Safety Nets with Holes

WARNING:  The following contains language and descriptions which may not be appropriate for young and sensitive audiences.  

The United States has an imperfect justice system, but it’s the best one, right?

“It is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer.”

-Benjamin Franklin

You are accused of a crime you did not commit.  It’s a bad one.  Your friend and current tenant called you up and accused you of raping her three daughters, which you did not do.

You deny the allegations over sixty times.  You ask questions because you just don’t understand how this surreal world became reality where you’re being asked if you molested a child you certainly did not.  You tell the mom that nothing ever happened but if the girls thought something did to tell them you’re sorry, because you are mostly concerned about them, they’re just kids for Christsakes.  You think, someone must have done something to them; maybe they’re just pointing at you so that they don’t have to get someone closer in trouble.  You think about anything you could have done that would be mistaken but you know you never touched those children and this is just WRONG.

You think, this is bad.  I will be investigated.  I probably need a lawyer, do I need a lawyer?  I will take a polygraph, a DNA test, fingerprints, whatever they need because I know I never did this.  The police will come, and I’ll explain I always slept alone on the couch when I came to visit the family.  There is obviously no physical evidence since nothing happened and YOU KNOW nothing happened.  And most of all, you can’t wait to explain to the police the massive motive this woman had to make a false report against you that with a clear head is as plain as day.

After the shock wears off of being confronted with horrific lies about yourself, you recall that your friend, the primary accuser, the mom, owes you $3000 in back rent.  She didn’t pay the first installment of monthly rent last week, and you had that conversation with her last month about how if she can’t pay her rent, you will find a tenant that can.  You recall now in that phone call when she accused you that she made a point to let you know rent was out of the question since her daughters had been abused by you.

You realize that not only will you soon be taken in for questioning, but you will also probably be restricted from contacting her/collecting rent for several months, and that was why that accusation was ever made.  This entire arrest was to prolong the time she could stay in your property rent-free and avoid paying you the debts she owed.  It worked, her problem is solved.  Yours are just beginning.

The police come, not to pick you up for questioning, but to arrest you.  They come to your parents’ home, put you in cuffs, and announce to the neighborhood “CHILD RAPE!” while your folks’ neighbors peek out the curtains and you are shoved into a police car.

You’re in St. Louis County Jail, and your charges come from Tennessee, where you own a rental property.  This particular property was the first of what would have been many, as becoming a young entrepreneur investing in real estate was your current path.

You wait to be questioned, you wait for your Miranda rights to be read to you, it never happens.  You fight extradition because that’s what your mom’s lawyer friend from church said to do and then you agree to extradition when you understand it’ll need to happen anyway.

You get a visit from your dad and your sister and your brother, who are just as scared and wracked with unexpected pain as you are, and you all just can’t understand how this is logically happening.  You try to talk to your mom over the phone, but no one understands what’s going on and nobody knows what to say.  You wonder if they believe you, and when they tell you they do, you know it in your heart you have your team behind you come hell or high water, and you’ll probably get both.

A few days later, you are picked up by the detective who got the case in Tennessee and she transports you to Montgomery County Jail.  She doesn’t ask you any questions.  Ever.  She doesn’t need to.

When you were talking to your “friend” and first hearing of these accusations, that detective was listening, and scripting, and prompting, and she heard and recorded everything you said.  She was allowed to lie through your “friend” to you, to make threats and promises if you just said you touched one of the kids one time, to say that nothing bad would happen to you if you just admitted you penetrated one of the children with your fingers or penis.  You never took any of this bait, but it didn’t matter.  She took what you said and chopped, sliced, and diced what she needed to go in front of that judge and come out with a warrant to arrest you.

On that phone call, you told the “friend” that one night when you were staying at her house for work, you fully-clothed retired to an empty bed to sleep.  You woke up groggily to find one of the children sitting on top of you, which surprised you, and you immediately threw the child off once you realized what was going on, not really remembering where your hands and fingers were when you did so.  Later, she asked you if perhaps one of the girls caught sight of a clothed morning erection they didn’t understand.  You said you didn’t think so, but maybe one could have, it can happen like a light-switch.  That detective got creative, said you admitted that you penetrated the girl that was straddling you because the girls turned you on “like a light-switch.”  This was momentarily characterized as a legal confession, and of course the detective’s word will be taken in a one-page affidavit over an actual transcript lookup, as you will soon find out.  You talked, it mattered not what you said, and now you are arrested and charged based on probable cause.

This was the entirety of the investigation.  You never did get to tell that detective that this was all over unpaid rent, and when it came up later with the lawyers, she confidently let yours know that rent WAS paid.  Except, it wasn’t.  Never was.

Bank Account Statement for Rental Agreement between Tim Guilfoy (owner) and Jennifer Astle (Renter)

The detective never looked into this account, never bothered to acknowledge its existence.  She just took the word of the accuser that there was no motive to fabricate accusations, and in every interaction with your lawyer let it be known that she KNOWS you are guilty.  That detective had a duty to investigate on YOUR behalf just as much as your accusers, and she dropped that enormous ball, with glee.  It is later revealed that at no time during the course of the investigation did the mother mention that she was behind in rent, much less that she was thousands of dollars behind in paying you rent, and was about to be kicked out of your house.  In fact, the mother told the detective that you had outright bought her the house, and that she now understood that it was because you wanted to keep the girls “close” to you, even though the house was in Tennessee and you lived in Missouri.  The detective never explored any financial or rental relationship between you and the accusers.  You can do literally nothing about this breach of police integrity.

