A woman who was groped by an off-duty DPS officer at a Flagstaff bar last summer says that comments to her by the judge during Wednesday’s sentencing were inappropriate and that the judge should apologize.
Before giving the officer two years’ probation on his conviction for sexual abuse, Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch said to victim: “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you.”
Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims. Hatch also said that even going to the grocery store after 10 p.m. can be dangerous for a woman.
“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.
Reached today by phone, the victim said: “It felt like she was saying to me, ‘If you wouldn’t have been there that night, it wouldn’t have happened to you.’ Yeah, well, it probably would have happened to someone else.”
She said Hatch should apologize for her comments.
“I’m still kind of in shock that she said that to me,” the victim said later. “Coming from a woman, I would expect her to be a little bit more realistic about women being strong and independent and the fact that there’s nothing wrong with that.”
OFFICER TO LOSE BADGE
The victim said that she thought the sentence was a little lenient, but that she was satisfied that the officer would lose his badge over his actions. She said she hopes the sentence will help Evans move forward and not do something similar in the future.
A jury found 43-year-old Robb Gary Evans guilty of sexual abuse, a class 5 felony, for walking up behind the victim at the Green Room, putting his hand up her skirt and running it across her genitals.
Hatch sentenced the Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and treatment. He does not have to register as a sex offender and received credit for four days of jail time.
DPS fired Evans following the criminal conviction.
Hatch’s comments have generated a stir online, where members of the public and an online petition have called for her to resign. The petition had reached more than 550 signatures by Thursday evening, with hundreds commenting.
Comments posted to Facebook, Twitter and the Arizona Daily Sun website have also criticized the judge.
“These comments from the judge are absolutely offensive,” said online commenter JessPope in a story posted to the Daily Sun website. “So if women go to bars it is up to them to make sure that they aren’t sexually abused or assaulted? This type of thinking has created an environment where men like this former cop feel confident that they can commit these crimes because the women in bars are ‘asking for it.’”
SEAT UP IN 2014
Hatch, a Republican, was appointed to the Division 1 judgeship by Governor Jan Brewer in June of 2010 and elected to a full term that November. Her seat on the bench will be up for election in 2014.
The victim said that she still believes justice was served, but thinks that such comments can deter other victims of sexual crimes from coming forward.
“As the victim, you’re going to go through this whole process and then have the judge tell you that you were asking for it,” she said.
The victim told the court on Wednesday that she has lost friends because of the case, but she pursued it through prosecution to help prevent others from becoming victims as well.
The victim and defendant did not know each other, but they had mutual friends.
Testimony given during the trial showed that at least one of their mutual friends tried to talk her out of pressing charges. The victim said that she has also been ridiculed for ruining Evan’s life.
“They don’t make it easy to do the right thing,” she said. “The whole system, it’s not flawless.”
A phone message left at Judge Hatch’s office was not returned on Thursday afternoon.
Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.