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Monday, June 04, 2007

An Internet Harassment Case With A Depressing Twist

Allan Stokke is a criminal defense attorney who unsuccessfully represented the so called "OC  Rapists," a rape case in which an unconscious 16 year old girl was gang raped and assaulted in many degrading ways, and the entire assault was videotaped.  One account of the trial reported:

Defense lawyer Al Stokke, who replaced lead trial attorney Joseph G. Cavallo, questioned any link between the rape and the victim’s claim of mental anguish. Stokke also mocked the girl’s physical injuries, finally conceding she was unconscious but then trying to use that against her. “There’s [no pain] that is felt,” he said, “because she was unconscious.”

Stokke had better luck defending a police officer accused of masturbating on a women during a traffic stop.  Here is one account:

No one disputes that an on-duty Irvine police officer got an erection and ejaculated on a motorist during an early-morning traffic stop in Laguna Beach. The female driver reported it, DNA testing confirmed it and officer David Alex Park finally admitted it.

When the case went to trial, however, defense attorney Al Stokke argued that Park wasn’t responsible for making sticky all over the woman’s sweater. He insisted that she made the married patrolman make the mess—after all, she was on her way home from work as a dancer at Captain Cream Cabaret.

“She got what she wanted,” said Stokke. “She’s an overtly sexual person.”

A jury of one woman and 11 men—many white and in their 50s or 60s—agreed with Stokke. On Feb. 2, after a half-day of deliberations, they found Park not guilty of three felony charges that he’d used his badge to win sexual favors during the December 2004 traffic stop.

Now we get to the Internet harassment. The victim? Stokke's daughter Allison. The WaPo reports:

Early this month, 18-year-old Alison Stokke walked into her high school track coach's office and asked if he knew any reliable media consultants. Stokke had tired of constant phone calls, of relentless Internet attention, of interview requests from Boston to Brazil. ...

... Three weeks later, Stokke has decided that control is essentially beyond her grasp. Instead, she said, she has learned a distressing lesson in the unruly momentum of the Internet. A fan on a Cal football message board posted a picture of the attractive, athletic pole vaulter. A popular sports blogger in New York found the picture and posted it on his site. Dozens of other bloggers picked up the same image and spread it. Within days, hundreds of thousands of Internet users had searched for Stokke's picture and leered.

The wave of attention has steamrolled Stokke and her family in Newport Beach, Calif. She is recognized -- and stared at -- in coffee shops. She locks her doors and tries not to leave the house alone. Her father, Allan Stokke, comes home from his job as a lawyer and searches the Internet. He reads message boards and tries to pick out potential stalkers.

"We're keeping a watchful eye," Allan Stokke said. "We have to be smart and deal with it the best we can. It's not something that you can just make go away."

My guess is that the Stokkes found a media consultant who could convince someone at the WaPo to write the story linked above without doing much in the way of research.   Alison Stokke does not in any way whatsoever deserve the  harassment she is receiving, nor  is she responsible for her father's  actions, but it is very odd that the story doesn't mention the disconnect between Stokke's views as a parent and his behavior as a lawyer.

Via Ann Friedman at Feministing.

Posted by Ann Bartow on June 4, 2007 at 11:35 PM in Criminal Law | Permalink

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Tracked on Jun 5, 2007 6:19:12 PM

Comments

Are you suggesting that mr. stokke's courtroom tactics were legally unethical and/or guided by a personal belief that [other] people['s children] deserve what they get? I am going to guess that you would agree with neither of those statements. He was defending his clients with every weapon in his arsenal. Surely mr stokke has ever right to be concerned about potential harm, be it gangraping or drive-by ejaculation, which might befall his daughter.

The part that confuses me is why the daughter lets herself get so bothered by it all. Are there so many beautiful girls in southern california that they have stopped knowing how to cope with overzealous suitors? But alas, I digress.

Posted by: Colin | Jun 5, 2007 10:25:37 AM

What I am suggesting is that if what has happened to Alison Stokke happened to anyone else but his daughter, Al Stokke might very well assert that she was asking for the harassment, and/or enjoyed it. You are free to make up your own mind about Stokke's ethics.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Jun 5, 2007 11:16:27 AM

I think it's rather unfair to associate a lawyer's courtroom arguments with his own character and values. Criticizing Stokke for the manner of his representation is suggestive of the more general argument that defense lawyers are bad for representing bad people.

