A measure to provide redress to a rape victim who was re-victimized by police, the justice system and the city of Madison is one step closer to reality.
On Tuesday, the Common Council's Organizational Committee voted 6-1 in favor of a resolution introduced by Ald. Austin King to express the city's "most heartfelt apology and deepest regrets" and pay $35,000 to Patty, a legally blind woman whose 1997 rape and subsequent ordeal are the subject of a new book, Cry Rape (by the author of this article).
"To me, this is a no-brainer," said Ald. Tim Bruer, a committee member. "It goes to the heart of what this country is supposed to be about - something about justice for all." Agreed Ald. Isadore Knox, "I think it's important that the council does send a message."
The lone dissenter was Ald. Lauren Cnare, who, while lamenting the wrongs visited on Patty said, "I don't think it is the council's role to do this."
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, who last month apologized to Patty on behalf of his department, essentially gave his blessing to the portion of the resolution that asks him to develop new policies for dealing with victims of sensitive crimes.
"I think people will be pleased with this," Wray told the committee, adding that he's already assigned a detective to the task. "It will be a process."
King, the Common Council president, amended his resolution to give the police 90 days to retool its policy. He also plans to break out the $35,000 payment as a budget amendment, to be introduced on Wednesday and voted on this week. (For the amended resolution, see this article at TheDailyPage.com.)
If the fiscal component had remained, passing the resolution would have required a three-fourths majority, or 15 votes. Now it needs a simple 11-vote majority when it comes before the full Common Council next Tuesday, Nov. 21.
The $35,000 payment is meant to compensate Patty, who was charged with a crime for reporting being raped, for lost wages, legal fees and trauma. The city and its agents have previously spent well over $200,000 to fight efforts to complain about how Patty was treated.
This includes the city's defense against a lawsuit filed by Patty in federal court, handled by the local law firm of Axley Brynelson. As recounted in a recent Isthmus excerpt, the firm's lawyer mocked Patty's account of the rape and belittled her for not fighting back against her knife-wielding assailant. King's resolution calls on the city to sever ties with Axley. But City Attorney Mike May told the committee that Axley has already been cut off from city-related business "for a variety of reasons."
Patty, who was lied to and pressured to recant, views the part of the resolution calling for changes in police policy and procedure as the most important: "I'd like to see victims treated as victims instead of criminals."
King, at the meeting, told Wray, "I feel that we are, in some sense, asking you to help us break new ground." The chief suggested that concerns about police interrogation methods could be addressed "with the use of videotape," in situations where a person is being investigated for obstruction or in which lies and ruses might be deployed.
Local advocates for victims of sexual assault are mobilizing for next Tuesday's council meeting. Members of PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment) will hand out fliers and stickers, to make supporters more visible. And the group is asking people to contact alders, most easily by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Says PAVE member Laura Dunn, "I think everyone needs to take some part of this."