The sexual abuse trial of an 11-year veteran of the Department of Public Safety began this week in Flagstaff. Officer Robb Evans is charged with groping a woman at a bar by walking up behind her, placing his hand under her skirt and touching her genitals. Evans denies the charges, and according to a report in the Arizona Daily Sun, claims that it is the result of “misperception” on the part of the alleged victim. He asserts, the report goes on, that he “merely bumped into her from behind with his knee to say hello.” The officer and the woman we not acquainted with each other prior to the incident.
The alleged victim testified in the ongoing trial that she was shocked at what happened, and after being groped, she turned around and yelled at the defendant, and immediately reported the incident to bouncers at the bar. While the cameras in operation at the establishment did not record the groping incident, they did corroborate the balance of the woman’s story.
Sexual abuse is defined in section 13-1404 of the Arizona Criminal Code as intentionally or knowingly “engaging in sexual contact with any person who is fifteen or more years of age without consent.” Sexual contact is further defined as “direct or indirect touching . . . of any part of the genitals.” Assuming the victim is an adult, the offense is a class 5 felony carrying a presumptive sentence, for first time felony offenders, of 1.5 years in prison. Possible sentences run from six months to two years, depending upon the presence of mitigating and aggravating factors.
Our interest in the case, without minimizing the conduct alleged, was heightened by the fact that the defendant was subjected to a breathalyzer (Intoxilyzer) test after the incident which reportedly showed his blood alcohol content (BAC) as 0.134. For those who don’t know, that’s a pretty high reading. A BAC of 0.08 will support a charge of driving under the influence (DUI), and a slightly higher reading (0.15) would make out a case for extreme DUI. Of course, this case does not involve the operation of a vehicle (although we do wonder how the officer got to the bar, and whether he was drinking beforehand), but it’s safe to say that most of us with a BAC comparable to that of the defendant would be considered drunk.
On the flip side, the woman admitted to smoking marijuana that evening. While this may tend to give credence to the officer’s “I bumped into her with my knee to say hello” story, the woman testified in that regard as follows:
“There is absolutely no confusion on my side. It’s my vagina and I know what it feels like when someone touches it. I felt violated and I felt like I was approached in a way that was not in any way, shape or form all right with me.”
Well, I guess it’s “he said, she said” from this point forward, and we’ll have to wait for the jury’s determination. We can’t help noticing, however, that this is yet another in a multitude of cases where drinking and drugs are involved in a situation that turns ugly. Now maybe the defendant is guilty, or maybe not. Maybe he acts like a jerk when he’s sober, who knows? And maybe the alleged victim’s perception was affected by smoking marijuana. It seems pretty clear, in any event, that absent the use of alcohol and drugs, this entire incident might never have happened. We’ve stressed in the past the belief of this Phoenix criminal lawyer that the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs is not only an epidemic, but is responsible, directly or indirectly, for a huge percentage of crimes and a huge percentage of those who are incarcerated, not only in Arizona, but throughout the United States. More laws and harsher penalties do not seem to be doing the trick in reducing alcohol and drug-related crime, and we believe that the solution to the problem, if indeed there is one, must also be addressed through education and rehabilitation.
One final note: the alleged victim in the case says that she told the defendant he was going to be arrested for what he did. According to witnesses, the defendant had been repeatedly flashing his badge that night at the bar, and responded that he was a cop, and it was the alleged victim who would be going to jail. We assume that this behavior by the defendant is not isolated, and that some officers use their position to avoid the consequences of their behavior. Fortunately, that tactic did not work in this case.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004