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History > 2013 > USA > Violence (I)



5 Dead in Brooklyn Stabbing


October 27, 2013
The New York Times


Five people were killed in a stabbing in Brooklyn on Saturday night, officials said.

The authorities responded to reports of a stabbing around 11 p.m. at a home on 57th Street near Ninth Avenue, in Sunset Park, the police said. A suspect was in custody late Saturday.

Some of the victims were young children, the police said. Officials were investigating whether the suspect was related to any of the victims.

Three victims were found dead at the scene when emergency personnel arrived, fire officials said. One victim was later pronounced dead at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, and another was pronounced dead at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn.

    5 Dead in Brooklyn Stabbing, NYT, 27.10.2013,






High School Sexual Assault Cas

Is Revisited, Haunting Missouri Town


October 19, 2013
The New York Times


MARYVILLE, Mo. — The mayor of this small manufacturing town in northwest Missouri hardly blinks an eye these days when he gets an e-mail that calls him an unflattering name in the subject line. Those tend to be the tame ones. Others cut much deeper.

“ ‘May you never sleep at night again, and may your soul burn eternally in hell’ — that’s commonplace now,” said the mayor, Jim Fall, recalling one of the hundreds of messages that flooded his in-box last week.

Ever since The Kansas City Star ran a long article last Sunday raising new questions about the Nodaway County prosecutor’s decision to drop charges against a 17-year-old football player accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, the simplicity of small-town life here has been complicated by a storm of negative attention.

Some of the furor was tempered last week when the prosecutor, Robert L. Rice, asked a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to take a new look at the case. But the request is pending, and tensions remain high.

Local officials (even some, like Mr. Fall, who have nothing to do with the case), families and students say they have received threats. Businesses say customers have stayed away to avoid the reporters from around the globe. The Sheriff’s Department has taken down its Web site because of hacking threats.

And so a town of about 12,000, whose high school football team was praised a few years back for allowing a boy with Down syndrome to score a touchdown, now finds itself facing threats and scorn.

“Doesn’t matter how you view the situation happened,” said Steve Klotz, the assistant superintendent for the Maryville School District. “We’re all now in a position where we have an uneasy feeling about what does this mean for our town.”

The case resembles an episode in Steubenville, Ohio, in which two high school football players were convicted this year of raping a drunken girl at a party.

In that case, and in this, much of the outrage has been driven by social media, with the hacking collective Anonymous among the most vocal players, lashing out against people that it believes have failed or mistreated the accuser. The group has organized a rally to be held here on Tuesday. The accuser, Daisy Coleman, now 16, has spoken out publicly in the hope that she can help garner enough support to have her case reconsidered.

The community was shocked almost two years ago when Matt Barnett, then a senior at Maryville High School and the grandson of a once-prominent local politician, was arrested in January 2012 on charges that he had sex with Ms. Coleman, a freshman who the authorities said had been too drunk to consent. Under Missouri law, consensual sex between Mr. Barnett and Ms. Coleman would not be statutory rape because he was under 21 and she was at least 14. Two other boys were arrested — one, a 15-year-old, on charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl, and another 17-year-old on charges that he filmed Mr. Barnett and Ms. Coleman.

The authorities had alleged that Ms. Coleman and a friend had been drinking before they sneaked out of Ms. Coleman’s house late that frigid night in January and went to Mr. Barnett’s home, where he was hanging out with several friends. Ms. Coleman said in an interview that she drank a clear liquid in a tall glass when she arrived and could not remember anything after that.

Eyewitness accounts say that Ms. Coleman went into a room with Mr. Barnett and that she had to be carried out afterward because she was so drunk, although one of Mr. Barnett’s friends told the police that the pair went into a room on two separate occasions and that it was only after the second time that Ms. Coleman could not walk on her own.

The 13-year-old went into a different room with the 15-year-old boy. He admitted to having sex with her even though she said no, according to the authorities. (His case went to juvenile court.)

Mr. Barnett and his friends drove Ms. Coleman and her friend back to her house. Melinda Coleman, Ms. Coleman’s mother, said she found her barely conscious in front of the house around 5 a.m., wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt. She called the police, and her daughter was taken to the hospital, where she was found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.13 percent, well above the legal limit for driving.

Mr. Barnett admitted to having sex with Ms. Coleman but said it was consensual and disputed the claim that he had left her out in the cold in front of her house.

It didn’t take long for the town to take sides.

Ms. Coleman said she was harassed at school and on Facebook and Twitter. In one instance, she said, she was walking to the bathroom at school when a boy popped into the hallway and yelled “Liar!” at her.

“We had a handful of people that were really good to us, and we had a handful of people that just completely stayed out of it,” Ms. Coleman said. “But then we had a large group of people that were not so kind towards us.”

Her mother chimed in: “I would say it was pretty split. The people that were against us were so aggressively against us and so verbal and so hateful.”

Unable to withstand the harassment, the Colemans, who had moved to Maryville after the death of Ms. Coleman’s father, returned to their hometown, Albany, about 30 miles away. Their house in Maryville burned down after they left, and the cause remains unknown.

Mr. Rice, who declined to be interviewed, dismissed the charges months after they were filed, saying Ms. Coleman and her mother had stopped cooperating, something they both denied.

Mr. Barnett’s lawyer, Robert Sundell, also declined to be interviewed but released a statement accusing Ms. Coleman of inconsistent testimony at a deposition and changing her story several times. Ms. Coleman says she never changed her account of what happened that night, and Sheriff Darren White agrees.

“I think that they have been fairly consistent with that portion of it,” he said. But Sheriff White, who said he believed that Ms. Coleman had been sexually assaulted, also blamed the dropping of the case on her lack of cooperation.

Adam Clark, 32, who has lived here for about a decade, said he and a friend drove to a town about 45 minutes away on a recent evening to see a movie, to “kind of get breathing space from all the activity, the negativity.”

He said he had not taken a side in the case and welcomed a re-examination. “One thing about us here,” he said, “if there’s a problem, we’ll fix it.”


Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

    High School Sexual Assault Case Is Revisited,
    Haunting Missouri Town, 19.10.2013,






Felony Counts for 2

in Suicide of Bullied 12-Year-Old


October 15, 2013
The New York Times


MIAMI — For the Polk County sheriff’s office, which has been investigating the cyberbullying suicide of a 12-year-old Florida girl, the Facebook comment was impossible to disregard.

In Internet shorthand it began “Yes, ik” — I know — “I bullied Rebecca nd she killed herself.” The writer concluded that she didn’t care, using an obscenity to make the point and a heart as a perverse flourish. Five weeks ago, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, a seventh grader in Lakeland in central Florida, jumped to her death from an abandoned cement factory silo after enduring a year, on and off, of face-to-face and online bullying.

The Facebook post, Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County said, was so offensive that he decided to move forward with the arrest immediately rather than continue to gather evidence. With a probable cause affidavit in hand, he sent his deputies Monday night to arrest two girls, calling them the “primary harassers.” The first, a 14-year-old, is the one who posted the comment Saturday, he said. The second is her friend, and Rebecca’s former best friend, a 12-year-old.

Both were charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony and will be processed through the juvenile court system. Neither had an arrest record. The older girl was taken into custody in the juvenile wing of the Polk County Jail. The younger girl, who the police said expressed remorse, was released to her parents under house arrest.

Originally, Sheriff Judd said he had hoped to wait until he received data from two far-flung cellphone application companies, Kik Messenger and ask.fm, before moving forward.

“We learned this over the weekend, and we decided that, look, we can’t leave her out there,” Sheriff Judd said, referring to the older girl. “Who else is she going to torment? Who else is she going to harass? Who is the next person she verbally abuses and attacks?”

He said the older girl told the police that her account had been hacked, and that she had not posted the comment.

“She forced this arrest today,” Sheriff Judd said.

Rebecca was bullied from December 2012 to February 2013, according to the probable cause affidavit. But her mother, Tricia Norman, has said the bullying began long before then and continued until Rebecca killed herself.

The older of the two girls acknowledged to the police that she had bullied Rebecca. She said she had sent Rebecca a Facebook message saying that “nobody” liked her, the affidavit said. The girl also texted Rebecca that she wanted to “fight” her, the police said. But the bullying did not end there; Rebecca was told to “kill herself” and “drink bleach and die” among other things, the police added.

The bullying contributed to Rebecca’s suicide, the sheriff said.

Brimming with outrage and incredulity, the sheriff said in a news conference on Tuesday that he was stunned by the older girl’s Saturday Facebook posting. But he reserved his harshest words for the girl’s parents for failing to monitor her behavior, after she had been questioned by the police, and for allowing her to keep her cellphone.

“I’m aggravated that the parents are not doing what parents should do: after she is questioned and involved in this, why does she even have a device?” Sheriff Judd said. “Parents, who instead of taking that device and smashing it into a thousand pieces in front of that child, say her account was hacked.”

The police said the dispute with Rebecca began over a boy. The older girl was upset that Rebecca had once dated her boyfriend, they said.

“She began to harass and ultimately torment Rebecca,” said the sheriff, describing the 14-year-old as a girl with a long history of bullying behavior.

The police said the older girl began to turn Rebecca’s friends against her, including her former best friend, the 12-year-old who was charged. She told anyone who tried to befriend Rebecca that they also would be bullied, the affidavit said.

The bullying leapt into the virtual world, Sheriff Judd said, and Rebecca began receiving sordid messages instructing her to “go kill yourself.” The police said Rebecca’s mother was reluctant to take her cellphone away because she did not want to alienate her daughter and wanted her to be able to communicate with her friends. Ms. Norman tried, she has said, to monitor Rebecca’s cellphone activity.

In December, the bullying grew so intense that Rebecca began cutting herself and was sent to a hospital by her mother to receive psychiatric care. Ultimately, her mother pulled her out of Crystal Lake Middle School. She home schooled her for a while and then enrolled her in a new school in August.

But the bullying did not stop.

“As a child, I can remember sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt you,” the sheriff said. “Today, words stick because they are printed and they are there forever.”

Some of the messages were sent using a variety of social media smartphone messaging and photo-sharing applications, including ask.fm and Kik Messenger, that parents have a difficult time keeping track of.

“Watch what your children do online,” Sheriff Judd said. “Pay attention. Quit being their best friend and be their best parent. That’s important.”

    Felony Counts for 2 in Suicide of Bullied 12-Year-Old, NYT, 15.10.2013,






Stabbing Victim Says Attacker

Had ‘a Dead, Methodical Look’


October 2, 2013
The New York Times


The attacker never said a word as he marched toward James Fayette and his child, a pair of bloody scissors in hand.

He did not say anything when he slashed at Mr. Fayette’s son or when the father put his body between the blades and his boy. He did not utter a sound as he twice plunged the scissors into Mr. Fayette’s chest.

