Hurt and Grace: An Open Letter to An Attorney

Mr. Michael Grace, Esq, Attorney at Law
Grace, Tisdale and Clifton, PA
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Dear Mr. Grace:

‘Hurt,’ the word itself, is ancient, and typical of the blunt, mono-syllabic terms we get from the rough German parentage of English. ‘Grace,’ as you may know, from the Latin “gratia,” is a beautiful word (hence it’s choice as a name for girls) and an even more beautiful concept. These two words are also surnames, one belonging to you and one to the young woman you have viciously smeared of late, Ms. Margaret “Maggie” Hurt.

Maggie, as you know, was a student at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem and a member of the school’s pep band.  She traveled with WFU’s men’s basketball team in 2009 to the NCAA Final Four tournament in Miami, Florida.  While on the trip, she reported being sexually assaulted by two men in concert, one who forced her to perform fellatio in a hotel bathroom while the other watched the door. Both were star players on the team. Friends and family eventually convinced her to report the incident to campus police once she was back at school. According to her, they informed her that the best course of action (and her only option) was to pursue an internal, student judicial disciplinary process against the two students.  She did so.

In a letter attributed to Maggie Hurt’s mother, she claims the two accused students brought an attorney to the internal disciplinary hearing.  If you were the one they brought, I assume you came as an advisor, although student judicial hearing procedures I found don’t seem to allow for accused students to bring non-student advisors to hearings.  Ms. Hurt, to my knowledge, had no such legal firepower with her.

When she appeared on the Today show late last month, she recounted an ordeal whereby she, and not your clients, were put on trial, and where the entire process left her not only unvindicated but humiliated. The hearing, predictably, focused on her behavior and not on the behavior of the accused students.  Your clients were found not responsible and the matter was dropped. Ms. Hurt then reported the crime officially to the police department in Miami, but the DA’s office there declined to prosecute citing a lack of corroborating evidence.

Nothing I’ve recounted so far is atypical. A woman was, by all appearances, sexually assaulted by star athletes and fellow students. For several time-honored and understandable reasons, she did not immediately report the assault where she was, on a school trip.  When she finally did report back at her home campus, the matter was considered and discarded by an internal school disciplinary process most likely unequipped to handle claims of profound sexual abuse and possibly biased in favor of the athletes. The frustrated victim then finally reached out to criminal justice authorities where the crime actually happened, only to find that the matter could not be pursued because so much time had passed and no corroborating evidence was obtainable.

Such is the typical fate of the small fraction of women who actually report sexual violence (particularly in the college context involving athletes) to authorities of any kind.

What’s stunning to me, though, are your comments, Mr. Grace, in response Ms. Hurt’s appearance on the Today show.  You are a highly respected defense attorney and have been a member of the North Carolina bar for almost 35 years. Yet you claimed to a major local newspaper last month that Ms. Hurt made “bad judgments” on the night of the incident. Specifically, you informed the media of your belief that she engaged in sex hours before the incident in question with another student band member and talked about it with others. You then clarified that this, of course, “didn’t make her promiscuous.”

Thank you, counselor, for that clarification.  But I must ask why you have exhibited, in a professional capacity, such breathtaking and needless cruelty toward the complainant in this case?  You know very well that the sexual liaisons you accuse Ms. Hurt of engaging in (assuming they are even true) would likely never have become admissible in any criminal court of law. So why did you choose to smear her with this hearsay two years after you successfully deflected any sanctions against your clients? No one faults you for zealously representing your clients, but why seek to portray her publicly this way on information that is surely hearsay at best?

Further, where exactly do you see the legal relevance of anything you claim about Ms. Hurt?  Do you really believe that, even if she did engage in sex with another student hours before the incident in question, that she therefore logically must have consented to your clients’ advances, hours later, that she denies were consensual?  Do you really draw a logical link between sexual activity in one place and time (where no complaint of assault was made) and sexual activity in another place and time simply because of what you perceive to be the character of the woman involved?  That is remarkably myopic, but believable. Or, are you simply vitiating Maggie Hurt because it somehow continues to be expedient in some effort to paint her publicly as a whore who views a sexual encounter as casually as a trip to a soda machine?