The better critique of Stokke, I think, is that if he's truly trying to remedy his daughter's unwanted publicity and harassment, making it the subject of a front-page article in the Washington Post perhaps isn't the best idea.

Posted by: Rex | Jun 5, 2007 11:34:48 AM

But isn't there a difference between Stokke making an argument in court -- say, if he was defending an accused internet harasser -- and making a general argument about internet harassment?

After all, representing someone accused of rape doesn't mean that one condones rape or thinks that only one's own children don't deserve to be raped.

Posted by: anon | Jun 5, 2007 11:42:37 AM

"representing someone accused of rape doesn't mean that one condones rape or thinks that only one's own children don't deserve to be raped."

This is obviously true. So what is Professor Bartow's point? I don't see one.

Posted by: What is the point of this post? | Jun 5, 2007 12:05:34 PM

Representation of an accused rapist can proceed in many ways. If an attorney consistently and vociferously argues that every rape victim actually "asked for it" and enjoyed the assault, then if one of his children gets raped, one might expect some consistency. Stokke reacted differently to the abuse of his daughter because he views her as human and valuable, unlike many other women, apparently.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Jun 5, 2007 12:36:34 PM

Stokke's arguments instantiate a view about how women should be treated by the law--they should not be protected from certain conduct because "they asked for it" because of certain behavior. Whether or not he should have made such arguments in the interest of zealously defending his clients, those arguments establish a view of women before the law and society at large. But that is a view he rejects when his daughter is the woman in question.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Jun 5, 2007 1:35:07 PM

Of course Mr. Stokke is not going to defend his daughter's rapist with the same degree of rigor as his own client. "They asked for it" are viable arguments in tort and contract cases as well as criminal -- almost any time the decider of fact must analyze the state of mind of one of the parties.

He's not a hypocrite -- he's a lawyer.

Posted by: Joel Smith | Jun 5, 2007 3:28:29 PM

The deeper question would seem to be whether a lawyer can passionately make an argument in court that they don't at least partly agree with. Is it likely that mr stokke, whose web page would indicate that he is not at all an ordinary lawyer, would make statements which would make don imus uneasy if he believed they would help his case but also sicken his conscience? Alternatively, is he ethically required, in the same situation above, to make those statements if he believes they are the best chance for his client to go free?

Posted by: Colin | Jun 5, 2007 3:56:01 PM

Why would there need to be consistency between one's public acts as a lawyer and one's private thoughts as a citizen? Defending a murderer that you know is guilty does not mean you condone murder. I take it Professor Bartow does not teach Professional Responsibility or Legal Ethics.

Posted by: If there is no distinction between public and private then Professor Bartow condones fallacies | Jun 5, 2007 7:01:44 PM

I understand the professor seems to believe that members of the criminal defense bar lose rights as citizens and parents because of their profession. Is this part of the curriculum at her law school?

Posted by: Nora | Jun 6, 2007 2:43:16 AM

This reply post by the guy who started the whole thing is pretty funny:

http://www.withleather.com/post.phtml?pk=2994

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 6, 2007 7:53:39 AM

Prof. Bartow seems to be dodging the question. If she were a public defender and believed that asserting a the-victim-got-what-she-wanted defense would likely lead to an acquital (or a lesser conviction), would she present that defense? If she would refuse, would she be committing an ethical violation? Would her representation violate the Sixth Amendment?

I don't think you can avoid the issue, Prof. Bartow, by simply asserting that "[r]epresentation of an accused rapist can proceed in many ways." Why don't you seriously engage with this difficult question of legal ethics, rather than simply rebuke a lawyer who necessarily has had to grapple with these issues.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 6, 2007 2:33:05 PM

An ethical lawyer never lies for a client nor condones (no less encourage) lying by a client. If there was evidence that a person claiming to be a rape victim had consented to the act, I'd certainly present that evidence. It would not be necessarily to vilify the Complainant, nor in most cases would it be helpful. Remember that Stokke's clients in the "OC Rape" case were convicted. Here is an excerpt from a statement that the victim in that case submitted to the court:

... That is why we are here today, your honor. I haven’t been able to truly live since these men sexually assaulted me. I wouldn’t be able to until I feel safe and secure that they are behind bars for numerous years. When you make a decision on the amount of time you’re going to sentence these men to, I would like to tell you a little bit the about the harassment, intimidation and torture these men have done to me these last three years. I guess assaulting me and videotaping it wasn’t enough for them. They had to continue to make my life and my family’s life a living hell since. I feel that instead of showing remorse for their crimes, they have continued to assault me since every day since July Fourth.