And he remained silent as a bystander wrestled him to the ground and as he was being placed under arrest by the police.

“Not a word was said the entire time,” Mr. Fayette said on Wednesday from his hospital bed.

Mr. Fayette, speaking slowly just after having fluid drained from near his lungs, recalled in vivid detail a rampage on Tuesday morning that transformed a normally serene park along the Hudson River into a triage zone.

According to the police, the attacker stabbed or slashed five people in less than ten minutes. They arrested Julius Graham on Monday. Mr. Fayette recalled that his attacker had “a dead, methodical look in his eyes.”

The victims included two female joggers and a man walking his dog as well as Mr. Fayette and his 18-month-old son, Luke.

It was the latest in a series of violent attacks in recent months involving emotionally disturbed people, a reminder that even in a city where the murder count this year is on pace to set another record low, violence can still strike without warning.

“I think you have to rely on your worldview,” Mr. Fayette said. “I believe we live in a broken world. Bad things happen in New York and all over the world. This bad thing happened. But it could have been so much worse. My son could have been killed.”

Mr. Graham’s world, it appears, had been broken for some time.

He spent most of his life in Texas and arrived in New York City about a year ago, according to advocates for the homeless who were familiar with his movements.

There is no evidence that he ever sought or received psychiatric care in a city or state treatment center, according to advocates for the mentally ill, but medical records are confidential and the police declined to discuss his mental health history.

After his arrest, Mr. Graham, 43, was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center for a psychiatric evaluation and was charged with five counts of assault, criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest.

In the weeks before the attacks, he was staying at the Willow Avenue shelter in an industrial area of the Bronx.

Residents described the four-story brick building as strict and barren of even simple comforts, like reliable hot water.

While Mr. Graham was there, he would have slept in a communal room with nearly 100 beds, waking up at 5:30 a.m. for a breakfast of cereal and eggs. By the 8 p.m. curfew, he would have had to register for a bed or risk being locked out.

Mr. Graham did not like the place, residents said, and he tended to bounce between several shelters around the city.

Walter Davison, who has been staying at the Willow Avenue shelter, said Mr. Graham had wide mood swings.

“There was something about him that was a little off,” he said.

Taron Brown, who also stays at the Bronx shelter, described seeing Mr. Graham “switched off” as recently as Thursday. He was standing in the street, near the corner of 135th and Willow Avenue, Mr. Brown said, twitching and shouting at everyone and no one.

“He bugs out,” said Mr. Brown, 48.

As he made his way into Riverside Park on Tuesday, witnesses said, Mr. Graham stood out even before the attacks because of his vacant stare and threatening posture.

But as far as Mr. Fayette knew, it was just a beautiful day to take his son for a walk, which he said he tries to do every morning. A former principal dancer at the New York City Ballet and now a union representative, he lives on the Upper West Side and alternates his walks between Central Park and Riverside Park.

Even as the attacker began his rampage, Mr. Fayette, sitting with his son on the grass near a refurbished train car on display near 64th Street, had no idea what was coming his way.

The first sign of trouble was a woman screaming and throwing her water bottle at someone.

“She runs up and says ‘Help me! Help me! This man is trying to kill me,’ ” Mr. Fayette said.

The woman was the attacker’s third victim, but all Mr. Fayette knew was that she was in trouble and that he needed to help her and also protect his son.

“He is marching methodically toward us,” he said of the attacker. “I have my son in my arms. She is screaming, ‘Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!’ ”

With only seconds to react, Mr. Fayette told her to run south out of the park to get help while he ran north, trying to get to a place where he had seen some construction workers.

The attacker cut him off behind a bench.

“I am face to face with the attacker,” he said. “We are doing a sort of do-si-do. And then he lunges over the bench.”

Mr. Fayette fled, escaping for the moment. But as Mr. Fayette neared the construction site, the attacker got a hold of him from behind.

“My son is still in my arms and he is reaching over me with his left arm, slashing at my son,” he said. “I am trying to hold my son with one arm and grapple with my other arm.”

He then put his son down and placed his body between Luke and the crazed man.

The attacker plunged the weapon into Mr. Fayette’s upper-right chest first, then into his lower-left chest.

Still, Mr. Fayette fought.

As the two struggled, a bystander, Thomas Ciriacks, pulled the attacker away and wrestled him to the ground while Mr. Fayette kept his grip on the arm with the weapon.

Another jogger was holding Luke, trying to assess the seriousness of the child’s slash wound, and others rushed to help, including an emergency medical technician.

Within minutes, the police arrived and placed Mr. Graham under arrest. By then, Mr. Fayette said, the suspect had become docile, as if whatever had motivated the attack had suddenly left him.

Luke needed only a few stitches on his arm. Several others who were attacked were injured more seriously, but all the victims are expected to survive.

“I was really amazed and impressed with other New Yorkers,” Mr. Fayette said.

“I am going to move forward,” he said. “There is a concern in the back of my head that I might be a little more tentative. But I love this city and the people in it.”


Nate Schweber contributed reporting.


This article has been revised

to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 2, 2013

Because of an editing error,

an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated

when Julius Graham was arrested.

He was arrested on Tuesday, not Monday.

    Stabbing Victim Says Attacker Had ‘a Dead, Methodical Look’,
    NYT, 2.10.2013,






Fanciful Adieu for Victim

Who Saw World’s ‘Hidden Magic’


September 18, 2013
The New York Times


They quietly buried the man who had no business dying.

The next day, friends wearing fairy wings extended their own goodbyes.

Intermingled glimpses were shared. He was infectiously kind, cared deeply for his mother, revered steam locomotives, was enthralled with comic books and fairies. A modest life that stayed out of the public face, unnoticed and unremarked upon, the way it is with most lives. His unfortunate end got him the attention.

On the afternoon of Sept. 4, in Union Square, near the comic book store and gothic shop that he frequented, Jeffrey Babbitt, 62, was approached by an assailant who punched him in the face in what authorities deemed a random attack. The police said the attacker declared that he wanted to “punch the first white man” he saw.

Mr. Babbitt fell and struck his head hard on the pavement. He died on Sept. 9. The police arrested Martin Redrick, 40, a black man with a criminal past.

The funeral service was brief and small. It was just a graveside ceremony on Tuesday at the Beth El Cemetery in Paramus, N.J., where the family had a plot. A half-dozen mourners assembled under a luminous sky. There was his mother, Lucille Babbitt, 94; Reva Weiss, a family friend who accompanied her; Gwen Billig, who knew him as a fellow member of a railroad club, New York Railroad Enthusiasts; a casual acquaintance; and finally two strangers, spurred to come after reading about his death.

Ms. Billig showed a necklace with a fairy clipped to it. She said Mr. Babbitt had given it to her. For no occasion. He did things like that.

Mrs. Babbitt is a small woman with plaintive eyes, her vision and hearing diminished, her mind plenty sharp. She had been good and bad of late, and just the night before she was agonizing over how she was going to endure this day.

By no law of mercy should a mother have to bury her children. Lucille Babbitt was forced to do it for a second time. Last summer, she buried her daughter, lost to cancer. She was in the Paramus ground, beside her father and awaiting her brother.

Mr. Babbitt, a retired train hostler, the person who moves engines around railroad yards, lived with his mother in a brick apartment building in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He regularly visited Union Square, where he would linger for hours. He was well liked by the employees at his haunts: the Forbidden Planet comic store, the Gothic Renaissance store and the Halloween Adventure shop.

Some of these workers wanted to make the funeral. The logistics were difficult. So they would honor him the next day.

Beside the grave, Rabbi William Golub broke the quietude. He said, “This is like a puzzle, like a puzzle you find in a store and you open it up and it’s a mess.” He added: “Life is a puzzle. We don’t understand anything that is going on, especially something like this.”

He said, “A perfectly normal, functioning man going about his business is struck down by a senseless hate crime.”

New Jersey earth was shoveled over the coffin and that was that.

In the late afternoon on Wednesday at the entrance to Union Square Park, his other world flared to life. A scattering of friends amassed, wings on their back in deference to Mr. Babbitt’s fairy fascination.

Raine Anakanu, the assistant manager at Gothic Renaissance, was especially fond of Mr. Babbitt and had arranged the service. “He saw the world in a different way,” Mr. Anakanu said. “The hidden magic in the world. The beauty in things.”

Mr. Anakanu and his wife, Shonda Lynch, wore wings and held magic wands. They had a stash of spare wings for mourners wishing to adjust to the prearranged theme. Lauren Anderson, who also works at Gothic Renaissance, had made magical charms with Mr. Babbitt’s initials, available for the taking.

“He was so sweet,” Ms. Lynch said of Mr. Babbitt. “The last time I actually saw him he kissed me on the cheek and ran away.”

Diana Varga, who works at the Halloween store, said, “He would always talk about how fairies would make him happy and make him feel young.”

Mr. Anakanu asked one woman if she would like some wings, and she said, “To eat?”

Winged attendance was moderate and sporadic. Competition was severe in the park. Line dancers were performing behind them, as well as the musicians, as well as the rows of chess and backgammon games, and the guy offering free hugs.

Mr. Babbitt had been at Gothic Renaissance on the day he was attacked. He often bought fairy figurines and ornaments there. At Forbidden Planet, he purchased comic books. His favorite series was Grimm Fairy Tales, modern horror versions of classic fairy tales, infused with dark humor, that are published by Zenescope Entertainment. Having learned of his devotion, Zenescope plans to dedicate a coming issue to Mr. Babbitt.

Mr. Babbitt traveled to a lot of comic book, science fiction and fairy conventions, including the big FaerieCon festival. One of his important life moments, he had told Mr. Anakanu, was when he was baptized with fairy dust by Twig the Fairy, a character who appears at conventions and Renaissance fairs.

Imagine if Twig the Fairy came to the little memorial. Mr. Anakanu made an attempt to see if the actress who plays Twig could somehow squeeze this in. She was busy in Minnesota.

    Fanciful Adieu for Victim Who Saw World’s ‘Hidden Magic’, NYT, 19.9.2013,






Stubborn Cycle

of Runaways Becoming Prostitutes


September 15, 2013
The New York Times


At the age of 14, Ann ran away from home. She had been living with her aunt and uncle in the South Bronx, a situation made untenable, she said, because she was frequently being raped by her cousin.

With very few options on the street, Ann soon accepted an offer of housing from a man whom she began to think of as her boyfriend. Her view of him would change with each beating he administered, and the many paid sexual liaisons she would have for him.

He would take her to Manida Street, a section of the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx that is notorious for prostitution.

“I would go out there and I would give him the money,” said Ann, who is now 25, and, fearing retaliation, spoke on the condition that only her middle name be published. “And he would beat me up.”