I will no doubt be criticized for taking offense to your comments, assuming you truly believe your clients were wrongly accused.  Fair enough; understanding that I know much less about the case than you do (from your clients’ perspective anyway) I believe Maggie Hurt’s allegations, and I believe them for reasons borne of common sense rather than blind zealousness or ardor. I fail to see what Maggie Hart gained by reporting this incident falsely to WFU authorities and then the criminal justice system months later. I detect nothing in her demeanor, her account or her history that would cause me to doubt what she claims to be true.

But what I know or don’t know is somewhat beside the point, sir. I write critically because I saw absolutely nothing in your comments about Maggie Hurt that would ever, in any way, advance a legal theory supporting your clients’ innocence. Instead, I see rank vindictiveness on a scale frankly unbecoming of your status as a litigator and member of the bar, Mr. Grace.

Such is the cosmic irony at play here.  Ms. Hurt, in my view, has been quite graceful.  You, counselor, have been unduly hurtful.  Given your stature, success and outstanding reputation, I’m at a loss as to why.

Respectfully,

Roger Canaff

20 thoughts on “Hurt and Grace: An Open Letter to An Attorney

  1. Bobbie Johnson

    No criticism from this corner. I find your points are valid, logical and relevant to the story. Whether or not she had sex prior to the assault has nothing to do culpability of the offenders. Thanks for standing up for the victim! Proud of you as always.

  2. ksf

    Roger,

    Ms. Hurt stated that she gave this black man a BJ to completion because she was afraid of him after he requested that she give him oral sex.

    What did he do to force her? How did he know that in her mind the only reason she agreed to give him a BJ was because she was afraid.

    This is, of course, taking her statement regarding her state of mind as true. What it really sounds like to me is that a girl who enjoys giving oral sex drank a little bit and got some liquid courage. Then she gives one man a BJ, then talked about giving BJ’s to two other men, agreed to go to their hotel room with them, went into the bathroom with one of them, and gave him a BJ. The man happened to be black, people found out about it, and she became ashamed of her conduct, so she said she was “forced” because she was afraid of what might happen if she told the big black man, “No, I don’t want to give you a BJ.”

    The huge question that is left unanswered is what made her think something bad would happen. Did he threaten her? Did he threaten to kill her family if she didn’t perform? If so, then I can understand. But that is not what happened.

    Her explanation: Well, he has hands that can palm a basketball, so I was afraid of him.

    Of course, if she had an SVP or an HQE to tell her what to say, I’m sure that she would have given a much better answer, wouldn’t she?

    This is a ridiculous allegation by Ms. Hurt and you, and to answer your question, Roger, the reason Mr. Grace is smearing Ms. Hurt is because Ms. Hurt is smearing his clients. He’s merely doing his job. Ms. Hurt is continuing to smear them, so he is attempting to get her to stop with the threat of a slander suit against her and any irresponsible news organization who will broadcast her false allegations. Just like any lawyer would do for you if you were falsely accused of a sexual offense.

  3. Ross Ellis

    Roger,

    For Maggie Hurt, for every victim of sexual assault … thank you!! Your letter to Mr. Grace was wonderful and much needed. Victims of sexual assault are afraid to report for this very reason. We cannot let the perpetrators get away with thinking they can get away with this type of behavior. And we need more prosecutors and attornies like you my friend!!

    Ross Ellis
    Founder and Chief Executive Officer
    Love Our Children USA

  4. Somer Cooper

    To @KSF,

    I’m not a lawyer. Don’t claim to understand the legal perspective. Nor the truth of what happened on that night.

    That being said…

    I would be interested to know if you read this line about your own daughter, sister, mother or female best friend, how it would resonate?

    “What it really sounds like to me is that a girl who enjoys giving oral sex drank a little bit and got some liquid courage. Then she gives one man a BJ, then talked about giving BJ’s to two other men,”

    The implication being that she’d been better off if she didn’t enjoy giving oral sex? and drinking?

    Please educate me.

    What I’m gathering is that women that enjoy giving oral sex and drinking are begging for more than they have consented for?

    I’m at a loss.

    Clearly, I need more understanding on the matter.

    Call it my lack of legal.

    Or, maybe, more simply stated, I’ve not had enough to drink.

    Somer

  5. ksf

    I have no problem with women who enjoy drinking and engaging in oral sex. Let me be clear: Just because a woman does those things does not in any way indicate that a man is permitted to walk up to her, drop his pants, and command that she pleasure him. But, those are not the facts of this case, are they Ms. Cooper?

    So, allow me to answer your question using the facts of this case:

    If my mother or my wife (who happens to be my best friend) said that they were forcibly sodomized, then explained the situation that they were drinking at a hotel, felated one man, met two other men, told them how much she enjoyed felating men, was then invited upstairs to their hotel room, went to their hotel room at 3:30 in the morning, went into a bathroom with one of them, felated the man upon him requesting, then told me that she was “forced” because she was afraid not to due to his big hands that could palm a basketball, I would tell her that the man did not force her because he did not know and she gave him no reason not to know that she did not want to. The facts that he is a black man who has hands large enough to palm a basketball is not good enough to explain why she did not refuse to felate him when he requested she do so.

    I would believe that she was tipsy enough to do the things that she secretly wanted to do sober, but was afraid of what society might think, so then she meets these guys, does her thing, and is now ashamed because everybody knows that she, a white girl, gave a black man a BJ.

    I am a lawyer, and I have seen false allegations of rape to undo the shame of a regretful evening where a woman acts in a way society deems whorish, or to cover up an affair, or to extort money, or to get attention, or simply to get even with a guy that broke her heart.

    And, I hope that Ms. Hurt leads a very lonely, man-free existence, as it appears that she is the type of woman who, as Jack Nicholsen says in “As Good as it Gets,” lacks reason and accountability.

  6. Roger Canaff Post author

    As always, I appreciate your interest in my blog, Mr. Fisher, and your taking the time to comment. I’m not sure why you’ve chosen to inject race into this situation other than to grasp for a thread of substance that might somehow support your tireless agenda that most rape allegations are simply made up. Of course, and tragically, race is a factor in this case. But not because Maggie Hurt made it one, and not because anyone I know of- including Mr. Grace himself- made it one. Instead it appears that only you have. The race of the accused men in this case as well as the race of Ms Hurt are meaningless to me in my analysis of it. I don’t know what to tell you about your judgments about Ms. Hurt with regard to the fear she experienced for the honest reasons she gave. Why you completely disregard the overwhelming size difference between the accused and Ms. Hurt as a factor that might cause her to be fearful when trapped in a bathroom is beyond me, but so is much of what you apparently believe.

    Speaking of which, if you believe that Maggie Hurt willingly performed a sex act on the man she accused and then decided, simply out of some sense of race-driven shame, to accuse him of sexual assault (throwing her own life into turmoil and costing her untold amounts of stress, misery, lost memories and lost opportunities) than you’re entitled to that belief. But I’m not bound to give it any more credence than it deserves.

    Like you, I am an attorney. Since words are indeed the weapons we wield, I have chosen mine very carefully in criticizing Mr. Grace, a senior statesman in the NC bar and a highly respected litigator. While I understand completely his duty and desire to defend his clients, I saw nothing in his comments to the Winston-Salem Journal that would have protected his clients in any legal forum, period. His tactics were regrettable and misguided, assuming tactics were even what they were.

    As usual, I must ignore your provocative comments regarding my professional association with the programs you mentioned. I’m happy to discuss them with you offline, but this blog is not the appropriate forum for such debates. Again, thanks for your comments.

  7. Pingback: Falsely Accused » More on Roger Canaff and Title IX

  8. ksf

    Roger,

    Perhaps in Manhattan a white girl felating a black man would not bring any shame to her, however, here in the South if you fail to consider the racial issue, then you are naive. And before you go calling me some kind of racist, I agree that interracial sexual relations should not matter to anyone even in the South, but the reality is that they do. And, as a former prosecutor, if you fail to consider that possibility, then do a little research on how many lynchings occurred in the South where a white girl with a slight case of jungle fever falsely accused a black man of raping her.

    As for choosing your words carefully, you said that Mr. Grace “viciously smeared” Ms. Hurt. No, he didn’t. He countered, in a local newspaper mind you, the accusations Ms. Hurt made on the #1 morning television news show in America. I would not have been as gracious in my comments, no pun intended.

    And the name is Fischer with a “c.”

    ksf

  9. Roger Canaff Post author

    Apologies for misspelling your name, Counselor.

    I was educated in the South, specifically North Carolina, from undergrad through law school. I moved to Virginia in 1970, three years after the case of Loving v. Virginia finally struck down the Commonwealth’s anti-miscegenation law, which stubbornly survived until the year of my birth. I grew up in Loudoun County, not far from Dulles Airport, an area now fully engulfed in the regionally-neutral culture of the DC area. However, in the 1970’s and early 80’s when I was there, it felt strongly Southern and hosted many of those dynamics, good and bad. Some of my most influential close friends and mentors have deeply Southern roots and identities. Ms. Cooper, who responded to you earlier in this thread, is one such friend. So trust me when I say that I am not ignorant to the dynamics you invoke when it comes to race and sexuality. Please re-read what I wrote to you. I admitted, tragically, that race was a factor in this case. It had to be simply because of the skin color of those involved. However, as I said, you are the only person I’ve heard seek to drag it to the surface, and that includes Mr. Grace himself.

    And of course, your use of it is designed to cast doubt on Ms Hurt’s allegations through some fantasy you apparently have about how often white women get the vapors and falsely accuse black men of sexually assaulting them. I am not suggesting that you are a racist; for everything else you say that I find objectionable, I detect nothing like that in you. However, as for the relationship between lynchings and sexuality in the American South, I strongly disagree that the cause was usually a “white girl with a slight case of jungle fever.” Rather, when it came to sexually charged lynching, the cause was almost always white men with strong cases of myth-driven obsession with black male stereotypes. White women didn’t have to cry anything falsely in order to have a black man lynched at the itching hands of the men who perpetrated these murders. Emmit Till wasn’t falsely accused of anything by a white woman, for instance. Till was not a Southerner but was visiting Mississippi from Chicago. Not infused enough with the terror most black men and boys held for Southern white women, he dared, apparently, to “flirt” with her (he was 14 and she was 21). For this capital offense, he was beaten, shot through the head, and mutilated. So please don’t suggest that lynching, one of the most deeply shameful aspects of American culture and history, was at its a core a problem of false allegations of sexual assault. Instead, myths of sexuality simply provided a gleeful excuse for for murderous, psychopathic thugs to rip apart other human beings in a continued effort to terrorize and control them. Had they not had those myths, another “offense” would have been dreamed up and would have sufficed.

  10. Carol Herman

    Not only could the kid have drowned in the grandparent’s pool. The prosecutor didn’t have a single expert witness testifying differently.

    Even the duck tape was probably put on afterward. After the child’s death.

  11. Vicki Burke

    I am just now seeing this back and forth on the tragic issue of Maggie Hurt. How anyone in their right mind could not understand why she was afraid not to do as she was told is Naive! Whatever she may or may not have done previously, has No relevance. One minute she is conversing with fellow students, led to believe there is another party upstairs with MANY people and when the door is opened to a hotel room that is dark, she is forced into a dark bathroom room by a large, strong, powerful man (black or white I don’t care)made to kneel and was sexually assaulted. She was told someone was guarding the door, she was intimidated, scared and helpless. Her strength and courage to endure the assault, and then report it to possibly prevent this from happening to other women is amazing. The underreporting of young women being assaulted by college and pro athletes is why this continues. Google it, see how much money is spent covering these things up, shame heaped on victims, friends wanting to “side with the popular kids” and not standing with the victim. Wake up people, support and encourage these women when they have the nerve to report these horrendous attacks, don’t shred them and smear their names, just to make a buck and defend your clients. They know what they did and they knew how to get away with it. For one instance, imagine this being your sister or daughter. Maggie, hold your head high, you did nothing wrong. I am sorry so much was taken from you and I hope you will continue to be strong and rebuild your life and never be afraid to stand up for what is right, no matter the cost.

  12. CGM

    First, thank you Mr. Canaff for taking the words right out of my mouth.

    Second, KSF, threats do not have to be explicit; they can be implied. As in putting someone in a small room with someone else much larger and intimidating and then demanding, not asking, for a sexual favor. The situation is threatening; he didn’t have to tell her the threat because it was implied. This is also a perfect example of coercion. At the end of the day, can you really say that this sexual act occurred with Ms. Hurt’s full and free consent? No, it did not.

    It does not matter what she did or did not do earlier that night, it does not matter if she drank alcohol or engaged in consensual sex with someone else. What does matter here is that Mr. Grace’s client used an intimidating situation to compel Ms. Hurt into a sexual act, even after she said no. I’m not saying that these allegations are true, but since when is talking about sex or engaging in consensual sex a crime?

