“It felt like she was saying…”

There’s an odd phenomenon with one story that is gaining prominence … and I am jammed with projects and don’t have the time to resolve it at the moment. In a recent Arizona court case, an off-duty law enforcement officer was convicted of groping a woman at a bar, when both were very inebriated. He was arrested at the scene, and eventually placed by the court on two-plus years probation, treatment, and community service. The judge’s remarks are the source of controversy: She allegedly said this:

Cartoon about the case by Arnie Bermudez

This quote has been carried in many media stories, and the comments are almost unanimous in expressing anger toward the judge for making such a horrific statement to the victim.  (There have even been comments demanding that the judge resign for mangling the English of that statement.)  Article after article carries this quote.

The judge later issued an apology … but tucked into all of this is a curious artifact. One of the articles, in the UK’s Daily Mail, seems to have obtained (or seen) an interview with the woman herself. The article begins:

Judge apologises for telling groping victim she brought attack on herself because she was at a bar

Judge Jacqueline Hatch, of Arizona’s Coconino County Superior Court, has apologized for her controversial statements made at a sentencing hearing on Wednesday when she told a sex abuse victim: ‘If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you’.

Over and over, that statement appears (“If you wouldn’t have been there…”) attributed to Judge Hatch.  But further down in this particular article is this interesting bit:

But the woman who was groped told the Arizona Daily Sun that despite her explanation, she was ‘shocked’ by the judge’s comments, particularly because she was female.

It felt like she was saying to me, “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, it wouldn’t have happened to you.” ‘Yeah, well, it probably would have happened to someone else,’ she told the newspaper.

‘I’m still kind of in shock that she said that to me.”

If this is correct, it means that the victim wasn’t told these literal words. Instead, they are her own reaction to whatever was really said.  Did the original article claim that the words were used directly by Judge Hatch?  Yes, it did:

Before giving the officer two years’ probation on his conviction for sexual abuse, Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch said to victim: “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you.”

Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims. Hatch also said that even going to the grocery store after 10 p.m. can be dangerous for a woman.

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.

Reached today by phone, the victim said: “It felt like she was saying to me, ‘If you wouldn’t have been there that night, it wouldn’t have happened to you.’ Yeah, well, it probably would have happened to someone else.”

And it didn’t. In other words, the article both attributes the words directly to Hatch, while also (later) noting that they are a quote from the victim, not the judge herself.  Clearly the victim did not like what the judge really said, whatever it was. And the judge has apologized for what she really said, whatever it was.

But all of these articles — more than a hundred — as well as a petition with this quote garnering thousands of signatures to get Hatch fired — are apparently misleading and evidently false. So, too, is the cartoon featured above.

I have no investment in the underlying case, but the effect of this seemingly manufactured quote becoming official (and going viral) is unfortunate. Incidentally, if anyone stumbles across the transcript for the sentencing hearing, please pass it along. It would not surprise me that it was actually pretty reasonable … but I hold that opinion only tentatively for now. (Basis for the opinion: If what she said were truly bad, it, not the “it felt like” reaction quote, would have been used.)

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle