Saturday, July 4, 2009

How could we possibly allow this?

I know we are all ready to kick off Gold Cup, but after reading Sam Alipour's infuriating ESPN Magazine story on the "case" against former UC-Santa Barbara ace Eric Frimpong, I was immediately compelled to share it.

I'd meant to read it yesterday, but forgot and now am ruing the lost exposure for his story due to the routine occurrence of lower weekend traffic. I may just create a bump post for Monday. This story had gone far too quiet before Mr. Alipour weighed in with his very comprehensive piece of reporting.

Now that I have read it (and several other news articles on the case and its aftermath), I promise to do some additional digging and monitoring on this story. I'm incredibly far away in distance and I'm not sure how much I can do to help, but I will try. This is too important to ignore, and the minor platform I'm lucky enough to have carries responsibilities. At the least, I want everyone to read this story and then I want you to pass it along.

Let me be fully clear: this is not about downplaying rape, among the very cruelest acts that can be perpetrated against a human being. The girl was obviously sexually assaulted and the offender should be punished, harshly. I do not like to be political here, but to be forthright this time, I find rape sentencing to be far too lenient. I am also fully aware that so many men just plain get away with it for a variety of reasons. If Eric Frimpong is guilty, I'll scream for a larger sentence... I just don't see how he possibly could be, much less beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are a pile of curious rulings, evidence shell games and what appear to be odd testimony massages, but I was mostly compelled to rant by a pair of seemingly inescapable facts: the boyfriend was never even considered a suspect despite the evidence and there was not one cell of Frimpong's DNA found on the victim or her clothes.

Setting aside the stunningly clear gaps in the boyfriend's role in the story, I would absolutely love to hear someone explain to me how a man can forcibly remove jeans (practically a DNA grater), violently attack and rape without leaving behind a single bit of physical evidence. I went to look through a few rape evidence and litigator's DNA evidence guides, which only made me more confused about this significant note.

Obviously, I was not there for the trial and cannot speak as a case expert, but the known facts and subsequent court hi-jinx smell fishier than the Pacific. I can't even imagine how anyone would feel otherwise. This all seems a blatantly obvious farce, and it makes me extremely angry. Making "someone" pay is not justice, and the traumatic rape of a young girl deserves as much justice as any circumstance I can think of.

Forget that he is "one of ours" as a soccer player. Forget that he is quite obviously adored and trusted completely by the large crowd of family, adopted family, friends and support he has. Forget that he's an immigrant, young and not well off.

This appears to be an upstanding young man having his life stolen from him, right out in the open of our criminal justice system - or at least the public shell of what it purports to be. In fact, at least one juror has publicly stated that proceedings were slanted and wishes she could withdraw her guilty vote.

Folks, this just cannot happen this way. We can't allow it. This is supposed to be America, dammit.

Frankly, I don't know how this kid finds the strength. I am sincerely humbled, and all but certain that I'd crumble easily under such rabid injustice. I say we all join the team and find a way to give Eric a fair shot to win back his life. As I said, I'm not sure how much or what I can do, but you have my word that I'm going to find out that how much and what.

- Greg Seltzer

[Top photo: Paul Wellman/The Independent]


Brian Zygo said...

Since I have a law degree, I sent the prosecuting ADA an email with questions, which she is likely to ignore. I have found that those responsible for enforcing the law sometimes lose sight of the fact that their job is not about winning or losing, it is not about politics, it is about justice and providing a system where the truly innocent are not destroyed by a system that has lost its way.

Will Lytle said...

I read this article yesterday as well and was completely disheartened by the omission of the boyfriend as a potential suspect, ESPECIALLY since HIS DNA (semen) was found on the victim.

I don't want to suggest that Eric is unequivocally innocent, because I wasn't there either and only know what I've read from articles on the case. But this seems to me to be a complete and shameful failure of judicial process across the board.

Greg Seltzer said...

I obviously cannot be dead certain he is innocent, either... but from what I've reviewed, it looks like a clear case of legal funny business. And I am far from the first person to come to that conclusion. There seems a clear attempt to avoid the truth, which can only make me wonder why.

AdamTheRed said...

If this had been a college football athlete at a Division 1 university it would have been swept under the rug.

Guilty or not.

Evan said...

@greg: it takes balls to go beyond the soccer realm to talk about this kind of thing, thank you for that. some things need to be said.

@adam: having been apart of a major football program i would be hard pressed to disagree with you too much, which is sad.

James W said...

@Greg - I was revolted when I read this as well. And I a relatively unique viewpoint as I have sat on a jury that found someone guilty of 2nd Degree Murder. I have a feeling that if I were on that jury, the outcome may have been different.

@ Adam & Evan - As someone who went to school somewhere with a D1 program that was the jewel of the school and community, I can say that it cuts both ways.

I've seen athletes get breaks because of their athletic status and get railroaded because of it as well.

It depends on the viewpoint of the person you are dealing with.

There are many people that resent D1 athletes and go so far to get rid of any chance that people could claim preferential treatment that the person doesn't get treated fairly.

It appears that this case, and the oft mentioned Duke Lax case, is an example of people going out of their way to not give preferential treatment to a D1 athlete.

mlb_bobcats said...

Unfortunately, this is what we get when we get angry that a bad guy gets away with something: the laws are tightened too much and ensnare people we might regret. You can put away most bad people with laws that are unlikely to affect innocent people. But every time we change the system to put away one more bad guy, we exponentially increase the odds that innocent people suffer. And California's high-profile acquittals of people society felt were guilty certainly played a role in the state's tightened system.

When we elect judges who are 'tough on crime,' they're also more likely to be tough on innocents. It's not their fault necessarily: when you spend a career prosecuting people, you'll see guilty folks everywhere. And defenders see innocence, sometimes in the guiltiest face.

In terms of his future, I'm not optimistic about his chances: his attorney and he appear to have made the conscious decision to present only one witness. Courts generally don't reverse convictions when an intentionally chosen strategy doesn't work out. He may have an action for malpractice, but that obviously doesn't keep you out of prison. It just attempts to compensate for what you've lost. And in California, he'd have to prove actual innocence.

But you never know, the article does point to enough little mistakes that a competent appellate lawyer might get a new trial ordered. And I trust that the more publicity that this case receives, the more highly qualified lawyers will offer their services pro bono.

Perhaps Schwarzenegger can be convinced to pardon him?

Chevis Ryder said...

Greg you are a good man - I've posted this article as well as the donate to his cause article on my FB.

Kill a man while driving drunk, get 30 days. Kill puppies with grown dogs, kill innocent animals by electrocution and physical torture? 2 years.

Be railroaded into a dirty rape charge, be an immigrant from Ghana, be at the VERY least beyond a reasonable doubt not guilty?

6 years.

The "greatest country in the world" is a long way from living up to its own moniker.

Thank you for posting this. As you said: We can not let this happen.