Kansas woman alleging dorm rape convenes own citizen grand jury

Kansas Mission-A Kansas woman who claims that consensual sex with a friend turned into a horrific assault in a college dorm room has a problem with her own hands when a prosecutor refuses to file a rape charge. I took. She called a citizen grand jury, relying on state law 134 years ago.

Madison Smith, 22, collected the hundreds of signatures needed to appoint a grand jury after the county prosecutor settled the case.

Smith, who graduated from Bethany University in Lindsborg, about 70 miles (112.65 km) north of Wichita earlier this month, is part of a generation of women who boldly decided to publish a story for the #MeToo movement.

“This is happening nationwide, and victims and survivors are minimized by prosecutors who don’t believe in them,” she said. One way to do that is to bring our story to the world. “

Kansas is one of six states that allow citizens to petition for a grand jury. The 1887 law was rarely used until anti-abortion activists began using it to force grand jury investigations at abortion clinics. Since then, it has been used to chase adult bookstores and challenge the right of former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to appear as a candidate for Republican governor.

However, Smith’s case, which is being considered in September, is believed to be the first time someone claiming sexual assault has used it, says Cathy, a coalition against sexual and domestic violence in Kansas.・ Ray said.

“The case has many problems in the criminal justice system, and victims may feel that they have no choice but to make it public,” she said.

The process of finding a grand jury has never been easier. Smith had to stand in the parking lot, talk to strangers over and over again, collect hundreds of signatures, and redo it when the first petition was technically denied. ..

Minutes after she started speaking, some of the strangers she approached pulled a pen from her hand, hugged her, and whispered to her ear.

“They were very grateful that I was fighting, they just tried to change the world because they were too scared to fight the judiciary and fight back,” she recalled.

But Smith said he felt it was the only way to gain justice in the February 2018 attack.

McPherson County lawyer Gregory Benefiel told Smith’s mother in a recorded conversation that the case was challenging because Smith did not verbally withdraw his consent during the encounter. Smith said it was because he was choking her.

“I think everyone can understand that if you can’t breathe, you can’t speak,” she said.

Smith said the attack took place after she came across Stolzenburg while she was doing the laundry and returned to his room at Bethany University where they had sex. Smith said he had initially reached an agreement at the Stolzenburg decision in August 2020, but then slapped her, began to strangle her, and was out of breath.

“I really thought he was trying to kill me. The only way out of the room was to put it in a body bag,” said Smith, who works at a nursing home before starting to study nursing in the fall. It was.

“He strangled me for 20 or 30 seconds at a time and I started to lose consciousness,” she said.

A transcript from Bethany University in Stolzenburg shows that he had withdrawn administratively in March 2018, said Amie Bauer, a school lawyer. She wrote that the university had no further comments.

Defense lawyer Brent Boyer said at a hearing in the ruling that Stolzenburg and his family were threatened and Stolzenburg “wants to move forward.” A woman who answered the phone at Boyer’s office said Boyer did not participate in the media interview and hung up. Stolzenburg didn’t have a phone number and didn’t immediately respond to Facebook messages.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Benefiel said the sex crime case was “very difficult to prosecute” because the jury was “looking for evidence of that CSI type.” He said he could not comment on the details of the case, but added that he and Smith both believed they wanted the same thing: “truth and justice.”

“There are disagreements about what happens in this case, but I think everyone has the same goals,” he said.

However, former Minnesota prosecutor Julie German, who reviewed Smith’s Kansas law and determined that the attack was the subject of rape, said the prosecutor needed to “see the whole situation.”

“This idea that anything that follows is acceptable because she agreed is a very dangerous precedent to set up,” said a German who consults and teaches about sexual assault.

Justin Boardman, who trains police and prosecutors to investigate sex crimes, said lawyers often try to claim that victims agreed not only with sex but also with violent sex. But in that lifestyle, there is usually a lot of check-in and discussion before sex begins, he said.

“If it’s just a surprise, it’s an assault,” he said.

A court service worker told her at a hearing of the ruling that Stolzenburg should communicate better, “I feel sorry for the victims.”

Copyright © 2021 By AP communication. all rights reserved.

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