    The burden of consent for a sexual act is squarely on the shoulders of the person seeking the sexual act. Ms. Hurt was not intending to perform a sexual act, but the basketball player was. She squarely and definitively said “no,” so explain to me how that did NOT make it clear that she did not want to participate? Does he not understand English? Furthermore, since when does talking about sex mean that you want to or will do so with anyone at any time? The liberties you are taking with human behavior are ludicrous.

    I am a lifelong friend of Maggie. I’ve known her since we were in diapers, and when she told me what happened, I knew it was the truth. You don’t have the benefit of knowing her, of experiencing her pain firsthand, but don’t you have the spine to take a look at her face and feel an ounce of what it’s like to be her and do this in public?! No one, and I mean NO ONE, would put themselves through this level of exposure for no gain other than an attempt at justice.

    As a sexual assault victim myself, I know what it’s like to campaign for justice. To be called a liar and a whore and a slut simply for having my world destroyed through no fault of my own. I was told I was a flirt, for talking to someone! I thought it would be rude not to acknowledge the existence of another human being speaking directly to me; yet, this was used by a defense counsel as an example of my promiscuity (does that make sense? nope, sure doesn’t!). HOW DARE YOU, KSF, defend someone who smears victims of sexual assault. You cannot know the damage this does to a victim. And don’t try to claim “what about the damage done to someone falsely accused?” because the simple truth about sexual assault is, for every one false accusation there are innumerable actual sexual assaults that are not pursued in the justice system because of the vicious, disgusting, inhumane attacks against victims such as those by Mr. Grace. Furthermore, one cannot even compare the psychological damage of false accusation to sexual assault. The trauma of false accusation only lasts until the case is cleared by truth; however, the pain of sexual assault lasts a lifetime.

    Instead of talking about grace (my middle name in fact), we should talk about the DISgrace brought upon the legal community by defense attorneys attacking victims. Mr. Grace is a disgusting human being and so is anyone who agrees with him or protects him. Shame on you, KSF.

    Finally, this story is not about race, and it’s only tangentially about victim shaming. What it’s really about is Title IX protections and how WFU willfully violated them. I happen to be an unwitting expert regarding such sexual assault trials, because I endured one myself against an entire fraternity at the University of Virginia. UVA treated both parties fairly, explained our rights, and gave us both options to have outside legal counsel. Although the trial was not perfect, the school made an active effort to protect me and to stop victim bullying in its tracks (some of the frat boys tried to harass me during class and follow me around grounds, not to mention the extensive and invasive questioning regarding my sexual history during the trial). Throughout the entire process we were both treated fairly and I had an arsenal of psychological and academic counseling at my disposal, which helped my rehabilitation and enabled me to graduate with honors on time. Those same opportunities were expressly DENIED Ms. Hurt by WFU. The 3-ring circus WFU called a sexual assault trial was a grotesque exercise in misogyny and nothing else. The DOE claims that it will call schools to account who bully victims, but they have NEVER done so in the history of Title IX protections despite the enormous amount of complaints against universities (Mich State, Univ. of Pacific, Colorado, Notre Dame, and WFU, to name a few). You harp on victims, KSF, but what about fair treatment at school?

  13. Roger Canaff Post author

    CGM, thank you for your comment. I’m sorry that you were victimized yourself, and of course grateful that you can provide the kind of loving support to Maggie as a lifelong friend. I agree with you that threats can be implied, and I believe that is what occurred here. I also agree 100% with you that obtaining consent for sexual contact is completely the responsibility of the person seeking the contact, period. There doesn’t need to be a “gray area” and I don’t understand why so many men think there often is by necessity. It’s really very simple- ask, be gentle, and make positively sure that the person you’re with wants to be with you. And if they appear too intoxicated, tired or otherwise ‘out of it’ to provide clear, lucid, enthusiastic consent to what’s happening, leave them be.

    I actually don’t think Mr. Grace, the attorney in this case, is a bad person or a bad lawyer, but I do think his actions in publicly attacking Ms. Hurt were completely uncalled for. I’m not sure if KSF will answer your comment, but if so I’m sure he’ll have plenty to say. Again, thank you. I’m glad that your experience undergoing the disciplinary process as UVA was a positive one (except for the intimidation by the fraternity members and the invasive questioning, of course). I wish more women in the campus environment could say the same. When you again communicate with Maggie, please pass on my best wishes and my admiration for the courage she has shown in dealing with her victimization and the sub-standard response to it.