Her experience is not unusual. The Justice Department has estimated that about 450,000 children run away from home every year and that one-third of teenagers on the street will be approached by a pimp within 48 hours of leaving home.

The situation can be particularly acute in New York City, where there are an estimated 3,800 homeless children but only 250 city-financed youth shelter beds.

In June, the City Council held a hearing to consider granting more funds for services for runaway and homeless youths; the Council ultimately decided against the request.

The money from the state that is funneled into the budget for beds and services for runaway and homeless youths has been cut more than half since 2008, to about $745,000.

A joint study released in May by Covenant House and Fordham University, which interviewed nearly 200 randomly selected runaway and homeless youths in New York City over the last year, found that nearly one in four participants either had been victims of trafficking or had exchanged sex for basic needs like food and shelter.

Of those participants, almost half reported doing so because they had no safe place to sleep.

“The stories look very, very similar. Depressingly similar,” said Rachel Lloyd, the founder and chief executive of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, or GEMS, an organization that provides services to youths in the city who are caught up in trafficking or otherwise exploited.

“There has been trauma, abuse, neglect, something that is going on,” Ms. Lloyd said. And there was an intervention or a failed intervention. Then they meet a boy, a man, a friend.

“It’s, ‘I ran away, I was sleeping on the trains for two days, I met a guy. He was nice to me. He said he’d take care of me,’ ” explained Ms. Lloyd, herself a former prostitute. “Then adult predators take advantage of them, very quickly.”

Even when children make it to the shelters, there is no guarantee that a bed will be available; Covenant House turns away 200 to 400 children each month. And the pimps know that those who tend to approach Covenant House may be vulnerable.

“Kids tell us, ‘I was down the block and this guy offered me a place to stay,’ ” said Simone Thompson, director of operations at Covenant House.

A pizza shop at Ninth Avenue and 41st Street, about a block from the shelter, she said, is a popular target area. On West 41st Street, between the pizza shop and the shelter, there is a block of scaffolding that the Covenant House staff tells children to avoid, because it is another hot spot for pimps on the prowl for new recruits.

“You just don’t know who is who,” Ms. Thompson said.

Victoria, 20, sat quietly in an office in Covenant House, near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Wearing a pink knee-length skirt, a denim jacket, low heels and a cross pendant, she looked like someone on the way to church, rather than someone who had spent the last four years homeless, on and off the street, and the better part of the last two years working as a prostitute.

Falling into the child welfare system when she was 16, Victoria was staying at a group shelter on Staten Island when she met a man on the street. He was nice to her, he offered her a place to stay and they started dating, she said.

“I was so innocent,” Victoria said, “I fell right into the trap.” For the next year and a half, this was her pimp.

“Out of 10 girls, I would say nine girls do it or have done it. That’s how many girls. Even here,” she said, referring to Covenant House.

“They feel like it’s the only option they have.”

Adriana, 23, grew up in the South Bronx and started working as a prostitute when she was 14, after running away from home. Her stepfather had been raping her since she was 11, she said, and he would leave money next to the bed every time so that she would keep it a secret.

When she first ran away, she would sleep at the “trap house,” a neighborhood spot where people would sell drugs and hang out. That was when the man who would become her pimp started talking to her about working for him, Adriana said in an interview.

“He gave me a place to sleep, he gave me food,” she said. “At that point, that’s all that mattered.”

Adriana stayed with her pimp, on and off, for the next six years.

For those unfamiliar with the dynamics of prostitution, it might be puzzling that these women do not leave their violent pimps. In a recent case that Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, brought against a father and son running a sex trafficking ring, women who worked for the pimps testified on their behalf.

“It’s the Stockholm syndrome,” said Linda Poust Lopez, now a judge in Bronx Criminal Court, who as a longtime Legal Aid lawyer often defended “commercially sexually exploited” girls and young women.

“This is the only ‘love’ they’ve ever known. Quote-unquote love.”

Ann, Adriana and Victoria are no longer with their pimps, although their time spent with them is marked by pregnancies and, for two of the women, arrests.

Adriana now works at GEMS as a mentor to those who have been commercially sexually exploited. On a recent afternoon at the organization’s headquarters — the location and clients’ full names cannot be used, because of the staff’s obligation to protect clients from retaliation by pimps — Adriana spoke of her concern about the public perception of teenage prostitutes.

“I think people need to realize that it’s not a choice that we make. It’s life situations that cause us to do the things we need to do to survive,” she said.

“I feel like people don’t stop to realize that these are girls. No one wakes up and says, ‘I want to be a prostitute today.’ ”



This article has been revised

to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 15, 2013

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article

misstated the age Victoria said she became a prostitute.

She was 18, not 16.

    Stubborn Cycle of Runaways Becoming Prostitutes, NYT, 15.9.2013,






Girl’s Suicide Points to Rise in Apps

Used by Cyberbullies


September 13, 2013
The New York Times


MIAMI — The clues were buried in her bedroom. Before leaving for school on Monday morning, Rebecca Ann Sedwick had hidden her schoolbooks under a pile of clothes and left her cellphone behind, a rare lapse for a 12-year-old girl.

Inside her phone’s virtual world, she had changed her user name on Kik Messenger, a cellphone application, to “That Dead Girl” and delivered a message to two friends, saying goodbye forever. Then she climbed a platform at an abandoned cement plant near her home in the Central Florida city of Lakeland and leaped to the ground, the Polk County sheriff said.

In jumping, Rebecca became one of the youngest members of a growing list of children and teenagers apparently driven to suicide, at least in part, after being maligned, threatened and taunted online, mostly through a new collection of texting and photo-sharing cellphone applications. Her suicide raises new questions about the proliferation and popularity of these applications and Web sites among children and the ability of parents to keep up with their children’s online relationships.

For more than a year, Rebecca, pretty and smart, was cyberbullied by a coterie of 15 middle-school children who urged her to kill herself, her mother said. The Polk County sheriff’s office is investigating the role of cyberbullying in the suicide and considering filing charges against the middle-school students who apparently barraged Rebecca with hostile text messages. Florida passed a law this year making it easier to bring felony charges in online bullying cases.

Rebecca was “absolutely terrorized on social media,” Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County said at a news conference this week.

Along with her grief, Rebecca’s mother, Tricia Norman, faces the frustration of wondering what else she could have done. She complained to school officials for several months about the bullying, and when little changed, she pulled Rebecca out of school. She closed down her daughter’s Facebook page and took her cellphone away. She changed her number. Rebecca was so distraught in December that she began to cut herself, so her mother had her hospitalized and got her counseling. As best she could, Ms. Norman said, she kept tabs on Rebecca’s social media footprint.

It all seemed to be working, she said. Rebecca appeared content at her new school as a seventh grader. She was gearing up to audition for chorus and was considering slipping into her cheerleading uniform once again. But unknown to her mother, Rebecca had recently signed on to new applications — ask.fm, and Kik and Voxer — which kick-started the messaging and bullying once again.

“I had never even heard of them; I did go through her phone but didn’t even know,” said Ms. Norman, 42, who works in customer service. “I had no reason to even think that anything was going on. She was laughing and joking.”

Sheriff Judd said Rebecca had been using these messaging applications to send and receive texts and photographs. His office showed Ms. Norman the messages and photos, including one of Rebecca with razor blades on her arms and cuts on her body. The texts were full of hate, her mother said: “Why are you still alive?” “You’re ugly.”

One said, “Can u die please?” To which Rebecca responded, with a flash of resilience, “Nope but I can live.” Her family said the bullying began with a dispute over a boy Rebecca dated for a while. But Rebecca had stopped seeing him, they said.

Rebecca was not nearly as resilient as she was letting on. Not long before her death, she had clicked on questions online that explored suicide. “How many Advil do you have to take to die?”

In hindsight, Ms. Norman wonders whether Rebecca kept her distress from her family because she feared her mother might take away her cellphone again.

“Maybe she thought she could handle it on her own,” Ms. Norman said.

It is impossible to be certain what role the online abuse may have played in her death. But cyberbullying experts said cellphone messaging applications are proliferating so quickly that it is increasingly difficult for parents to keep pace with their children’s complex digital lives.

“It’s a whole new culture, and the thing is that as adults, we don’t know anything about it because it’s changing every single day,” said Denise Marzullo, the chief executive of Mental Health America of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville, who works with the schools there on bullying issues.

No sooner has a parent deciphered Facebook or Twitter or Instagram than his or her children have migrated to the latest frontier. “It’s all of these small ones where all this is happening,” Ms. Marzullo said.

In Britain, a number of suicides by young people have been linked to ask.fm, and online petitions have been started there and here to make the site more responsive to bullying. The company ultimately responded this year by introducing an easy-to-see button to report bullying and saying it would hire more moderators.

“You hear about this all the time,” Ms. Norman said of cyberbullying. “I never, ever thought it would happen to me or my daughter.”

Questions have also been raised about whether Rebecca’s old school, Crystal Lake Middle School, did enough last year to help stop the bullying; some of it, including pushing and hitting, took place on school grounds. The same students also appear to be involved in sending out the hate-filled online messages away from school, something schools can also address.

Nancy Woolcock, the assistant superintendent in charge of antibullying programs for Polk County Schools, said the school received one bullying complaint from Rebecca and her mother in December about traditional bullying, not cyberbullying. After law enforcement investigated, Rebecca’s class schedule was changed. Ms. Woolcock said the school also has an extensive antibullying campaign and takes reports seriously.

But Ms. Norman said the school should have done more. Officials told her that Rebecca would receive an escort as she switched classes, but that did not happen, she said.

Rebecca never boarded her school bus on Monday morning. She made her way to the abandoned Cemex plant about 10 minutes away from her modest mobile home; the plant was a place she had used as a getaway a few times when she wanted to vanish. Somehow, she got past the high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, which is now a memorial, with teddy bears, candles and balloons. She climbed a tower and then jumped.

“Don’t ignore your kids,” Ms. Norman said, “even if they seem fine.”


Lance Speere contributed reporting from Lakeland, Fla.,

and Alan Blinder from Atlanta.

    Girl’s Suicide Points to Rise in Apps Used by Cyberbullies, NYT, 13.9.2013,






In Decision to Enter Home Near Hofstra,

a Life-or-Death Calculation


May 19, 2013
The New York Times


When a Nassau County police officer confronted a gunman holding a college student hostage in her home on Friday night, he was forced, in an instant, to make a life-or-death calculation: Open fire and risk hitting the hostage, or hesitate and risk losing the hostage and being killed himself.

The officer’s decision to fire, killing the gunman along with the student, will be parsed in the coming weeks as the authorities continue an investigation into the episode, which unfolded after the police interrupted a home invasion in Uniondale, N.Y., near Hofstra University.

While questions remain, enough details have emerged to paint a picture of a police operation that in the course of a few minutes spiraled out of control.

