2 Murfreesboro men get probation after rape conviction overturned

Dec 18, 2019 at 07:00 am by Michelle Willard

More than three years after they were convicted of rape, two Murfreesboro men entered guilty pleas to lesser charges in the assault of a woman.

This in itself isn't news. Pleas to lesser charges happen every day. This is especially true in rape cases.

Even if the victim reports the rape and if investigators take the complaint seriously, rape cases are notorious for having a low conviction rate. According to RAINN, only 13 of every 1,000 rapes get referred to a prosecutor and only 7 of every 1,000 leads to a conviction. That's a conviction rate of 0.007 percent.

This is why I was proudly surprised back in 2016 when I covered the rape trial of Ahmon Watkins and Peter Dodson IV. Watkins and Dodson were accused and subsequently convicted of raping a woman after she revoked her consent during the sex act.

I was sadly surprised when in March 2019, the convictions were overturned.

The opinion came after the attorneys for the defendants, Thomas S. Santel Jr. for Watkins and Patrick T. McNally for Dodson, argued that the cumulative effect of errors made during the trial was egregious enough to warrant a new trial for the men. The Appeals Court agreed and ordered a new trial. Instead of a new trial, they plead to lesser charges.

If you want to read the background, it's here and the appeal is here.

I was even sadder when I heard the men were going to plea to reduced charges of aggravated assault. Their sentence was six years state-supervised probation and community service.

Wait, what?

Probation and community service?

For forcing a woman to engage in a sexual act with multiple men after she has said no?

Even if it was a garden-variety aggravated assault (which is an attempt to cause serious bodily injury to another or to cause serious bodily injury purposely, knowingly or recklessly, with an extreme indifference to the value of human life), this would be considered an extremely light sentence. That's assuming they get credit for time served.

That would be only about three years in jail total for assaulting someone.

On top of that, the men will not be required to register with the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry.

How could this happen?

I'm all for justice in the Justice System. If we are going to do it, we should do it right the first time and not victimize the victims through the courts.

I have it on good authority that the victim didn't want to go through another trial.

I don't blame her. She was a badass during the first trial, standing up to her rapists and holding them to account. She was a great witness. As I listened to her testimony, I was proud of her for facing them and telling the world about the worst night of her life.

The victim approved to the sentence before Assistant District Attorney Sarah Davis agreed to the terms, the ADA said.

Dodson's attorney McNally said his client was "exhilarated" by the plea. Of course he is. He's not in jail and not a registered sex offender.

I'd be on top of the world too.

Instead, I'm disappointed another rape victim was let down.



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