A Judge Overturns a Teen's Sexual Assault Conviction, Provoking Outrage.
Drew Clinton, 18, faced a maximum jail sentence of four years under Illinois sentencing guidelines. However, this month, the judge, Robert Adrian, reversed his conviction, stating that the punishment was "not just."
An 18-year-old male was convicted in October in western Illinois of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl while she was unconscious at a graduation celebration.
Drew Clinton faced a required minimum term of four years in jail, but Judge Robert Adrian reversed his own decision and vacated the conviction earlier this month. Mr. Clinton's roughly five months in jail, the judge ruled, was "ample punishment."
The decision, which was reported by the Quincy, Illinois-based Herald-Whig, has alarmed organizations that assist sexual assault survivors, the Adams County state's attorney's office, and the girl who reported the assault, who told a local television station that she was present when Judge Adrian overturned Mr. Clinton's conviction.
"He made it appear as though I battled for nothing and that I spoke up for no cause," she told WGEM-TV. "I was instantly required to exit the courtroom and use the restroom. I was inconsolable."
The state's attorney for Adams County, Gary L. Farha, stated in a statement that the girl had undergone "a trauma beyond what could be expected of anyone and a system that traumatized and violated her again."
"She committed no act that justified this abuse," Mr. Farha stated. "She is a deserved recipient of our assistance. She is deserving of our esteem."
Mr. Clinton's lawyer, Andrew C. Schnack III, did not answer to queries seeking comment.
On June 1, 2021, Mr. Clinton was charged with criminal sexual assault. According to court papers, the girl stated that he sexually attacked her after she became inebriated at a party on May 30.
During the bench trial, she testified that she was asleep and awoke to discover Mr. Clinton assaulting her and a pillow covering her face.
"She never consented," Anita M. Rodriguez, the case's associate state's attorney, said during Mr. Clinton's Jan. 3 sentencing hearing, according to a transcript. "In reality, she had said explicitly earlier in the evening that she did not wish to have sexual contact with this defendant."
Mr. Schnack contended that obligatory punishments rob judges of their discretion.
"Every individual should be judged by the court when it is carrying out its sentence, not by a lawmaker thousands of kilometers away," he stated in the transcript.
Additionally, he stated that prosecutors had not established their case against Mr. Clinton and that the girl possessed the capacity to consent. According to Mr. Schnack, she made a number of decisions that night, including drinking and stripping down to her underwear to go swimming.
"They were not the best choices," he said. "She was aware of what was occurring."
Judge Adrian stated that while he was aware that Mr. Clinton was required by law to serve time in prison, he felt the sentence was unjust in this case, in part because Mr. Clinton turned 18 just two weeks before the party and had no criminal record prior to his detention.
"That is not reasonable," According to the transcript, Judge Adrian stated during the Jan. 3 hearing. "There is no way that this adolescent should be sent to the Department of Corrections in light of what occurred in this instance. That I will not do."
He stated that if he found the punishment to be unlawful, he expected his ruling to be reversed on appeal. Rather than that, he stated, he may "determine that the people failed to show their case."
Judge Adrian scolded parents and other adults for allegedly providing wine to the party's youngsters and failing to "perform their parenting obligations."
This is what happens, he explained, "when adults host parties for teenagers and allow coeds and females to swim naked in their swimming pool."
"And, no," the judge said, "underwear is not synonymous with swimsuits."
Carrie Ward, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the judge's remarks and subsequent decision to vacate Mr. Clinton's conviction were "a textbook case of victim blaming."
By focusing on the girl's attire and chastising the party hosts, the judge moved "100% of the guilt away from the perpetrator, away from the real person who committed the sexual assault, and onto everyone else, including the victim," Ms. Ward stated.
She expressed concern that other sexual assault victims would now be even more hesitant to report an attack. "One of the primary reasons victims do not come forward is a fear of being blamed for their own behavior," she explained.
The girl expressed optimism in her interview with WGEM that what transpired in her instance will not deter others from coming forward to report sexual assault.
"They ought to disclose what happened to them," she stated, "rather than just letting the person get away."