Wisconsin City Apologizes to Blind Woman for Not Believing She Was Raped
MADISON, Wis. – For years, police and city lawyers refused to believe a blind woman who said an intruder raped her at knifepoint. They even charged her with lying about it.
Now, five years after DNA connected a sex offender to the attack, the city has apologized to the woman, known as Patty, and is offering her $35,000.
Outraged by a book detailing her skeptical treatment by authorities, the City Council approved the payment last month and ordered police to draw up new policies for interviewing crime victims.
"This really is groundbreaking," said Angela Rose, the Chicago-based national director of Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment. "I really applaud Patty's strength, powering through to make sure that she found justice not only for her but countless other victims that this is going to help."
Council President Austin King called the case "one of the most enormous, colossal failures the city has perpetrated."
The resolution gives Police Chief Noble Wray 90 days to recommend new techniques for interviewing of victims of sensitive crimes, including how to eliminate "the use of lies, coercion, deception, ruses or other techniques designed to break down individuals" in all but the rarest of circumstances.
Wray, who won a standing ovation when he publicly apologized to Patty in October, said he will probably recommend increased videotaping of interrogations and more guidance for officers on when they can use trickery.
The resolution offers the city's "most heartfelt apology" to Patty and directs the city to pay her for legal fees and lost wages.
Patty, then 38, woke up Sept. 4, 1997, with a man holding a knife to her throat. She is legally blind and was not able to identify him.
She called police immediately and went for a hospital exam. Detectives doubted her after failing to find compelling evidence of an assault and learning that a man she named as a suspect had an alibi.
A new book, "Cry Rape," by Bill Lueders, news editor of a Madison weekly newspaper, recounts how two detectives used a ruse to pressure her into saying she made up her story. Authorities charged her with filing a false report, but dropped the charge when investigators found semen on her sheets.
Lawyers hired to defend the city against Patty's lawsuit subjected her to 19 hours of depositions in which they asked her about her sexual history and mocked her for not trying to fight off the assailant, according to the book.
A judge dismissed the lawsuit.
In 2001, the state crime lab discovered that DNA from Joseph Bong, a convicted sex offender, matched the semen. Bong was convicted of Patty's rape in 2004 and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
"At every stage in this thing, there were opportunities for someone to say something is wrong here. But no one ever did that," Lueders said. "They defended their officer against the suggestion that he was in the wrong and it became a real important cause for them to win this case."
City Councilman Zach Brandon said the book convinced him an apology was necessary. "It was a tough read because you realize what she went through and you ask yourself, 'How did we not catch that?'" Brandon said.