Officers who arrived first on the scene believed that they were confronting an armed robber but knew nothing about the hostages, the police said. That gap in knowledge was critical, experts said, possibly leading to missteps that inflamed an already dangerous situation and ultimately led to tragedy.

Most critical, experts said, was the decision by the officer who ultimately opened fire to enter the home in the first place.

That decision quite likely eliminated the opportunity to negotiate with the gunman, said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former New York City police officer. In any hostage crisis, he said, the first step for the police is to create a situation in which officers are in control.

“You arrive, secure the location and you really essentially buy time if you can; you call for negotiators,” Mr. O’Donnell said.

“The lack of time is an enemy, the lack of floor knowledge is an enemy and it greatly increases the chances of a bad outcome.”

Only minutes elapsed from the time the police were summoned to the home on California Avenue about 2:30 a.m. Friday until the shots were fired. Hostage negotiators were summoned, but they did not reach the scene in time, said Deputy Inspector Kenneth Lack, of the Nassau County Police.

“The first time they knew there were hostages was when the officers were already in the house,” Inspector Lack said, citing details from a preliminary investigation.

Once inside the house, the officers had few options. One took up position outside the front door, while the other stayed inside on the ground floor by a staircase, the police said.

On the upper level was the gunman, Dalton Smith, 30, a Hempstead resident with an extensive criminal record who was wanted for a parole violation. With him were the college student, Andrea Rebello, 21, and a male resident of the home. Ms. Rebello’s twin sister, Jessica, and another female resident had escaped unharmed.

At one point, Mr. Smith pushed the male hostage down the stairs, before grabbing Ms. Rebello in a headlock, slowly moving down the stairs and heading toward the back door. It is not clear when Mr. Smith noticed the police officer inside the house.

After threatening to kill Ms. Rebello, Mr. Smith pointed his 9-millimeter pistol at the officer, a 12-year veteran of the force who has not yet been identified. The officer fired, hitting Mr. Smith seven times and killing him. The eighth bullet hit Ms. Rebello in the head. Questions remain about whether the officer should have opened fire given the likelihood of hitting the hostage. The police have refused to discuss whether the officer followed police protocol.

A former firearms trainer for the New York Police Department, who asked for anonymity because he maintained close ties with active-duty officers, said a situation like this one — an armed gunman pointing a weapon in proximity to a victim — was “the worst-case nightmare for cops.”

He said such situations required a balance between protecting the victim and the officers themselves.

“I would hate to be in that situation myself,” the former trainer said, “but the bottom line is if a police officer believes that his death or the death of a civilian is imminent, he is absolutely justified in utilizing deadly force.”

Yet for Ms. Rebello’s family, news that she died from a police bullet compounded the agony of their loss.

“It’s worse,” Henry Santos, Ms. Rebello’s godfather, said at the family home in Tarrytown, N.Y., on Sunday morning. He called it “a second shock.”

Ms. Rebello’s parents have yet to comment publicly about her death. A handwritten sign posted by the family’s front door Sunday morning read: “Please respect the family’s privacy. We are in a state of grief, thank you, but we are not talking.”

A spokesman for the Nassau County district attorney, Kathleen M. Rice, said on Sunday evening that “the D.A.’s office reviews the facts and circumstances of every police-involved shooting.”

At Hofstra on Sunday, moments of silence for Ms. Rebello were held at the opening of four commencement ceremonies. Graduates wore white ribbons on their robes in her memory.

“I want to express our community’s collective grief and our sorrow over the senseless and tragic death of a very young member of the Hofstra family,” Stuart Rabinowitz, the university’s president, said at a ceremony for undergraduates.

Senator Charles E. Schumer called Ms. Rebello’s death “heartbreaking” and wondered aloud why Mr. Smith, who was paroled in February, had been freed from prison, in light of a criminal record that included multiple arrests as well as convictions for armed robbery and assault.

“The robber who ended up causing her death, causing the whole encounter, was obviously a repeat offender, and I have real questions as to why this robber was allowed to roam the streets, armed, preying on innocent college students,” Mr. Schumer said at a news conference.


Alan Feuer, Randy Leonard and Angela Macropoulos

contributed reporting.

    In Decision to Enter Home Near Hofstra, a Life-or-Death Calculation,
    NYT, 19.5.2013,






All the Lonely People


May 18, 2013
The New York Times


OVER the last decade, the United States has become a less violent country in every way save one. As Americans commit fewer and fewer crimes against other people’s lives and property, they have become more likely to inflict fatal violence on themselves.

In the 1990s, the suicide rate dipped with the crime rate. But since 2000, it has risen, and jumped particularly sharply among the middle-aged. The suicide rate for Americans 35 to 54 increased nearly 30 percent between 1999 and 2010; for men in their 50s, it rose nearly 50 percent. More Americans now die of suicide than in car accidents, and gun suicides are almost twice as common as gun homicides.

This trend is striking without necessarily being surprising. As the University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox pointed out recently, there’s a strong link between suicide and weakened social ties: people — and especially men — become more likely to kill themselves “when they get disconnected from society’s core institutions (e.g., marriage, religion) or when their economic prospects take a dive (e.g., unemployment).” That’s exactly what we’ve seen happen lately among the middle-aged male population, whose suicide rates have climbed the fastest: a retreat from family obligations, from civic and religious participation, and from full-time paying work.

The hard question facing 21st-century America is whether this retreat from community can reverse itself, or whether an aging society dealing with structural unemployment and declining birth and marriage rates is simply destined to leave more people disconnected, anxious and alone.

Right now, the pessimistic scenario seems more plausible. In an essay for The New Republic about the consequences of loneliness for public health, Judith Shulevitz reports that one in three Americans over 45 identifies as chronically lonely, up from just one in five a decade ago. “With baby boomers reaching retirement age at a rate of 10,000 a day,” she notes, “the number of lonely Americans will surely spike.”

There are public and private ways to manage this loneliness epidemic — through social workers, therapists, even pets. And the Internet, of course, promises endless forms of virtual community to replace or supplement the real.

But all of these alternatives seem destined to leave certain basic human yearnings unaddressed.

For many people, the strongest forms of community are still the traditional ones — the kind forged by shared genes, shared memory, shared geography. And neither Facebook nor a life coach nor a well-meaning bureaucracy is likely to compensate for these forms’ attenuation and decline.

This point is illustrated, richly, in one of the best books of the spring, Rod Dreher’s memoir, “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming,” an account of his sister’s death from cancer at the age of 42. A journalist and author, Dreher had left their small Louisiana hometown behind decades before and never imagined coming back. But watching how the rural community rallied around his sister in her crisis, and how being rooted in a specific place carried her family through its drawn-out agony, inspired him to reconsider, and return.

What makes “The Little Way” such an illuminating book, though, is that it doesn’t just uncritically celebrate the form of community that its author rediscovered in his hometown. It also explains why he left in the first place: because being a bookish kid made him a target for bullying, because his relationship with his father was oppressive, because he wasn’t as comfortable as his sister in a world of traditions, obligations, rules. Because community can imprison as well as sustain, and sometimes it needs to be escaped in order to be appreciated.

In today’s society, that escape is easier than ever before. And that’s a great gift to many people: if you don’t have much in common with your relatives and neighbors, if you’re gay or a genius (or both), if you’re simply restless and footloose, the world can feel much less lonely than it would have in the past. Our society is often kinder to differences and eccentricities than past eras, and our economy rewards extraordinary talent more richly than ever before.

The problem is that as it’s grown easier to be remarkable and unusual, it’s arguably grown harder to be ordinary. To be the kind of person who doesn’t want to write his own life script, or invent her own idiosyncratic career path. To enjoy the stability and comfort of inherited obligations and expectations, rather than constantly having to strike out on your own. To follow a “little way” rather than a path of great ambition. To be more like Ruthie Leming than her brother.

Too often, and probably increasingly, not enough Americans will have what the Lemings had — a place that knew them intimately, a community to lean on, a strong network in a time of trial.

And absent such blessings, it’s all too understandable that some people enduring suffering and loneliness would end up looking not for help or support, but for a way to end it all.


I invite you to follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/DouthatNYT.

    All the Lonely People, NYT, 18.5.2013,






2 Waiters Arrested

in Killing of Malcolm X’s Grandson


May 13, 2013
The New York Times


MEXICO CITY — The police here arrested two men on murder and robbery charges on Monday in the beating death last week of Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X, though many questions about the case remained unresolved.

The men taken into custody, David Hernández Cruz and Manuel Alejandro Pérez de Jesús, worked as waiters at the Palace Club, a downtown bar where Mr. Shabazz, 28, was beaten, in what the city prosecutor called a dispute over an excessive bill.

Two other bar employees who the authorities said participated in the beating, which left Mr. Shabazz with fatal skull, jaw and rib fractures, were being sought.

The body of Mr. Shabazz, who for years had wrestled with living in the shadow of his grandfather’s fame, was still at a city morgue on Monday while American consular officials worked to have it returned to the United States. A family spokeswoman said they would have no comment, and no funeral plans have been announced.

Mr. Shabazz arrived in Mexico City from Tijuana, the prosecutor, Rodolfo Fernando Rios Garza, said at a news conference. He went to the bar on Thursday with a man whom friends identified as Miguel Suárez, a Mexican labor activist whom Mr. Shabazz had befriended in the United States and who had been recently deported.

When the argument over the tab broke out around 3 a.m. as they prepared to leave, the two were separated by bar employees, but, for reasons the prosecutor said had not yet been determined, only Mr. Shabazz was beaten. A blunt object was used but no other details were given.

Mr. Shabazz’s companion was taken to another part of the bar and robbed but said he managed to escape and call for help.

The pair disputed a tab that came to around $1,200, Mr. Rios Garza said. Two young women had approached them on the street and invited them to the bar, but although Mexican newspapers have identified the bar as a known brothel, Mr. Rios Garza waved off questions regarding prostitution. Many of the bars in that rundown area charge customers for even a conversation with their female employees, according to Mexican news reports.

Mr. Shabazz consumed several drinks; a prosecutor’s office statement said he had a blood alcohol concentration more than three times the legal limit for driving in most American jurisdictions. But the prosecutor, while not offering details on how much liquor was consumed, said the bill was excessive and was part of the effort to rob Mr. Shabazz and his companion.

He said he found no evidence that race or any motive other than robbery was in play, and there was no indication that the attackers knew Mr. Shabazz came from a famous family.

The investigation, however, has had its stumbles.

There were security cameras in the bar, but after a search of the property two days after the attack, video recording equipment was missing and the cameras were turned toward the walls, the prosecutor’s statement said. It was unclear why the search was delayed, but justice reform advocates have long complained that Mexican investigators do not always move with the speed and forensic acumen of the police in the United States.

