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‘Shame The Victims, Free The Rapists’: Judge Faces Backlash After Reversing Teen’s Rape Conviction

At 18-year-old Drew S. Clinton's sentencing hearing, Judge Robert Adrian reversed his previous bench ruling, saying that the 148 days Clinton had already served during the trial were enough punishment.

By Jill Sederstrom
Robert Adrian

An Illinois judge is facing backlash after he threw out an 18-year-old’s rape conviction earlier this month, saying that the 148 days the teen had already spent in jail was “plenty of punishment.”

Adams County Judge Robert Adrian made the decision to change the verdict during what was supposed to be Drew S. Clinton’s sentencing hearing earlier this month after Clinton he was found guilty of criminal sexual assault during a three-day bench trial in October, according to The Herald-Whig.

Clinton was facing a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in the Illinois Department of Corrections; however, after reviewing two motions filed by Clinton’s defense team Adrian changed the verdict to not guilty, saying he thought the prosecution had failed to prove their case.

“By law, the court is supposed to sentence this young man to the Department of Corrections. This court will not do that. That is not just,” Adrian said, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by The Daily Beast. “There is no way for what happened in this case that this teenager should go to the Department of Corrections. I will not do that.”

Adrian went on to say that the time Clinton had already spent behind bars had been sufficient.

“Mr. Clinton has served almost five months in the county jail, 148 days,” he said during the Jan. 3 hearing. “For what happened in this case, that is plenty of punishment. That would be a just sentence.”

The stunning decision was devastating for the 16-year-old victim in the case who has decided to go public with her story after the judge’s decision.

“I immediately had to leave the courtroom and go to the bathroom. I was crying,” Cameron Vaughan told local station WGEM.

She said Clinton sexually assaulted her while she was sleeping on a couch at a graduation party over Memorial Day weekend.

“I woke up at my friend’s place with a pillow over my face so I couldn’t be heard and Drew Clinton inside of me,” she said. “I asked him to stop multiple times and he wouldn’t. I finally got off the couch and pushed him off of me and he jumped up and just started playing video games as if nothing had happened.”

Clinton’s defense team contends the sexual contact had been consensual.

Vaughan ran to a bathroom, was taken home that night by several of her friends and told her father what happened the next morning, according to a police report obtained by local paper.

Vaughan’s father told The Herald-Whig the judge’s reversal has hindered his daughter’s ability to recover and heal from the trauma.

“It’s worse now than it was (before), because not only does she not have her justice, but now she feels like she spoke up for nothing, and you know that hurts,” he said. “Now she wishes she wouldn’t have even said anything.”

He added to WGEM that after the assault his daughter had dropped out of all school activities, was struggling to keep her grades up and  has to do all of her schooling at home now.

Adams County Assistant State’s Attorney Anita Rodriguez said she has never seen a judge reverse a verdict like this in her 40-year career.

“My heart is bleeding for the victim,” she told the newspaper. “It was a very difficult bench trial. It did a lot for her healing process, but now she’s back to where we were at.”

While announcing his decision earlier this month, Adrian slammed the parents of the home where the party occurred.

“This is what’s happened when parents do not exercise their parental responsibilities, when we have people, adults, having parties for teenagers, and they allow coeds and female people to swim in their underwear in their swimming pool,” Adrian said. “And, no, underwear is not the same as swimming suits. It’s just – they allow 16-year-old to bring liquor to a party. They provide liquor to underage people, and you wonder how these things happen.

Quanada, an organization providing support for victims of assault or abuse, said in a statement they had been “outraged” by the judge’s decision to reverse the verdict.

The verdict and Adrian’s comments send a chilling message to other rape victims that their behavior, not the rapists’, will be judged. Shame the victims, free the rapists,” the statement read. “This judgment reinforces the fact that standards for women have always been impossibly high while they are impossibly low for men.”

The public scrutiny surrounding the judge’s comments appeared to come to head in court Wednesday when Adrian threw Josh Jones, the lead trial attorney for Adams County State’s Attorney’s office out of the courtroom for liking a Quanada post on Facebook about the incident the day before, The Muddy River News reports.

“I’m not on social media, but my wife is,” Adrian told Jones in court. “She saw the thumbs up you gave to people attacking me. I can’t be fair with you today. Get out.”

Jones later told the newspaper he felt he had taken a “pretty benign” position on the issue by liking the post before he was ousted from the courtroom.

“I’d like to think that’s a pretty benign position to take as the lead trial attorney with the state’s attorney’s office to support the rights of victims,” he said. “We obviously have to and want to support victims in all cases. I have not made any comment publicly, privately or otherwise about Judge Adrian and the decision. I’m not going to. That’s not my role.”

State’s Attorney Gary Farha told the outlet he is not sure why the judge decided to throw Jones out of the courtroom and described Jones as a “very ethical” attorney.

“Obviously Judge Adrian is under a lot of pressure because of the publicity on the other case,” he said. “I can’t speak to anything as to why he would do this. It’s an extraordinary measure. This is a judge who we have had a great deal respect for. He is tough on crime, and we appreciate that. But this is something that we did not expect and we do not feel is at all warranted nor appreciated.”

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