  14. ksf

    CGM,

    Since you know Ms. Hurt so well, can you please answer these three questions:

    What did Mr. Clark say when he demanded that Ms. Hurt perform oral sex on him?

    What caused Ms. Hurt to believe that if she said, “No,” her life would be in danger?

    Is John Clune going to make, or has he made, a demand in writing to Mr. Clark or Mr. Teague for a monetary settlement?

    ksf

    p.s. for what it is worth to Ms. Burke, if my wife, mother, sister, or future daughter was in the same factual situation that I read in the police report and heard on the Today show regarding Ms. Hurt, my response would be the same.

  15. CGM

    1) I do not know verbatim what Mr. Clark asked Maggie, but he asked her to perform oral sex (a fact to which they both agree).

    2) UMM the situation?! Have you ever been shoved from behind into a small room with someone much larger and stronger than you and asked to perform a sex act? Yeah, I’d be terrified, too. Most people don’t explicitly state how they might hurt you, they use the circumstances to imply such matters, which is what Mr. Clark did.

    3) The Hurt Family would never ask for money in this case for 2 very good reasons: 1) how would money fix any of this? Maggie is seeking justice, not a paycheck. 2) Financially, there is nothing Mr. Teague or Mr. Clark could offer that would be worth a hoot to the Hurts other than perhaps legal expenses. The last part is only my speculation, but I know them and money is NOT what they are after.

    As an aside, I pity every woman close to you for your heartless, spineless, and ignorant opinions.

  16. ksf

    1) He asked her? And, she did what was asked? That is not forced.

    2) If I got invited to a party, then got shoved into a bathroom where I was asked to give a man twice as big as me a blow job, then I would tell him no, and I would attempt to walk away. You know she said nothing to the Miami PD about being “shoved” into the bathroom.

    3) CGM, you didn’t answer my question. It is a very simple yes or no question: Is John Clune going to make, or has he made, a demand in writing to Mr. Clark or Mr. Teague for a monetary settlement? I don’t care who needs money, or what legal expenses need to be paid. Did her attorney, who ironically happens to be the same high profile victim’s advocate’s attorney who represented the woman who accused Kobe, make or has he made a demand to these players for a monetary settlement, yes or no?

    With regards to your aside, I no longer associate with women who share the reason and accountability of Ms. Hurt. My wife would not have had indiscriminate sex with a male cheerleader, then started creeping through the halls of a hotel, nor would she engage in a conversation with two basketball players she found in the halls about how much she liked oral sex, nor would she agree to go to their hotel room, nor would she go into a bathroom in a hotel room with a man she met in the hallway of a hotel, nor would she agree to blow a man and allow him to ejaculate in her mouth merely because he ‘asked.’

    My opinion that Ms. Hurt should have said ‘No’ or used her teeth for defense is not heartless. What is heartless is to have oral sex with someone then accuse them of the most heinous crime there is, other than murder.

    As far as being spineless, I am far from it. You can’t be if you are a criminal defense attorney. It is one of the most hated jobs one can have. And, everybody hates them until they or someone they love is falsely accused of a crime. That’s the hypocrisy with people like you. I guarantee if Jeff Teague or Gary Clark was your son, the first person you would call would be the most experienced sex assault defense attorney you could find. I have quite a few acquittals under my belt where I have done battle against the full weight of the US Government with all their resources. I have been a prosecutor and I can easily do what Roger does and used to do. Who doesn’t love an ethical prosecutor? Many times, the only person who likes me is the very unpopular person sitting next to me whose family and friends has left him and his life is in my hands.

    As far as being ignorant, my wife has the same opinion when she saw the Today show clip. Ms. Hurt is not telling the truth. Funny how Miami PD and WFU didn’t do anything, either.

    And finally, I would imagine that if you actually have a man who is close to you, then he is the one who is probably heartless, spineless, and ignorant because I can imagine only a man with those qualities would voluntarily stay with a hateful and bitter person like yourself.