The police have interviewed Mr. Suárez, who could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Shabazz was 12 when he set a fire in Yonkers that killed his grandmother, Betty Shabazz. After serving prison time, he walked an erratic path away from his troubled youth.

He had gone to Mexico City with Mr. Suárez with plans to draw media attention to his deportation, Mr. Suárez said on Facebook.


Karla Zabludovsky contributed reporting from Mexico City,

and Kia Gregory from New York.

    2 Waiters Arrested in Killing of Malcolm X’s Grandson, NYT, 13.5.2013,






Emotional Recovery Seen Possible

for Victims of Prolonged Abuse


May 9, 2013
The New York Times


Day after day, it was his voice they heard, his face they saw.

He was their tormentor and their deliverer, the one who — at his whim — could violate their minds and bodies, the keeper of the keys and the source of food and water. His dominion was a ramshackle house with boarded up windows. His control was absolute.

For the women he is accused of kidnapping and holding prisoner for a decade in a home on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland, their captor was for all intents and purposes their world.

Therapists experienced in the treatment of trauma survivors said on Thursday that how the three women — Amanda Berry, now 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 — interpreted that relationship and the small ways that they struggled to preserve their selfhood in the face of physical and psychological intimidation will be critical to their recovery.

The women were finally freed on Monday after two neighbors responded to Ms. Berry’s call for help by kicking in the front door. Ms. Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, who was born during the ordeal, also came out of the house. Ariel Castro, who the police say imprisoned the women and initially kept them tied with chains and rope in the basement and sexually assaulted them repeatedly, has been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

David A. Wolfe, a senior scientist and psychologist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto, said that in situations of long-term sexual abuse and threat to life, victims inevitably develop complicated and ambivalent emotions toward their abuser in order to survive.

“You turn the devil into something you can handle,” he said, adding that the first thing he would want to know from someone who survived such an ordeal would be “What was your feeling about this person during the captivity?”

Dr. Wolfe and other therapists noted that all traumatic experiences are different and that many details of the women’s ordeal have not been made public; some experts argued that for the women’s sake, they should not be.

But they said many people can and do rebound from even the most extreme abuse, aided by the support of family and friends, the use of specifically tailored therapies and the privacy, safety and time to digest and come to terms with their experience. It is important, some therapists said, that the women not be turned into a spectacle, their identities as individuals diminished to “kidnap victims.”

“We know that resilience exists and that recovery is possible,” said Dr. Judith A. Cohen, medical director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. “For people who believe that it’s inevitable that a horrific experience like this would leave lasting scars, the evidence does not necessarily support that.”

That does not mean that the women, who with the exception of Ms. Knight have been reunited with their families, have an easy road ahead. Studies have found that about two-thirds of children who are kidnapped or abused have lingering psychological disturbances, including depression and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The toll of prolonged abuse is physical as well as psychological, as the body tries to cope with constant fear.

“Your brain is being flooded with stress hormones,” Dr. Wolfe said, “just like you’ve been sitting in a cage with an animal for a long time.”

Yet about 80 percent of abuse victims who receive trauma-focused weekly therapy show significant improvement after three to four months, studies find — the authorities in Cleveland are arranging for the women to receive trauma therapy, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Some survivors of lengthy captivities can have continuing problems, especially if they were already experiencing emotional difficulties before their abduction, and so, are more vulnerable. Others — like Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her bedroom in 2002 at the age of 14, and Jaycee Lee Dugard, who spent 18 years as a prisoner after being kidnapped in 1991 and had two children by her abductor — have apparently done well, going on to write books about their experiences and work on behalf of other abuse victims.

Terri L. Weaver, a professor of psychology at St. Louis University who has been a consultant in long-term kidnapping cases, said that the presence of the other captives in the Seymour Avenue house may possibly have helped each woman cope.

“My hope would be that they could have provided some degree of support with one another,” Dr. Weaver said, “and that may have aided in their ability to emotionally, and perhaps even physically, cope with the situation.” In fact, the person familiar with the investigation said the victims felt they were like sisters now because of what they went through.

Ms. Berry’s young daughter, Dr. Weaver said, who, like the child in Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel “Room,” was born into captivity, has an equally good chance of surmounting the adversity of her early life.

“There are all types of children in this world that were conceived in violent and traumatic circumstances who come to an understanding of those circumstances and go on to have very happy lives,” Dr. Weaver said.

Like cases of domestic violence, Dr. Weaver and other therapists said, the stories of women who remain with their captors for years sometimes give rise to misconceptions — like the idea that the women could have escaped. But such notions vastly underestimate the psychological and physical control exerted by perpetrators, and often arise from people’s desire to believe that they themselves would not fall victim to a similar fate.

“Rape in conjunction with life-threatening force is very powerful,” Dr. Weaver said, “and it’s repeatedly used by men against women.”

Dr. Cohen put it more sharply: “It’s very easy to sit in your living room and second-guess from the safety of your couch why somebody didn’t act a certain way. But when your life is under constant threat, you think and act and feel quite differently.”


Steven Yaccino contributed reporting from Cleveland.

    Emotional Recovery Seen Possible for Victims of Prolonged Abuse,
    NYT, 9.5.2013,






Cleveland Man Charged

With Rape and Kidnapping


May 8, 2013
The New York Times


CLEVELAND — About the time that neighbors kicked in a front door to free three women abducted and long imprisoned, the man charged with their kidnapping was idling away a spring afternoon at his mother’s home.

The man, Ariel Castro, 52, crossed the street to borrow a lawn mower on Monday afternoon from a neighbor to cut his mother’s postage stamp lawn, then left with a brother to spend the afternoon drinking, neighbors said.

It was typical of the outwardly mundane life Mr. Castro led, which apparently included outings with a daughter he is believed to have fathered with one of the captives. Meanwhile, inside his house on Seymour Avenue, the three women, who last celebrated birthdays with their families about a decade ago, saw year after year perversely marked by Mr. Castro’s serving of a cake on each woman’s “abduction day,” according to one victim’s cousin.

On Wednesday, as new details of the women’s horrific ordeal emerged, Mr. Castro was charged with the rape and kidnapping of Amanda Berry, held 10 years; Gina DeJesus, held 9 years; and Michelle Knight, held 11 years. He was also charged with kidnapping the 6-year-old daughter Ms. Berry gave birth to, and the authorities said he would undergo a paternity test.

In their years as prisoners, the women never left the house except for two brief visits to the adjacent garage, the police said.

No charges were brought against the two brothers of Mr. Castro, who were arrested with him: Onil Castro, 50, and Pedro Castro, 54. Ed Tomba, deputy chief of the Cleveland police, said investigators were convinced after interviewing the victims that the two brothers had no involvement or knowledge. He declined to give details about the women’s captivity.

According to a Cleveland police report obtained by The New York Times, officers who responded to a 911 call after Ms. Berry was freed checked the basement of Mr. Castro’s house, and finding no one, headed upstairs, one officer yelling “Cleveland police!” Ms. Knight “ran and threw herself” into an officer’s arms, followed by Ms. DeJesus, who “jumped into my arms,” the officer wrote.

“All three women victims stated that Ariel chained them up in the basement, but eventually he let them free from the chains and let them live upstairs on the second floor,” the report said.

Ms. Knight told officers that Mr. Castro had impregnated her multiple times. In each case, the report said, he starved her and then punched her repeatedly in the stomach until she miscarried.

As Ms. DeJesus, now 23, and Ms. Berry, 27, returned joyfully to their families’ homes on Wednesday, other details of their ordeal emerged.

A cousin of Ms. DeJesus, last seen in 2004 at age 14 while walking from school, confirmed that the women were “kept in the basement like dogs.”

The cousin, who asked not to be named to protect the family’s privacy, said relatives spoke by speakerphone with Ms. DeJesus before her return. Although she asked relatives not to inquire about her captivity, she described the way Mr. Castro marked the anniversaries of the kidnappings by serving dinner and a cake. “He would celebrate their abduction day as their new birthday,” the cousin said.

Neighbors of the Castro family — which owns at least two other homes in the Tremont district of Cleveland — recalled visits by Mr. Castro accompanied by a young girl they suspected was Ms. Berry’s daughter.

The police report said that Ms. Berry delivered her baby in the house into a plastic pool and that Ms. Knight acted as the midwife. According to the report, Ms. Knight told the police that Mr. Castro warned that he would kill her if the baby died. Ms. Knight stated that the baby stopped breathing at one point “but she breathed into her mouth and ‘breathed for her’ to keep her alive.” The child was never told the names of the two other women in the house in case she uttered the names in public.

Nelson Martinez, 54, a cousin of Mr. Castro, said Mr. Castro visited him in Parma, Ohio, with a child he introduced as his granddaughter two or three years ago.

“She looked healthy and happy and looked as though she liked being with her ‘granddaddy,’ ” Mr. Martinez said. “She had on clean clothes, like a normal little girl, and she seemed alert and talked.”

Ms. Knight, the oldest of the women and the longest held, was the only one who had not been released to relatives yet. She remained hospitalized in the MetroHealth Medical Center.

Since the discovery of the women less than five miles from the neighborhood on Lorain Avenue where all three disappeared, some residents have angrily questioned whether the police had done all they could.

On Wednesday the city released portions of the original missing persons reports that showed that dozens of officers were involved in the investigations of Ms. Berry and Ms. DeJesus. Authorities also rebutted accounts that have circulated this week of sightings of the women at Mr. Castro’s home, denying that the police had received calls.

Mr. Castro has been unemployed since November after two decades as a Cleveland school bus driver. He was fired after a third disciplinary problem, according to school district reports. The house he owns where the women were discovered is in foreclosure.

Other records show that he fought violently with a former wife, Grimilda Figueroa, who had full custody of their children. According to a 2005 complaint she filed in domestic relations court, Ms. Figueroa suffered a broken nose, broken ribs and two dislocated shoulders. Her lawyer, Robert Ferreri, said in the filing that Mr. Castro “frequently abducts daughters and keeps them from their mother.” Ms. Figueroa died last year.

Mr. Martinez recalled a visit to Mr. Castro’s home before the three girls’ disappearance and called him a hoarder. “There was junk everywhere,” he said. “It was nasty and dirty.”

“What was very weird was that he had built himself a shack that looked like a cardboard tent with blankets in the living room,” Mr. Martinez added. Mr. Castro slept in the enclosure in the living room to save money on heat, he said.

Before noon on Wednesday, a motorcade escorted by police motorcycles pulled up to the home of Ms. Berry’s sister, Beth Serrano, and several people hurried into the residence, with at least one person holding a child.

At the home of Ms. DeJesus, a crowd chanted “Gina! Gina!” as she arrived home and walked into the house with her face covered, while friends and relatives hugged in the front yard. Her aunt, Sandra Ruiz, made a brief statement outside the home, thanking the authorities and the community for their help.