The harassment and torture started immediately after the assault became known to the public. It started with private investigators sitting in front of our house day in and day out, watching our every move. Our family’s privacy was completely eliminated. The private investigators got worse when they began watching my parents at their places of work. One day I was driving home and a private investigator began following me. I panicked. I did not know what to do. I called my mom on her cell phone for help. All she could do was tell me to drive to the police station and try to calm down. In the parking of the police station the private investigator cornered me and began taking pictures of me.

I was still on the phone, hysterically crying for my mother’s help. I will never forget the terror and helplessness I heard in her voice. It tore me to pieces. These men have ruined me and my life, but now they are also ruining the lives of people that I loved the most. I had to stop driving alone because I was always being followed. I had to live a life in which I had to have permission to move, and my every move had to be observed for my safety. I didn’t understand – "Why were they still torturing me? Wasn’t that one night enough for them?" I guess not, because the harassment and intimidation continued.

The next big event was when fliers were placed in all the mailboxes, local stores of my neighborhood. They asked for anyone with information on the Newport Beach assault that occurred on or about July Fourth to call a number. That flier said my last name. My family never sent out the fliers like they portrayed. It was the families of these three men. Now my entire neighborhood knew I was Jane Doe, the 16-year-old girl that was gang-raped.

All I wanted was to stay anonymous, but to no surprise, they didn’t allow that to happen either. It was around this time that I lost all my friends. They all ran from me because they didn’t know how to act. I was treated by others like the one with an incurable disease, although I was the victim. I was lonely and I had no one left. I was even witnessing my family slowly collapse and my parents’ marriage of many, many years began to fall apart. Why was I being treated like the perpetrator of the crime? Didn’t people realize I was the victim?

I spent the summer before my junior year in high school locked away from the world, trying to give a reason why such a thing had happened to me, or anyone else for that matter. The things these men did to me and were continuing to do to me were so cruel and inhumane. I never would have wished this even on my worst enemy. I was in counseling multiple times a week, but the pain only increased. I experienced emotions and feelings I never knew existed. I felt angry, hurt, betrayed, lost, abandoned, worthless, and most of all, dirty. The people that used to be there for me had hidden themselves because they were unsure how to react to my cruel experience and all the intimidation. I spent all my days at home crying and severely depressed.

After everyone in my neighborhood found out my identity, my family and I thought it was best for me to transfer to a new high school and start off fresh where no one knew who I was. I was in such fear of the new kids in my new school finding out who I was. I registered at my new high school under a different name. These men had not only taken my life, but now they had taken my identity and who I was. The first few weeks of my junior year went as planned. No one knew about my past, but that quickly changed when people hired by these men came to my school and stood in the parking lot screaming out my real name as I was walking with my friends. I was stopped by a man who served me papers right in front of my new friends. Then he proceeded to tell them who I was. I wanted to curl up and die. So much for no one knowing.

In less than a week the students, staff and teachers all knew my history and real identity. I wasn’t safe anywhere, and I had nowhere else to run, so for my last two years of high school I felt like an outcast. Now they took away two more of my happiness. I kept wondering if this would ever stop. To know surprise, it didn’t. These three men continued to destroy every day my life with no guilt or shame. They slandered my name and image all over the press and media. The abuse continued up to the first trial, where I was also abused on the stand when I testified. I’m not sure how I stayed strong enough to get through that. Maybe it’s because I would do whatever it takes to see these men pay for their crimes.

There were many days I questioned if I should testify because I was so scared of what they would do. They seemed to be going to any lengths to intimidate me and I didn’t know where or if they would ever draw the line at some point. But I testified and continued to watch my family and I be abused.