You think, I’ve seen Law & Order, I know that when a child says they were sexually abused that they are taken immediately to a doctor to try to preserve any possible evidence, or at the very least to make sure that they’re okay now.  That doesn’t happen in your situation.  You were charged immediately, well before the examinations, which happened a month later.  The results of those examinations are not surprising to you: no evidence whatsoever of assault.

The original charge that you were arrested on (where you “confessed”) was thrown out (because you didn’t actually confess), replaced by six new charges based on the stories the children told during forensic interviews.  “He touched my naked private with his hand.”  This is the only thing they say, without any claims of grooming or other sexual contact.  But it’s enough.  You get arraigned, a $50,000 bond, and within a few days, you are back in your family’s arms, happy for the moment but knowing that the storm ahead was going to be worse than any of your imaginations can fathom.

You hire a lawyer in Tennessee where you know nobody and trust even fewer.  He does all but promise to be your savior, and drains your dad out of one of his retirement accounts.  You’re informed that you’re going to trial.

While that’s happening, you are informed you are wanted for charges in another county in Tennessee, brought by the same people, your former friends.  Again you know handcuffs, arraignment, bond, and another lawyer draining another retirement account.

You wait for a preliminary hearing that doesn’t come.  You tell your lawyer who is going to trial first that you want pre-trial evidentiary hearings on the controlled phone call that was coached for admissions, the forensic interview videos that are being withheld from you, and an expert to explain how ridiculous these charges are.  Your lawyer says we’d be wasting time trying to get evidence thrown out, and that’s his advice that you take, because you have to trust this man that holds your destiny in his hands, and you don’t have another $25,000 to hire someone else.  So you ask for redactions in the forensic videos and controlled phone calls that will be used as evidence against you, because there were allegations in two counties and only what happened in Nashville could be included in the Davidson County trial.  You find far too late that your lawyer didn’t do his due diligence in making sure that actually happened.

You hope that the prosecutor is going to ask the police for the bank account records, that the conflicting stories of the girls and Jen are going to make the ADA question if this stuff actually happened.  Bad news.  You have a prosecutor that wants to be a judge.  Soon.  She does not care if you did it or not because actual justice is not her goal.  She wants a conviction, eight of them in fact, and will do absolutely whatever it takes to get them.  She lets you know that if you go to trial you are going to be creamed, and she is prepared to bend whatever rules will get her desired result because she knows she’s not going to be called on any misconduct.  Her offer to you is 25 years.  You know that you didn’t do anything, and will not plead guilty ever, so a plea deal is not even on the table.  You don’t play ball.  They don’t like that.  Hope is pretty much lost there.  Later in her closing statement, the prosecutor scoffs at the idea that you even deserve a fair trial.

You start to believe in the power of humanity, and put your trust in a jury.  Look!  She contradicted herself!  Listen!  That scenario doesn’t make physical sense.  Specific dates sworn to by the plaintiffs, completely crushed into dust by the defense.  You show that the mom is full of shit and the girls have no idea what they’re talking about and have no real descriptions of sex or rape or grooming or anything harmful that had actually happened to them. The man who they allegedly first told about the abuse had a totally different story than the alleged victims or their mom.  You have a medical expert that says no evidence could be proof of molestation, and a forensic interviewer that says children rarely remember details of their abuse to cover for the fact the children couldn’t recall any details of their abuse or stay consistent from telling to telling.  Your lawyer doesn’t object to any of this, and when you plead with him to, he says “we don’t want to look like we have anything to hide.”  You hired him because he was a former ADA that tried these cases, so you trust he knows what he’s talking about but your gut tells you you hired the wrong guy.

Yet, half the jury sees what happened here.  The moms on the jury know that if your kid told you they had been molested, you would not send them to school on the bus immediately following the revelation.  They also paid close enough attention to realize that the mom’s story completely contradicted that of her children.  But the men on the jury thought that even if you didn’t do the things they said you did, you must have done something to be sitting there at the defense table.  Hung jury, mistrial.

Second trial.  This jury has to see.  LOOK.  DIRECT CONTRADICTION.  One of the kids says she doesn’t really remember anything bad you did until the prosecutor helpfully reminds her, and then, oh yeah, he touched me.  You watch your lawyer impeach your other accuser, who is on her fifth version of the same event.  You show that the mother owed you thousands of dollars at the time of the accusation, and that for months she continued living in your property for free as you went to jail.  You watch as the State hides the “grandfather” who didn’t jive with the plot last time.  You show that the detective fed the mother 24 pages of script she was specially trained to concoct during the phone call to get literally any reordered combination of words from you that could clinch a warrant.  Your lawyer remains cautious which you really don’t like, and he still won’t object to anything, but the truth is so plain to see.  There is no logic which convicts you.

You stand, and you hear the word “Guilty.”  And everything stops. This cannot be happening.  Did they not see?  Did they not THINK?  Were they even paying attention?

Your life is gone. You did nothing, and your life is gone.  The police failed you.  The district attorney failed you.  Your fellow man failed you.  Your lawyer failed you.  You are innocent, and you are now a convicted child rapist.  Welcome to Tim Guilfoy’s life.

How did this happen?