The city of Cleveland on Wednesday released segments of audiotape from the dispatch call that sent a police cruiser to Seymour Avenue in response to Ms. Berry’s 911 call after being freed by neighbors who had heard her cries. The dispatcher said a woman had called saying that she was Amanda Berry and had been kidnapped for 10 years.

Soon after the cruiser arrived at the house where Ms. Berry was waiting, an officer was heard to say, “This might be for real.”

A few minutes later, in another tape segment, the officers’ voices took on urgency. “There might be others in the house,” an officer said, sounding stressed and somewhat bewildered. Then, “Gina DeJesus might be in this house, also.”

In a later segment, an officer was heard to say: “We found them. We found them.”


Trip Gabriel and Steven Yaccino reported from Cleveland,

and Serge F. Kovaleski and Erica Goode from New York.



This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 8, 2013

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname,

in one reference, of one of the young women

who had been abducted.

She is Michelle Knight, not Michelle Night.

    Cleveland Man Charged With Rape and Kidnapping, NYT, 8.5.2013,






Sexual Assaults in Military

Raise Alarm in Washington


May 7, 2013
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The problem of sexual assault in the military leapt to the forefront in Washington on Tuesday as the Pentagon released a survey estimating that 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010, and an angry President Obama and Congress demanded action.

The study, based on a confidential survey sent to 108,000 active-duty service members, was released two days after the officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force was arrested and charged with sexual battery for grabbing a woman’s breasts and buttocks in an Arlington, Va., parking lot.

At a White House news conference, Mr. Obama expressed exasperation with the Pentagon’s attempts to bring sexual assault under control.

“The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,” Mr. Obama said in answer to a question about the survey. “If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

The president said he had ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “to step up our game exponentially” to prevent sex crimes and said he wanted military victims of sexual assault to know that “I’ve got their backs.”

In a separate report made public on Tuesday, the military recorded 3,374 sexual assault reports last year, up from 3,192 in 2011, suggesting that many victims continue not to report the crimes for fear of retribution or a lack of justice under the department’s system for prosecution.

The numbers come as the Pentagon prepares to integrate women formally into what had been all-male domains of combat, making the effective monitoring, policing and prosecuting of sexual misconduct all the more pressing.

Pentagon officials said nearly 26,000 active-duty men and women had responded to the sexual assault survey. Of those, 6.1 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men said they had experienced sexual assault in the past year, which the survey defined as everything from rape to “unwanted sexual touching” of genitalia, breasts, buttocks or inner thighs.

From those percentages, the Pentagon extrapolated that 12,100 of the 203,000 women on active duty and 13,900 of the 1.2 million men on active duty had experienced some form of sexual assault. In 2010, a similar Pentagon survey found that 4.4 percent of active-duty women and fewer than 0.9 percent of active-duty men had experienced sexual assault.

Pentagon officials could not explain the jump in assaults of women, although they believed that more victims, both men and women, were making the choice to come forward. In the general population, about 0.2 percent of American women over age 12 were victims of sexual assault in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In response to the report, Mr. Hagel said at a news conference on Tuesday that the Pentagon was instituting a new plan that orders the service chiefs to incorporate sexual assault programs into their commands.

“What’s going on is just not acceptable,” Mr. Hagel said. “We will get control of this.”

The report quickly caught fire on Capitol Hill, where women on the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed outrage at two Air Force officers who suggested that they were making progress in ending the problem in their branch.

“If the man in charge for the Air Force in preventing sexual assaults is being alleged to have committed a sexual assault this weekend,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, “obviously there’s a failing in training and understanding of what sexual assault is, and how corrosive and damaging it is to good order and discipline.”

Ms. Gillibrand, who nearly shouted as she addressed Michael B. Donley, the secretary of the Air Force, said that the continued pattern of sexual assault was “undermining the credibility of the greatest military force in the world.”

She and some other members of the committee are seeking to have all sex offenders in the military discharged from service, and she would like to replace the current system of adjudicating sexual assault by taking it outside the chain of command. She is particularly focused on decisions, including one made recently by an Air Force senior officer, to reverse guilty verdicts in sexual assault cases with little explanation.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is also on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is holding up the nomination of that Air Force officer, Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, to be vice commander of the Air Force’s Space Command. Ms. McCaskill said she wanted additional information about General Helms’s decision to overturn a jury conviction in a sexual assault case last year.

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, told the committee at the same hearing on Tuesday that he was “appalled” by the conduct and the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the Air Force officer accused of sexual battery on Sunday. The police say that Colonel Krusinski was drunk when he approached the woman in the parking lot and that the victim was ultimately able to fend him off and call 911.

Mr. Hagel called Mr. Donley on Monday evening to express his “outrage and disgust” over the matter, a Pentagon statement said.

Ms. McCaskill was particularly critical of Colonel Krusinski as well as the Air Force for placing him in charge of sexual assault prevention. “It is hard for me to believe that somebody could be accused of that behavior with a complete stranger and not have anything in his file,” she said.

While Mr. Hagel and others in the military seem open to changes to the system that allows cases to be overturned, they remained chilly to the idea of taking military justice out of the chain of command.

“It is my strong belief that the ultimate authority has to remain within the command structure,” Mr. Hagel said, which is almost certain to meet with objections as the issue continues to come under the scrutiny of the Armed Services Committee.

Under Mr. Hagel’s plan, the military would seek to quickly study and come up with ways to hold commanders more accountable for sexual assault. The chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force and the commandant of the Marines have until Nov. 1 to report their findings. Mr. Hagel also directed the services to visually inspect department workplaces, including the service academies, for potentially offensive or degrading materials, by July 1.


Sarah Wheaton contributed reporting.

    Sexual Assaults in Military Raise Alarm in Washington, NYT, 7.5.2013,





Before Escape,

Fleeting Clues to Long Ordeal


May 7, 2013
The New York Times


CLEVELAND — One neighbor remembered occasional late-night deliveries of groceries to the boarded-up shoe box of a house in a rough-edged West Side neighborhood here.

Another remarked on a porch light that burned at night, even though many of the windows were covered.

“Why would an abandoned house have a porch light on?” he recalled thinking.

Still another said his sister had once seen a figure in an upstairs window, pounding on the glass.

On Tuesday, a stunned neighborhood learned that these were glimpses of a horrifying truth. For about a decade, the police said, three women were imprisoned inside the home at 2207 Seymour Avenue.

Those years of captivity ended late Monday when Amanda Berry, who had not been seen since she left her job at a local Burger King on April, 21, 2003, when she was 17, appeared at the front door of the house accompanied by a young child and screamed: “I need help! I need help! I have been kidnapped for 10 years!”

After two neighbors freed her by kicking in the chained front door and helped her make an urgent call to 911, three men were arrested in connection with the case — Ariel Castro, 52, the owner of the house, and his brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50. Ms. Berry and the child, along with Gina DeJesus, who disappeared while walking home from a city middle school in 2004, and Michelle Knight, who vanished at age 20 in 2002, were treated at a hospital and reunited with their families.

The conditions in the home, a law enforcement official said, were “abysmal at best.”

“They had no ability to leave the home or interact with anyone other than each other, the child and the suspect,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation.

Another official said the F.B.I. had begun questioning the women late Tuesday and had taken photos and helped collect evidence from the house.

The case recalled other kidnappings, like that of Jaycee Dugard, who was held prisoner in California for 18 years; Elizabeth Smart, who spent nine months in torment after being grabbed from her bedroom in Salt Lake City by Brian David Mitchell; and six women who were snatched, held and tortured in Belgium in the mid-1990s.

“These are some of the most catastrophic kinds of experiences a human being can be subjected to,” said Kris Mohandie, a forensic psychologist who has been a consultant in other long-term kidnapping cases.

The perpetrators of such crimes, Dr. Mohandie said, have been men “who have had longstanding fantasies of capturing, controlling, abusing and dominating women.”

Such men, he said, use a perverse system of rewards and punishments to create fear and submission in their victims, who quickly lose all sense of self and become dependent on their captors. “Total control over another human being is what stimulates them,” he said.

Angel Cordero, one of two men who helped Ms. Berry escape by kicking in the door, said that she had appeared ragged — her clothes dirty, her teeth yellowed and her hair “messy” — and that the child with her had looked “very nervous,” as though she had never seen anything outside the house before.

Mr. Cordero said he had held the child while Ms. Berry called 911, frantically telling the dispatcher: “I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been in the news for the last 10 years.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, the authorities pleaded that the three women, now in their 20s and early 30s, be given space to recover from their ordeal.

Neighborhood residents spent the day shaking their heads in disbelief over what the police said had taken place inside the house. Public records show that the property was in foreclosure, and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, Timothy J. McGinty, described it as in very bad shape.

But neighbors said Ariel Castro had appeared to be “a regular Joe,” who chatted with families on their porches, waved hello in the street and invited neighbors to clubs where he played bass with several Latin bands.

“He was not a troublemaker,” said Jovita Marti, 58, whose mother lives across the street from the house on Seymour Avenue.

But Zaida Delgado, 58, a family friend, said Ariel Castro also had a darker side.

“There was something not right about him,” she said. “He could be flaky and off the wall. He was also arrogant, like ‘I am Mr. Cool, I am the best.’ He had an attitude, like ‘I am God’s gift.’ ”

Some residents expressed anger at the police, who they said had not done enough to find the missing women.

“The Cleveland police should be ashamed of themselves,” said Yolanda Asia, an assistant manager of a store that rents furniture and appliances. “These girls were five minutes away. They were looking for years and years. They were right under their nose.”

One of the women may have been a close friend of Ariel Castro’s daughter, Arlene. Ms. Castro appeared on the Fox program “America’s Most Wanted” in 2005 to talk about her “best friend,” Gina DeJesus. Ms. Castro was identified on the program as the last person to have seen Ms. DeJesus before she disappeared, and she recounted on the program how they had been walking home from school together that day.

Ariel Castro had worked as a school bus driver but had a history of disciplinary problems. In 2004, he was interviewed by the police after “inadvertently” leaving a child on the bus. In 2009, he was called before a disciplinary hearing for negligence and disregard for the safety of passengers. He was fired in November 2012, after another “demonstration of lack of judgment,” according to school district records.

Israel Lugo, who lives three doors down from the Castro house, said Mr. Castro would often park the school bus outside the house between the morning and afternoon routes.

“He’ll go in the house, jump on his motorcycle, take off, come back, jump in the car, take off. Every time he switched a car, he switched an outfit,” he said.

Julian Cesar Castro, an uncle of the three brothers who owns the Caribe Grocery at Seymour and West 25th Street, said he and his brother Julio, Ariel’s father, had migrated from Puerto Rico.

Julio died in 2004, Julian Castro said. Ariel had a wife and children, but the marriage ended.

