior her daughter was receiving.
The suspect lives across the street and would wait for the victim to come outside to get on the school bus or take out the trash, in an attempt to harass her, the mother said.
Additionally, the suspect was spreading rumors and bullying the victim at school and on social media websites, the mother said.
“My daughter is a human being and they need to respect her rights as a victim,” she said.
The mother wrote to Steidley directly. “Please consider this, my daughter is a honor roll student, never had any problems with the law, used to believe in the law, this has darkened her sweet soul. The adults who have handled this case so far have not given her much hope only despair. Is this what my tax dollars are paying for?”
The mother claims that the suspect, whom lives across the street, has continuously victimized her daughter.
The suspect has stalked and threatened the victim and nothing has been done by the DA’s office to protect her, she added.
“I have attempted to contact you several times regarding this mishandling of this case. You [Steidley] refuse to return my calls, emails etc,” the mother wrote. “You do not have the courtesy to return my calls or answer why you are breaking every campaign promise you made to the county. The rape occurred on your watch and the many other things this young man has been allowed to do. You are not protecting our citizens or our children.” 
“I have done a search of my emails and I can find no emails by the victim’s mother. So I don’t know if she has my email address correct or if it was caught in spam but I show none from her,” Steidley said. 
The only email Steidley said she had regarding regarding this case is from the District Attorney’s Council in December regarding victim’s rights.
“I sent the email to my first assistant the same day and he was going to check into it the next day, as I was scheduled to be in another county.  We send out letters to victims with the bill of rights - it was in the process of being sent to her,” Steidley said. “I know Sean has been in constant contact with her during and after hours.  We handle thousands of cases in our district a year.  I have received no information until yesterday that the victim’s mother is wanting to meet with me.”