  17. Roger Canaff Post author

    KSF, I would challenge you on a few assertions here- I realize this is a fairly no-holds-barred argument at this point, but you are assuming that Maggie Hurt did all of these things (had sex with a male cheerleader earlier that evening, talked about liking oral sex in front of others, etc). Does Mr. Grace (the attorney who put these “facts” forward in the Winston-Salem paper) know this from anyone other than the accused players? As I’ve said, even if she did do these things it doesn’t lessen her victimization or her right to be legally vindicated (yes, I’m assuming the allegation is valid- you know me well enough by now). But regardless I don’t think it’s at all certain that she did any of these things. Rather, and unless I see better evidence otherwise, I’m assuming these characterizations (and you even add one by suggesting she was “creeping around”) are simply manufactured aspects of this crime that serve to more fully demonize her and deflect what these men did.

    Secondly, you’re assuming there is a “right and wrong” approach to defending oneself in a traumatic or potentially traumatic situation. One absolutely cannot assert that a victim of sexual violence is in any way obligated to react in any particular way to a non-consensual or potentially non-consensual encounter. In fairness, of course there are legal limits- a person who gives no negative signals at all to a sex partner is someone who will have a difficult time asserting that the encounter was non-consensual from a legal standpoint; that’s just a fact (and I’d argue that those situations almost never produce accusations anyway).

    But generally, there is no way of knowing how a person will react in a situation that seems physically intimidating. And consent is not something a person is allowed to assume on the part of his/her partner. So here’s a hint for the men out there who are unsure as to the consent of their potential sex partners when an act is about to begin: Guys, it’s on YOU to obtain clear, unequivocal, enthusiastic consent to ANY sexual activity, whatsoever. You are not allowed to assume consent. You’re not allowed or within rights to “sort of figure she was into it” because of what she might have done earlier, what you’ve heard she’s done, what she looks like she’d do, or anything else.

    That’s it. That’s all there is to it. I’m certainly not putting you (KSF) into that category of confusion, but I have a feeling you probably have defended a few men who claimed to be there when it came to sexual activity. I find that confusion morally AND legally unreasonable. It’s just not that hard to avoid. The legal question is a more difficult one, of course- that’s where attorneys like us do battle.

    KSF, you’re relentlessly focusing on the victim’s actions here which is your job as a criminal defense attorney, but it’s not a view I will let go unchallenged. The accused players here were many pounds heavier than she was. However she got there, she was in a small enclosed space with the one whom the act was performed on while another apparently waited outside. That, sir, is a highly potentially intimidating situation no matter how it got to be that way or who crept where. At that point, at very least, the accused player should have stopped, stood back, and asked her if she knew where she was, how she got there, and if she was interested in proceeding further. Sorry, but that’s not too much to ask. I don’t believe any of that happened, and I certainly don’t believe that Maggie Hurt simply enjoyed herself, left the situation, and then decided to tear her life apart, deeply tarnish and alter (if not outright ruin) her college career and bring upon herself the ordeal she’s been through simply because she felt like it would a great idea (or even a lucrative one, as you insinuate) to do so. Sorry, but that just really doesn’t happen very much. At all. I’ll bet my life that it didn’t happen here.

    I do agree with you that the job of a criminal defense attorney can be thankless (I did that job with a small firm in Alexandria, VA for about nine months before starting as an ADA) and I don’t envy what defense attorneys must often deal with, including public scorn, the pressure of having a person’s freedom and future in their hands, etc. I respect defense attorneys very much as long as they are ethical, and I also don’t define ethical the same way for defense attorneys as I do for prosecutors. Defense attorneys can and must, in my view, be more aggressive where ethical lines are concerned while at the same time not crossing them. Prosecutors can and must stay far within those lines. Again, another thing that often makes our job easier- not for victory, but for justice, which is our job anyway. I salute you for standing between your client and the entire world- to me that’s one of the most honorable and noble things about being an attorney, whatever the cause and whatever the character of the accused. And I’ll go you one better- you don’t have to have a falsely accused loved one to want a good defense attorney for him or her. I’ve had people close to me who were charged with crimes and who were guilty (although thankfully nothing involving violence of any kind, at least not yet). I wanted those loved ones represented ethically and competently, but also zealously. That’s our system.

  18. Maggie Hurt

    Roger,

    I wanted to sincerely thank you for this letter. It really means a lot to me that you are a believer in my story.

    Maggie Hurt

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