The worst day of my life was when I heard the verdict of the first jury. I was in my room waiting for the verdict. I remember my mom walking into my room. She sat next to me on the bed and hugged me, looked me in the eye and said it was a hung jury. I felt my stomach drop and my heart being ripped out of my chest. There was no way this could be true. My mom had to be mistaken. When she started to cry I knew she wasn’t. I was in such shock I didn’t know what to feel. I became hysterical and started screaming.

All my anger I had towards these men and the verdict came out. I thought I was going crazy. Why didn’t anyone believe me? Couldn’t they see I was like a rag doll? I was so unconscious. I’m the victim here. All I could ask was, "Why?" I just wanted to die. If I was dead, everyone’s lives would be better. Maybe things would be normal if I was gone. The thought of suicide began to cross my mind numerous times a day, but I was stronger than that. I was not going to let these men win. They had already taken everything from me. I wasn’t going to let them take my very last breath also. So once again I told the district attorney I would testify in the second trial. I was numb to the abuse by now because it became so prevalent.

Before the second trial I was asked if I wanted to see the videotape of the assault. I was terrified. What if I watched it and it literally put me into a mental institution? I spent many weeks deciding. I knew that if I saw the video I would be able to express my feelings better to the jury while testifying, but I also knew how real it would make the assault to me.

In my heart I knew I had to see it with my own eyes, to be able to know exactly what these three men did to me, so I chose to watch it. I remember my mouth started burning while I was watching the video because it was so dry from hanging open in disbelief. I cannot and don’t think I will ever be able to describe what I felt while watching that video. I remember asking myself, "When did I become a piece of meat and not a human being to these men? How could any sane human do these things they did?" They did things not even savage animals would do. They violated me in every way possible.

As I watched that video, I remember feeling two distinct feelings. I remember becoming furious at the animals that were attacking me because no human could do such a thing. And I remember feeling my soul and inner being completely deteriorating. I was empty. They had now taken every last bit of who I was and no longer felt human. I was like a lifeless and feelingless doll that these men thought they could use and abuse in any way they wished.

A part of me died that day, a part that I don’t know if I’ll ever get back. The part that was lost as I watched three men I called my friends and trusted completely, abuse, assault and torture me. All the while they laughed and rooted each other on and smiled like it was the best day of their life. ...

You can real the entire statement here.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Jun 7, 2007 4:21:08 PM

Why is it unethical to make an alleged victim look incredible and unsympathetic to jury?

Posted by: Professor Bartow's logic is really just emotional bias | Jun 8, 2007 5:55:36 PM

Allan Stokke is motivated by money and money alone. He is not interested in what should be construed as justice. He managed to get charges against my step son from three felony criminal charges dismissed. Yet my step son is continuing a life of crime which I have to endure due to the fact my ex wife (I left my wife when my step son was pulled over for drinking and driving @ 17 years old in 2006) still brings that pathetic human around my 4.5 year old daughter. No parent would want such an individual around their child. I only wonder if Mr. Stokke would appreciate Dillon Giarraffa around his precious Allison since the case was about a teenage girl getting beat to the point she had to jump out of a moving car. My ex wife knows her son is no good, she just didn't want him to have felony charges against him at such a young age. Can we say "enabling"?

Plus, since both Allan Stokke and DA Joel Stone are neighbors in their waterfront properties in Newport Beach, it stands to wonder just how may deals one another have made to each other concerning leniency. This is our justice system at it's finest people! So while all of you embrace the fact that Allan Stokke is "just doing his job", I can only wish that someone such as my ex step son is the one who batter's YOUR daughter or steals from you.....all the while being under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He is 19 years old and has been to jail 3 times since he turned 18 when Mr. Stokke defended him. So do you see people? If Allan Stokke really was representing a "true" innocent individual, why is the kid going back to jail so many times after Mr. Stokke defended him? Greed is a powerful thing! And money is the motivator of Mr. Stokke!

Let's just say thanks to both Joel Stone DA out of Orange County and Mr. Allan Stokke.......motivated by money alone are the reasons guilty people go free. His wife and daughter sure must be proud of him. But then again,they probably do not care since he provides their lap of luxury.

Greed is what creates the most evil in men and woman. We see it everyday in our lives world wide!

So believe in what you have the right to believe in.......it won't change the facts....and facts are what holds the most value!

Posted by: Steve Alvarez | Dec 27, 2008 11:02:13 PM

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