In recent years Ariel had grown more withdrawn, his uncle said. “It could have been because of the hiding personality. He had to have two personalities,” he said.

Despite the three young women’s ordeal during a decade of captivity, their discovery was an uplifting moment for relatives, friends and the city.

At the home of Ms. DeJesus’s parents, bundles of balloons were tied to the front fence on Tuesday along with a banner that read, “Welcome Home Gina.”

Her cousin Cecily Cruz, 26, said she had heard about Ms. DeJesus’s rescue Monday from a customer while she was working as a local gas station attendant. She called her cousin’s family immediately and said she could hear Ms. DeJesus’s father in the background shouting: “She’s alive! They got my baby!”

Martin Flask, Cleveland’s director of public safety, said the endings of most missing persons cases were “usually tragic.” In this case, he said, “all of us are excited and pleased with the outcome. But when you look at what we suspect they experienced, our joy is tempered.”


Trip Gabriel reported from Cleveland,

and Serge F. Kovaleski and Erica Goode from New York.

Reporting was contributed by Steven Yaccino from Cleveland,

Emma G. Fitzsimmons from New York,

and Michael S. Schmidt from Washington.

Research was contributed by Jack Begg

and Sheelagh McNeill.



This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 7, 2013

An earlier version of this article and an accompanying photo

caption misspelled the given name of one of the suspects

arrested in the case. He is Onil Castro, not Oneil.

    Before Escape, Fleeting Clues to Long Ordeal, NYT, 7.5.2013,






Three Women,

Missing for Years,

Found in Cleveland


May 6, 2013
The New York Times


Three young women from Cleveland who disappeared about a decade ago, and who friends and relatives feared were gone forever, were found on Monday and appeared to be physically unharmed, the authorities said.

The police did not offer any immediate information about how the women were found, but they said in a statement that three men, all in their 50s, had been arrested in connection with the episode.

The police identified the women as Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, who were in their teens when they disappeared, and Michelle Knight who was 20 when she vanished. All were found in a home in a residential neighborhood not far from where they reportedly disappeared.

In a recording of a 911 call released by the authorities to local news media, Ms. Berry tells a dispatcher that she had been kidnapped and pleads for the police to come before a man who is holding her captive returns.

“I’m Amanda Berry, I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years,” she said.

A neighbor, Charles Ramsey, told local television reporters that a woman’s screams drew him to a house on his block.

“This girl is kicking the door and screaming,” he said. “I said, ‘Can I help? What’s going on?’ And she said, ‘I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been in this house a long time. And I want to leave right now.’ ”

Mr. Ramsey said he and his neighbors broke through the door and Ms. Berry came out with a young child. It was not immediately clear if it was her child. He said the police then went in and brought out the other two women.

Ms. Berry, who is now 27, was last seen leaving her job at a Cleveland Burger King in April 2003. Almost exactly a year later, Ms. Dejesus, now 23, disappeared as she was walking home from school. The police said that Ms. Knight vanished around 2000, but was assumed to have run away.

Family members and friends of the women reacted to the news with a mixture of shock and elation.

“I’m so thankful, God is good,” Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of Ms. DeJesus, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’ve been praying. Never forgot about her, ever.”

Television images showed neighbors lining the streets, applauding as emergency vehicles whisked the women away.

    Three Women, Missing for Years, Found in Cleveland, NYT, 6.5.2013,






The Next Step in Drug Treatment


April 26, 2013
The New York Times


The mandatory-sentencing craze that drove up the prison population tenfold, pushing state corrections costs to bankrupting levels, was rooted in New York’s infamous Rockefeller drug laws. These laws, which mandated lengthy sentences for nonviolent, first-time offenders, were approved 40 years ago next month. They did little to curtail drug use in New York or in other states that mimicked them, while they filled prisons to bursting with nonviolent addicts who would have been more effectively and more cheaply dealt with through treatment programs.

The country is beginning to realize that it cannot enforce or imprison its way out of the addiction problem. But to create broadly accessible and effective treatment strategies for the millions of people who need them, it must abandon the “drug war” approach to addiction that has dominated the national discourse in favor of a policy that treats addiction as a public health issue.

The Affordable Care Act sets the stage for such a transformation by barring insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, including substance dependency. The administration’s new National Drug Control Strategy — described in a lengthy document promoted by the White House this week — calls for, among other things, community-based drug-prevention approaches that fully integrate treatment with the health care system. President Obama’s budget, meanwhile, calls for a $1.4 billion increase in treatment funding.

To its great credit, New York was one of the first states to back away from the policies it helped to create. In 2009, it revised the Rockefeller laws, with the aim of sending more low-level, nonviolent offenders to treatment instead of to prison. That step leaves it in a good position to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act and create a system for treating drug problems that is free of the poor coordination and interagency conflicts. A timely new report issued by the New York Academy of Medicine and the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group, provides a detailed blueprint for how the state could remake its drug treatment delivery system and remove public policy obstacles to timely and accessible treatment.

It notes, for example, that agencies often work at cross-purposes, in some cases penalizing, instead of helping, addicts. Addicts who avoid H.I.V.-AIDS exposure by getting clean needles at publicly funded centers are then arrested for having “drug paraphernalia.” Those with drug felonies on their records can be denied access to affordable public housing. Those who seek medical treatment for illnesses, and especially for pain, are often suspected of exaggerating their ailments to get drugs.

The report calls on the governor to convene a multiagency task force of the various state agencies and departments that encounter drug users, including social service agencies and the education and court systems. The ever more pressing purpose would be to improve the delivery of quality services to people who are too often banished to the margins of the health care system.

    The Next Step in Drug Treatment, NYT, 26.3.2013,






Down Syndrome and a Death


March 27, 2013
The New York Times


A grand jury in Frederick County, Md., decided last week not to bring criminal charges in the death of Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome who was killed in a struggle with three off-duty county sheriff’s deputies at a movie theater in January. Advocates for people with intellectual disabilities are bewildered and furious, and it is easy to see why.

Mr. Saylor and an aide who cared for him had just seen “Zero Dark Thirty.” She went to get the car, leaving him alone. Theater employees told him to get out. He refused, and the deputies — moonlighting as mall security — were called. They handcuffed Mr. Saylor on his stomach on the ground. He went into distress and died. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide by asphyxiation.

A lawyer said at a news conference that the deputies “did what was necessary under the circumstances, and they did what their training dictated that they do.”

But it strains the definition of “necessary” when three men fatally subdue a man who was unarmed and, according to witnesses, crying out for his mother.

And what “training” was there? The sheriff’s office acknowledges that the deputies had no training in dealing with people with intellectual disabilities. And how did they not know the danger they put Mr. Saylor in? Law-enforcement manuals say never to leave suspects handcuffed on their stomachs, because the risk of sudden death by asphyxiation is too great. But according to the county state’s attorney, Mr. Saylor “was on his stomach for a total of one to two minutes.” Only after the deputies noticed his “medical emergency” did they remove the cuffs and begin CPR.

Why did this encounter have to turn deadly? And how will the county make sure this never happens again? The Saylor family and the public deserve answers. The county sheriff, Chuck Jenkins, canceled a public meeting when it became obvious that it would draw lots of people angry about the Saylor case. That was more than a month ago.

    Down Syndrome and a Death, NYT, 27.3.2013,






Diocese Papers in Los Angeles

Detail Decades of Abuse


February 1, 2013
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — The church files are filled with outrage, pain and confusion. There are handwritten notes from distraught mothers, accounts of furious phone calls from brothers and perplexed inquiries from the police following up on allegations of priests sexually abusing children.

Over four decades, particularly under Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, parishioners in the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese repeatedly tried to alert church authorities about abusive priests in their midst, trusting that the church would respond appropriately.

But the internal personnel files on 124 priests released by the archdiocese under court order on Thursday reveal a very different response: how church officials initially disbelieved them and grew increasingly alarmed over the years, only as multiple victims of the same priest came forward and reported similar experiences.

Even then, in some cases, priests were shuttled out of state or out of the country to avoid criminal investigations.

A sampling of the 12,000 pages suggests that Cardinal Mahony and other top church officials dealt with the accusations of abuse regularly and intimately throughout the last several decades. It often took years to even reach the realization that a priest could no longer simply be sent to a rehabilitation center and instead must be removed from ministry or even defrocked.

In one case, the Rev. José I. Ugarte was accused by a doctor of having drugged and raped a young boy in a hotel in Ensenada and of taking boys every weekend to a cabin in Big Bear. But rather than turn Father Ugarte over to the authorities, Cardinal Mahony decided to send him back to Spain, made him sign a document promising not to return to the United States without permission for seven years, not to celebrate Mass in public and to seek employment in “a secular occupation in order to become self-supporting.”

The current archbishop, José H. Gomez, who succeeded Cardinal Mahony when he retired two years ago, took the unusual if not unprecedented step on Thursday night of censuring his predecessor, calling the documents he released late Thursday “brutal and painful reading” and announcing that he was removing him from administrative and public duties. He also accepted the resignation of one of his auxiliary bishops, Thomas Curry.

But in an extraordinary public confrontation between bishops, Cardinal Mahony adamantly defended himself on Friday, posting on his blog a letter he had sent to Archbishop Gomez. The cardinal insisted that his approach to sexual abuse evolved as he learned more over the years, and that his archdiocese had been in the forefront of reforms to prevent abuse and respond to victims.

Cardinal Mahony implied that his successor’s censure of him was unexpected and unwarranted: “Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors.”

Church experts agreed that it was the first time that a bishop had publicly condemned another bishop’s failures in the abuse scandal, which has occupied the American bishops for nearly three decades. They also said that Archbishop Gomez had gone as far as he could under the church’s canon laws to discipline Cardinal Mahony. He could not, they said, take away his authority to celebrate Mass, but he did order him not to preside at confirmations, a ceremonial role that often keeps retired archbishops in the public eye.

The Los Angeles church files are not unlike other documents unearthed in the church’s long-running abuse scandal in the United States, but it appears to be the largest cache.

In 1977, the mother of a 10-year-old boy wrote to Msgr. John Rawden saying that George Miller, then a priest at parish in Pacoima, had taken her son on a fishing trip and molested him. The accusation was noted in Mr. Miller’s files, but he denied the charges and was presumed to be innocent. Then in 1989 another pastor complained that Mr. Miller violated church policy by repeatedly having young boys in his room in the rectory and traveling with them.

Mr. Miller was sent to a treatment center run by Catholic therapists in St. Louis in 1996. When he was scheduled to be released a year later, Msgr. Richard Loomis — who would eventually face his own allegations of sexual abuse — wrote Father Miller a letter saying that the “recent changes in the child abuse reporting law and the statute of limitations in California have changed the way we have to look at many things in our personnel policies.” Monsignor Loomis went on to say that he could not return to the ministry in Los Angeles.

