Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Rape, Injustice, Anger

(Two Maine papers declined to publish this in 2005 when I submitted it - afraid of lawsuits, they said. Only one paper in New Hampshire, The Conway Daily Sun, ran it. Now that I have a blog, I've decided to put it out there again.)

A fourteen-year-old retarded girl was abducted from the Maine Mall and raped two years ago. Three Nigerian immigrants were arrested and charged with gross sexual assault. Newspaper and television coverage was widespread and, this being every parent’s nightmare, a lot of people heard about it. Very few, however, know how it finally turned out. I didn’t know myself until the girl’s mother, Laurie Stanley from Bridgton, called me. She was crying with frustration and asked me to write about it.

The Nigerians got away with it, essentially, and this fact was all but ignored by local media. Charges against Kingsley Nwaturocha were dropped. Dan Eneagu and Okey Chukwurah pled guilty to misdemeanor assault. Eneagu got a suspended sentence and two years probation. Chukwurah got a $1000 fine. That’s it. The Portland Press Herald ran a tiny news brief buried in the December 10, 2003 issue, saying: “A Nigerian man accused of raping a 14-year-old Gorham girl in Old Orchard Beach last year has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges and has been released after his attorneys said the man would receive a death sentence if deported.”

The York County District Attorney’s office contacted Laurie Stanley the day before trial to tell her that Eneagu would be killed in Nigeria if he were deported. “Is that what you want?” a woman from the DA’s office asked her over the phone. “As mad as I was that they raped my daughter,” she said, “I didn’t want that. I didn’t want them to die.” I listened silently. “What would you have done?”

“If they raped my daughter,” I said, “execution would be fine with me.”

Semen found in the girl matched Eneagu’s DNA. A rape conviction would have been a slam-dunk, yet the DA’s office offered a plea bargain on the belief that the men would be deported and executed in Nigeria if convicted of felony rape. That seemed suspicious to me. Checking into it, I discovered that a rape conviction is extremely difficult under Islamic law and it would have been highly unlikely for those men charged with rape in Maine to be accountable there. I called Eneagu’s attorney, Nicholas Mahoney, several times to ask where he got his information but he didn’t return my calls.

Islamic law, or “Shari’a,” considers a woman’s testimony worth only half that of a man’s. Robert Spencer, author of “Islam Unveiled,” wrote in his article “Rape in Islam: Blaming the Victim” that four Muslim male witnesses are required for a conviction and that “without these witnesses and a confession from the accused rapist, the victim will stand condemned by her very accusation: she wasn’t raped, so she must be guilty of zina.” Zina, under Islamic Law, is sexual activity outside of marriage. In Nigeria, women found guilty of zina are sentenced to death by stoning.

York County Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Moskowitz negotiated Eneagu’s plea bargain and I asked him if he verified the defense attorney’s execution claim. He told me he called the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, but they had no idea about it. Then, he consulted an immigration lawyer in Portland, who referred him to “a Nigerian” in Portland whose opinion was that “there was a good chance Eneagu would be killed.” When I related what I had learned about Islamic law, he said I was comparing apples to oranges because Eneagu would have been deported already convicted, and would not likely be re-tried in Nigeria. When I asked Moskowitz if he thought justice was done, he said he had no regrets about how he handled the case and would do the same thing again.

I called the immigration lawyer Moskowitz talked to, an attorney name George Hepner. He said he didn’t have an opinion about Eneagu at the time and referred Moskowitz to Najim Animashaun of South Portland. Animashaun is Muslim, a practicing attorney in Maine. He has also practiced in the UK and in Nigeria. He told me he didn’t specifically recall consulting with Moskowitz on the Eneagu case either, although he might have. He said he often discusses hypotheticals concerning certain legal cases and does remember talking to Eneagu’s attorney, Nick Mahoney. He told me it was very unlikely Eneagu would have been executed. Eneagu is not a Muslim and Islamic law is only applied to Muslims. He said though Islamic law is practiced only in some parts of Nigeria and death sentences are often made, they’re seldom carried out. When I asked why, he said Islamic officials are afraid of executing someone wrongly because they themselves would be accountable in the afterlife if they made a mistake.

Laurie Stanley called me originally, not just because the men were never convicted of rape, but also because she read another tiny news brief in the Portland Press Herald that day last September about Kingsley Nwaturocha against whom the rape charge was dropped. He was granted $95,000 because he claimed to have been beaten by corrections officers at the York County Jail while awaiting trial. “I was trying to get my daughter into a residential school to protect her because it was getting to point that I couldn’t handle her,” Stanley said. “I was afraid she might go off with someone like she did at the Maine Mall, but the school wouldn’t pay for it and the state wouldn’t either. And now he gets all that money. My daughter was raped, bitten, and burned with a cigarette. They gave her herpes. She had to be tested for AIDS. She was robbed of her innocence, and he gets $95,000!”

Stanley found an attorney willing to file suit against Nwaturocha, but he discovered that the Nigerian had gotten his payoff three months earlier and moved to Maryland. Believing the money to be gone by then and because it would be difficult to file suit in a state so far away, the attorney dropped the case. Stanley’s frustration became unbearable and she wanted the story told. After seeing how everything turned out, she wishes now the men were executed.

My inquiries into this sad case produced as many questions as answers. Why didn’t the York County DA’s office scrutinize the defense’s execution claims more closely? Why didn’t they just enforce Maine law instead of worrying about Nigerian law? Why would the local media virtually ignore the plea bargain? Were they afraid of public outrage? Was it overzealous opposition to the death penalty? Why delay reporting the $95,000 settlement for three months? Was it sympathy for immigrants? Whatever it was, two of those men are still here, free to walk among us, and they don’t have to register as sex offenders because they were never convicted of rape.


tomax7 said...

...welcome to the age of political enlightenment, otherwise known as correctness.

What a sick society we are in.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I've lived in Maine for 3 years now, and "Correctness" is not a word that I could ever use.

There has to be more to it.

I'll look for your follow ups.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I think there was a definite element of political correctness in this case. The big newpapers ignored it and they ignored this column as well. Only one of the three papers I wrote for at the time would run it. The others were just plain scared, but only one would admit it.

The Portland Press Herald played down the adjudication of the case after playing up the abduction of a 14-year-old retarded girl from the Maine Mall. None of the details you read above made it into the Press Herald or the Sun Journal.

Compare this to how those papers covered the pig's head in the mosque and the ham on the cafeteria table at Lewiston High. This was an abduction and sexual assault of a 14-year-old retarded girl.

Of course political correctness was part of it. Maybe three years in Maine hasn't been enough for you to see this around you. Where do you come from? Berkeley? Cambridge?

Anonymous said...

Basically one has to wonder how long can we look the other way ignoring the elephant in the room.

Granted there may be 'more to it' the simple fact remains we strain at a gnat while swallowing a camel.

What are our kids learning from all this? Crime does pay.

Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

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