The acquittal of Mario Battalion underscores the inefficiency of the criminal justice system in addressing the needs of #MeToo survivors.

This combination of 2017-2020 photos shows Dr. Larry Nasser, Mario Battali and Harvey Weinstein from the left. Legal experts and victims’ lawyers say the acquittal of celebrity chef Batali from allegations of sexual harassment underscores the inherent difficulties in prosecuting such cases for nearly five years during the #MeToo period. (Photo credit: AP Photo / Paul Sansia, John Minchil; by David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe AP)

This combination of 2017-2020 photos shows Dr. Larry Nasser, Mario Battali and Harvey Weinstein from the left. Legal experts and victims’ lawyers say the acquittal of celebrity chef Batali from allegations of sexual harassment underscores the inherent difficulties in prosecuting such cases for nearly five years during the #MeToo period. (Photo credit: AP Photo / Paul Sansia, John Minchil; by David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe AP)

Bill Cosby was released from prison when his sentence for assaulting a woman with drugs was overturned. Quarterback Deshon Watson has created a $ 230 million deal despite an investigation into allegations that he assaulted 22 women. Celebrity chef Mario Battali was released this week on the second day of a Boston sexual assault trial.

Nearly five years into the #MeToo era, former prosecutors, legal experts and victims’ lawyers say prosecuting sexual misconduct cases is no easier than it was before the storm of accusations against men who seemed powerful and untouchable.

Cases like the Battalion, among other things, strengthen the criminal justice system’s as an “extremely imperfect tool” for addressing the needs of survivors, said Emily Martin, vice president of the National Women’s Law Center based in Washington, DC. Team.

“Failure to receive a criminal sentence does not mean that there was no abuse or that it was right,” she said. “It can often be very difficult to prove sexual misconduct beyond a reasonable doubt, especially given the gender stereotypes that lead many people into disbelief, especially when women share their experiences of sexual violence.”

Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbam, who assisted in prosecuting the battalion, declined to comment specifically on the case Wednesday, but said it was the most challenging to prosecute sexual assault cases.

“Survivors of sexual assault are still less likely to be victims of any other type of crime,” he said. “That’s the notion we’m always fighting for. Part of it is the public attitude, and part of it is, in most cases, the private nature of the crime.”

Blaming a person of wealth or height poses a challenge because of the high level of publicity and increased scrutiny of the alleged motives of the victim, Polumbam said.

“We are not afraid to bring serious cases if there is evidence support,” he added. “We hope the survivors will not be deterred from coming forward.”

The Battalion’s case confirms how crucial a defendant’s credibility is in a misdemeanor case, especially when there is a lack of additional evidence or witnesses to support the claims, says Lori Levonson, a former federal prosecutor in California. Los Angeles.

Battali, 61, a former food network personality, was accused of aggressively kissing and kidnapping a woman while taking a selfie at a bar in 2017. Boston prosecutors relied on photos taken from the bar that night and his testimony, now 32. An employee of an old software company accused of misconduct.

However, Battalion’s lawyers accepted the woman’s civil case, demanding more than $ 50,000 in damages against the battalion. In another case, he made fake rental documents in order to pay a $ 200 gym fee.

“These cases will never be easy,” Levenson said. “But even in the #MeToo era, you need credible victims.”

Levanson hopes the Batali verdict will serve as a precautionary measure against the abuse of survivors, especially in high-profile cases.

“There are definitely more temptations to go in these cases, and by doing so you are undermining the credibility of your case,” Levenson said. “Its whole celebrity nature motivates victims to do things like offer to sell their story, ask for money, or somehow make what happened happen.”

But Stuart Ryan, a former assistant district attorney in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, who helped prosecute Cosby, argued that a person seeking redress in a civil lawsuit should not be seen as different from prosecuting a drunk driver. They face criminal charges.

He also stressed that the rate of false reports of sexual assault was “minutes” compared to “a very large percentage of survivors who never reported an attack”.

“Unfortunately, one reason that applies here is to tactics that question the intentions of a survivor with questions that are completely unrelated to whether or not sexual assault has taken place,” Ryan said of the battalion’s defense strategy.

The battalion’s acquittal parallels another high-profile #MeToo case in Massachusetts, which broke down into issues involving the accused.

In 2019, prosecutors were forced to drop the obscenity and battery charge against actor Kevin Spacey, and refused to testify that the “House of Cards” star was caught while the teen accused was working as a busboy at a Nantucket bar.

Meanwhile, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. is preparing to avoid jail in 2018 after pleading guilty last month to forcibly kissing a worker at a nightclub in New York City.

Even the #MeToo conviction of abused Hollywood tycoon Harvey Weinstein in 2020 may be in doubt, and a New York court is expected to rule on his appeal soon.

“Sometimes people think we’ve at a different time after Weinstein’s trial and conviction,” said Dallas-based attorney Michelle Simpson Tugel, who represented gymnasts abused by former USA gymnast Larry Nasser and other victims.

“People are definitely more aware and the survivors have more support,” she said. “But in no way do we see a level of responsibility, especially for people who are very rich, very powerful and well known to the public.”

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