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Judge Orders Rape Victim to Pay Her Attacker

Friday, December 9, 2011

Crystal Harris - ExpertBailA man sits in prison for raping his wife and now she has to pay him spousal support. Crystal Harris, a financial analyst in Los Angeles, CA, has been supporting her out-of-work husband for years. And even after he was found guilty of forced oral copulation and marital rape, she is required by law to pay him.

See the story below written by Fox 11 News Legal Expert, Robin Sax. We are curious what your thoughts on this are.

Los Angeles - A man sits in prison for raping his wife and now she has to pay him spousal support. No, you didn’t misread that; it’s a fact!

Crystal Harris, a financial analyst who makes a six-figure salary, said she had been supporting her out-of-work husband Shawn Harris for years. And even after begin dragged through his criminal trial for the violent sex attack, she was shocked as you will all be, that the law requires her to pay…him.

Undoubtedly, you are asking yourself: How is that so? And is it even possible for a husband to rape his own wife? For clarity, I am going to take the second question first.
In short, yes. In many states and specifically here in California there are certain crimes that allow for the prosecution of sex crimes against a spouse (See PC 261(a)(2)). But having the code section available and being able to use it is more difficult than it might seem. Sex crimes involving spouses are more difficult than many other sex crimes. “While spousal rape is now considered a crime, victims often have to overcome additional legal hurdles to prosecution not present for other victims of rape. These include time limits for reporting the offense, a requirement that force or threat of force be used by the offender, and the fact that some sexual assault offenses still preclude spousal victims,” according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.

In this case, Crystal Harris not only reported her husband’s crimes -- forced oral copulation and marital rape -- but he was also found guilty by a jury of his peers for his crime. It should be noted that this was not just a conviction by plea bargain. This was a hard fought, 2-year journey where her husband forced the case to trial and blamed her throughout. As I type, he is currently serving a 6-year sentence in state prison. Although it exists in the Penal Code, from my experience, spousal rape charges are very rarely prosecuted because of the inherent difficulty of getting a jury to convict.

The simple answer is that this outcome is an unintended loophole in the system that does not usually occur because women are not typically the bread-earners in the family. But there is more than just a legal loophole problem; there is a judge who should be held accountable for his part, Judge Gregory Pollack. He was the one who exercised his discretion and imposed the monetary awards. He probably felt that he gave her a gift by ordering that she need to pay $1000 instead of the required $3000 a month. “A rape victim discount,” is what Crystal calls it. But how is that she has to pay at all? And if that’s not enough to make you sick, the same judge equally imposed $47,000 (discounted from $110,000) in legal fees that SHE has to pay to the rapist's lawyers.
Loophole or not, the rapist wasn’t the only one who abused Crystal; Judge Pollack imposed his own cruelty by misusing his discretion and imposing spousal support and attorney’s fees. No doubt he will attempt to skate responsibility by citing the law. So let me spare him the effort and do it myself. Divorce/family law in California is meant to be a somewhat simple “no fault” process whereby a computer program known as the DissoMaster tells the parties what is known. Simply put, the husband’s salary and the wife’s salary are entered, the amount of hours each has with the children is also accounted for and - boom - a spousal support figure is spit out based on a formula. Neither the figure the program produces nor any spousal support order issued by a court, takes into account WHO the recipient is. Whether it’s a convicted felon, a convicted rapist, or any other violent felon, they’re entitled to spousal support as long as the formula swings in their favor. The only way to avoid this is a lot like avoiding taxes, by “near” death. Under California law, alimony payments can only be forgiven when the former spouse is found guilty of attempted murder.

Anybody who knows abusers of this sort knows that there are a variety of ways in which the abuse continues to have lasting effects. Here, Shawn Harris was convicted after committing a violent (taped) rape attack where Crystal is heard screaming “No” at least 50 times. Though his “rough sex/role-play” defense theory failed to persuade a jury…this attempt to cash in on her bank account is not only re-victimizing her through the court process, but gives Harris the added “benefit” of torturing her each time she writes a check. Abuse her sexually, abuse her through the trial, abuse her in family court, and abuse her every month for the rest of her life.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that this is outrageous. No one would say a rapist should be able to financially live off his or her victim. But yet it can happen like it has for Crystal Harris. This case screams for legislative action, which I don’t normally promote willy-nilly.

Lots of people love to run around demanding new laws. It drives me nuts; “we need a law!” I say, “slow down” because more often than not, we just need a good lawyer or advocate who knows how to use the laws we actually have. This happens in sex crimes all the time. People say to me, "we should have life sentences for sex offenders even after one case" ….well we do, it’s called Penal Code 667.61. Or they say, "we should have mandatory minimums for sex offenders" …have that too. Many people, prosecutors and judges are no different; they simply don’t know how to use the laws already in place. Well, this case is different. The only way to have prevented Judge Pollack from imposing spousal support on this rape victim, and forcing him to do the right thing, was to have a law in place. One would hope you could count on the judge using his discretion appropriately but not here, so now it’s time to get to the law books. THE LAW IS NOT IN PLACE and it NEEDS TO be changed.

Crystal shared her story on FOX 11 News and Good Day LA , and urged others to join her and Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego District Attorney in their fight to get this law changed. Under the district attorney's proposed new law, if someone were convicted of committing any violent felony against their spouse, a judge would be precluded from ordering the victim to pay spousal support.

Besides law changes, Crystal gives some great insight to the value of tape recordings and evidence collection that can be seen in the interview videos.

Click on the following link to view court documents related to the case provided to FOX 11 News by Crystal. These documents can be found at the bottom of the site .

Original Article: Judge Orders Rape Victim to Pay Her Attacker