But two months later, in May 1997, Monsignor Loomis then wrote to Cardinal Mahony suggesting that Mr. Miller could seek to serve as a priest in Mexico through a “benevolent bishop” or return to California and “begin a secular life,” and live “somewhere that would minimize potential contact with those involved in his situation.”

After leaving St. Louis, Mr. Miller returned to California and by 2004 was under investigation by the police.

In a letter in 2004 to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Mahony wrote: “The story of Father Miller is a very sad one. Clearly he never should have been ordained. Had the kinds of screenings we used now been employed in the 1950s, he would have never been admitted to the seminary.”

The documents also hint at the disillusionment on the part of church officials as they eventually realized that priests who had denied any accusations of abuse were eventually revealed as repeat violators.

In the case of Carlos Rodriguez, then a priest downtown, Los Angeles Police Department investigators called church officials to ask about a report that the priest took two teenage boys to the Grand Canyon and groped one boy’s groin. According to the files, Mr. Curry had already written to Cardinal Mahony about the allegation. The police said that when they called the church to speak with Mr. Rodriguez, the person who answered the phone responded by saying, “Oh no, they reported it, ” referring to the boy’s family.

In 2004, Mr. Rodriguez was sentenced to eight years in prison for molesting two brothers in the early 1990s, years after he was transferred because of the earlier allegations.

Another file chronicles the struggle by Cardinal Mahony and his advisers to discern the truth about accusations against Monsignor Loomis, a priest who himself helped advise the cardinal on abuse cases against priests in his role as vicar for clergy in the archdiocesan chancery. The archdiocese went to great lengths and expense to investigate the case, the files reveal.

They interviewed former colleagues of his, one who said, the notes show, “Loomis would be the last person he could think of who would be the subject of child molestation charges.”

Eventually in 2004, after several alleged victims stepped forward and a lawsuit was filed, Cardinal Mahony agreed to place Monsignor Loomis on administrative leave, writing on the document, “Although sad, we must follow our policies and the charter — regardless of where that leads,” a reference to the American bishops’ policies, or “charter” to protect young people.

Many victims said the release of the files felt like a vindication because they showed repeated abuse by the priests that church officials had often denied. “I wasn’t lying, I wasn’t embellishing, I wasn’t making it up,” said Esther Miller, 54, a mother of two who said she was abused by Michael Nocita, a priest, when she was in high school. “It shows the pattern of complicity. It shows the cover-up.”

Cardinal Mahony, who served from 1985 until 2011, when he reached mandatory retirement, has faced calls for his defrocking over his handling of the abuse cases for years. But the cardinal, a vocal champion of immigrant rights, remained hugely popular with Latinos here, who make up 40 percent of the four million parishioners in the archdiocese.

The church had fought for years to keep the documents secret, and until this week it argued that the names of top church officials should be kept private. But on Thursday, Judge Emilie Elias rejected the church’s requests to redact the names of officials before releasing the files. The diocese released the files, with the names of victims and many other church officials removed, less than an hour later.

The trove of documents suggests that church officials routinely sent priests accused of abuse out of state and in some cases out of the country to avoid the potential investigations from law enforcement.


Jennifer Medina reported from Los Angeles,

and Laurie Goodstein from New York.

Ian Lovett contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

    Diocese Papers in Los Angeles Detail Decades of Abuse, NYT, 1.2.2013,






It Has Been Frigid Outside,

but Also a Lot Less Dangerous


January 25, 2013
The New York Times


It’s an old saw that murders spike during hot summers, when city dwellers flee their apartments for the streets and tempers soar along with the mercury. Less, however, has been said about the effect of extreme cold spells on mankind’s capacity for violent crimes.

As of 6:20 a.m. on Friday, New York City, with temperatures dropping as low as 11 degrees in recent days, had been murder-free for about 221 hours, a period of more than nine days. The cold, perhaps, pacified a city accustomed, on average, to more than a murder a day.

“We’re rooting for more cold weather,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said when asked about the streak of murder-free days.

Murders are inevitable in a city of more than eight million people, Mr. Kelly said, so “any respite in that is obviously a welcomed thing.”

The last time more than a week went by without a homicide in the city was three months ago. Hurricane Sandy’s destructive force appears to have quelled man-made violence for an eight-day period, during which the police did not report a single homicide, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said.

In August 2010, despite the summer heat, seven days passed without a murder. In 2009, there was a six-day reprieve in February and March. In other years, New York considered itself lucky to go five days without a homicide.

A correlation between cold weather and a drop in violence undoubtedly exists, according to several academics whose habitats range from sun-drenched Miami to frostbitten Iowa.

“Some have argued that there is something about cold that actually inhibits aggression — literally the effect that cold has on the brain,” said Ellen G. Cohn, a professor of criminal justice at Florida International University. She added, however, that she believed cold reduced violence primarily for a different reason: fewer people are likely to be on the streets, which, she said, means “victims and offenders are less likely to come into contact with each other.”

Craig A. Anderson, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, said he, too, believed that some of the decrease had “to do with people probably hunkering down inside” during cold spells. But he noted that the cold, even as it suppressed street violence, could lead to an increase in domestic violence, which largely occurs indoors. And he observed that some research actually suggested that uncomfortable levels of cold could increase people’s irritability and aggression, just as heat does.

Matthew Ranson, who studied the effect of temperature on crime as a graduate student at Harvard University, said that cold affected crime unequally. Property crime, said Mr. Ranson, now a policy analyst, dropped precipitously whenever temperatures fell below a certain point in the 40s. But violent crime, he said, declined more gradually, in a linear manner.

The temperatures were uneven over the recent murder-free period, which began shortly after 1 a.m. on Jan. 16, after a gunshot victim died at a hospital in Brooklyn. The low temperatures for Jan. 16 and the following four days were mostly in the low 30s, and dropped to as low as 11 degrees.

But the streak of murderless days in New York City may have ended on Friday morning, when the police found an unconscious woman in her 40s lying outside a building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, at 6:20 a.m. She was naked from the waist down, the police said, and died. Her death remained under investigation and had not been classified as a homicide by Friday night.


Wendy Ruderman contributed reporting.

    It Has Been Frigid Outside, but Also a Lot Less Dangerous, NYT, 25.1.2013,






Is Delhi So Different From Steubenville?


January 12, 2013
The New York Times


IN India, a 23-year-old student takes a bus home from a movie and is gang-raped and assaulted so viciously that she dies two weeks later.

In Liberia, in West Africa, an aid group called More Than Me rescues a 10-year-old orphan who has been trading oral sex for clean water to survive.

In Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players are accused of repeatedly raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl who was either drunk or rendered helpless by a date-rape drug and was apparently lugged like a sack of potatoes from party to party.

And in Washington, our members of Congress show their concern for sexual violence by failing to renew the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law first passed in 1994 that has now expired.

Gender violence is one of the world’s most common human rights abuses. Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. The World Health Organization has found that domestic and sexual violence affects 30 to 60 percent of women in most countries.

In some places, rape is endemic: in South Africa, a survey found that 37 percent of men reported that they had raped a woman. In others, rape is institutionalized as sex trafficking. Everywhere, rape often puts the victim on trial: in one poll, 68 percent of Indian judges said that “provocative attire” amounts to “an invitation to rape.”

Americans watched the events after the Delhi gang rape with a whiff of condescension at the barbarity there, but domestic violence and sex trafficking remain a vast problem across the United States.

One obstacle is that violence against women tends to be invisible and thus not a priority. In Delhi, of 635 rape cases reported in the first 11 months of last year, only one ended in conviction. That creates an incentive for rapists to continue to rape, but in any case that reported number of rapes is delusional. They don’t include the systematized rape of sex trafficking. India has, by my reckoning, more women and girls trafficked into modern slavery than any country in the world. (China has more prostitutes, but they are more likely to sell sex by choice.)

On my last trip to India, I tagged along on a raid on a brothel in Kolkata, organized by the International Justice Mission. In my column at the time, I focused on a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old imprisoned in the brothel, and mentioned a 17-year-old only in passing because I didn’t know her story.

My assistant at The Times, Natalie Kitroeff, recently visited India and tracked down that young woman. It turns out that she had been trafficked as well — she was apparently drugged at a teahouse and woke up in the brothel. She said she was then forced to have sex with customers and beaten when she protested. She was never allowed outside and was never paid. What do you call what happened to those girls but slavery?

Yet prosecutors and the police often shrug — or worse. Dr. Shershah Syed, a former president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan, once told me: “When I treat a rape victim, I always advise her not to go to the police. Because if she does, the police might just rape her again.”

In the United States, the case in Steubenville has become controversial partly because of the brutishness that the young men have been accused of, but also because of concerns that the authorities protected the football team. Some people in both Delhi and Steubenville rushed to blame the victim, suggesting that she was at fault for taking a bus or going to a party. They need to think: What if that were me?

The United States could help change the way the world confronts these issues. On a remote crossing of the Nepal-India border, I once met an Indian police officer who said, a bit forlornly, that he was stationed there to look for terrorists and pirated movies. He wasn’t finding any, but India posted him there to show that it was serious about American concerns regarding terrorism and intellectual property. Meanwhile, that officer ignored the steady flow of teenage Nepali girls crossing in front of him on their way to Indian brothels, because modern slavery was not perceived as an American priority.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has done a superb job trying to put these issues on the global agenda, and I hope President Obama and Senator John Kerry will continue her efforts. But Congress has been pathetic. Not only did it fail to renew the Violence Against Women Act, but it has also stalled on the global version, the International Violence Against Women Act, which would name and shame foreign countries that tolerate gender violence.

Congress even failed to renew the landmark legislation against human trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The obstacles were different in each case, but involved political polarization and paralysis. Can members of Congress not muster a stand on modern slavery?

(Hmm. I now understand better the results of a new survey from Public Policy Polling showing that Congress, with 9 percent approval, is less popular than cockroaches, traffic jams, lice or Genghis Khan.)

Skeptics fret that sexual violence is ingrained into us, making the problem hopeless. But just look at modern American history, for the rising status of women has led to substantial drops in rates of reported rape and domestic violence. Few people realize it, but Justice Department statistics suggest that the incidence of rape has fallen by three-quarters over the last four decades.

Likewise, the rate at which American women are assaulted by their domestic partners has fallen by more than half in the last two decades. That reflects a revolution in attitudes. Steven Pinker, in his book “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” notes that only half of Americans polled in 1987 said that it was always wrong for a man to beat his wife with a belt or a stick; a decade later, 86 percent said it was always wrong.

But the progress worldwide is far too slow. Let’s hope that India makes such violence a national priority. And maybe the rest of the world, especially our backward Congress, will appreciate that the problem isn’t just India’s but also our own.

    Is Delhi So Different From Steubenville?, NYT, 12.1.2013,




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