The D.C. legal community was rocked today with news that Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts has resigned after being accused of a sexual assault when he served as a prosecutor in a high-profile case 35 years ago. The alleged victim was a teenage witness who has not sued Roberts.
Roberts retired the day the lawsuit was filed and said that his resignation was based on medical advice for an unspecified disability.
Terry Mitchell, now 51, accuses Roberts of sexually abused her multiple times throughout the trial of white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin who was executed in 2003. Franklin killed two black joggers in Salt Lake City in 1980. Mitchell was wounded in the same attack.
Mitchell says that Roberts met her about the case then took her to dinner. She said that she was still traumatized by the attack and that Roberts took advantage of her and lured her into his hotel room. She alleges that she continued to abuse her over the next several weeks before and during the trial. She further alleges that she was kept silent about the sex because Roberts told her that any disclosure before or after the trial would result in Franklin’s conviction being tossed out.
The lawsuit involves a claim of suppressed memories that were recalled after Roberts contacted Mitchell in 2013 by email after Franklin’s execution for another killing in Missouri, according to court documents.
Roberts admits that he had a relationship and “that the relationship was indeed a bad lapse in judgment. However, the relationship did not occur until after the trial and had no bearing on the outcome of that trial.”
That does not appear to be the view of the Utah attorney general who sent the result of his investigation to several congressional committees.
Notably, one claim that is not present in the case is statutory rape. At 16-year-old, Mitchell was considered old enough under state laws at the time to consent to sex. The allegations might have made for an interesting impeachment move since they occurred long before Roberts was made a judge. His resignation will forestall such an effort but the civil lawsuit will expose Roberts to discovery and a potential trial.
16 thoughts on “Chief Judge In Washington Resigns After Woman Alleges Sexual Assault From His Time As A Prosecutor”
Something about this stinks. I don’t trust any of it.
Squeeky Fromm, Girl Reporter, Yes, absolutely. However, you are asking people to act and think with a level of maturity that is no longer popular.
“I don’t care a hoot about the “victim” in all this, any more than I care about all of Cosby’s alleged “victims.” If you are of legal age, and have sex with somebody, don’t come back 20 to 40 years later and whine about it.”
JUDGE, n. A person who is always interfering in disputes in which he has no personal interest.
JURY, n. A number of persons appointed by a court to assist the attorneys in preventing law from degenerating into justice.
There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy.
The defendant was executed two years ago, so he can’t challenge his conviction on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct. I wonder if his family has standing to sue? Probably not…..interesting question though.
We will hear all the sordid details in due time. But I rather doubt he slept with her AFTER the trial. He was a D.C. Federal prosecutor in Salt Lake City just for the trial. She was a local high school girl and witness. I doubt that travel records exist after all this time, but in the normal course of events, the trial team shows up before the trial to prep the witnesses, etc, and departs immediately after the trial. Either that evening or the next morning.
Years ago I worked with Special Agent for my federal agency. He was in his mid-20s and working as a member of the trial team. Over the weekend, he took a female witness for a drive to Yosemite. They had lunch and later dinner; then he dropped her off. It was definitely a date, but no sex. Nonetheless, he was fired for violating the agency’s “no fraternization” rule. He hired an attorney and sued to get his job back but lost. But DOJ is very forgiving when it comes to attorney misconduct.
What Squeeky said.
So if this account is correct, the Judge contacted the victim by e-mail in 2013, which creeped her out and caused the memories to come flooding back. The guy definitely has poor judgement. He got away with it for 35 years and now his career is toast. As is his reputation. I suspect the “unspecified medical condition” which forced his retirement is high blood pressure. LOL.
Kerry: Thanks for the video. I remember watching the defense’s opening statement in the Smith case as part of a trial advocacy program I was attending. It appeared that Roy Black’s reputation had so rattled a very young deputy prosecutor that she objected to what were innocuous facts within a minute and was quickly overrruled. Not a way to show confidence in your case, and a great teaching moment. And in the video you linked, one can infer from the questioning that the deputy prosecutor wasn’t prepared well-enough to direct her primary witness, the victim.
Perhaps the County Prosecutor made a huge error in assigning this case to a less than very experienced deputy prosecutor. Or, perhaps it was planned error?
That said, there are lots of overworked very young deputy DAs and city attorneys assigned to criminal domestic violence cases here in San Diego that have to deal with very experienced defense counsel.
I don’t care a hoot about the “victim” in all this, any more than I care about all of Cosby’s alleged “victims.” If you are of legal age, and have sex with somebody, don’t come back 20 to 40 years later and whine about it. If you are raped, and don’t report it, then I have no respect for you. You are allowing your rapist to do it to someone else. The only issue here is, did the guy sleep with her during or after the trial. If after, sleezy. If during, misconduct.
Did he hope to evade the authorities by growing that groovy beard?
How Willy Kennedy Smith got out of a date rape. In 1991, Smith was tried and acquitted on a charge of rape. He was represented by prominent Miami-based criminal defense attorney Roy Black.
Something like this will get you a bad rap. And if you rap instead if rape then there are few statutes against it. (..”statutory rap”) But he judge is now retired at age 51 and go back to practicing something or other. Criminal case? Statute of limitations probably says no. He has a bumper sticker which says “Pork em If Ya Gotem”. So why did the person exercise the right to remain silent for all these years? Maybe she enjoyed the sex back then. Maybe she misses it. Maybe they should get together. Birds of a feather flock together.
Repressed memories from 35 years ago? That condition seems to be quite in vogue these days. What? Did her lawyer tell her that some statute of limitations had run and that she needed to feign this exceedingly rare condition to proceed with any type of lawsuit? While I fully understand how, in certain extreme circumstances, traumatizing and brutal experiences could cause the mind to shut down and repress memories as a coping mechanism, I fail to grasp how these multiple, voluntary, planned meetings and sexual encounters would fit the bill. Note, this in no way serves to justify any prosecutorial misconduct on his part, but pulling the ole repressed memories shtick to get a case filed? Puh-leez. She needs a better excuse than that for remaining silent for all of these decades.
‘You reap what you sow.’
Prosecutorial misconduct, again. One of the worst things a lawyer can do.
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