Anonymous legal contact help
February 6, 2012 10:22 AM   Subscribe

How can I contact a judge or court anonymously in regards to someone's appeal or release? I was not involved in the tried case, but I feel my experience is relevant and I want to influence this decision.

In 1988 I was molested by someone 2 years older than me. I was 11 and he was 13. I never told anyone because I didn't fight him. I was very confused and nervous and scared and let it happen, but it was completely nonconsensual. No one would have believed me anyway and it has affected my life to the present.

I found out in my adult life years later that he was convicted and sentenced for molesting a child. His sentence is about 2/3 completed and I've found through court documents that he may be eligible for early release. Is there any way I can contact the prosecutor or judge to tell them not to do this, that it wasn't a one time thing and there's a history. I don't want any of it tied back to me personally. I would be willing to speak in depth with the prosecutor as long as I knew my identity and situation would never be public. State is Missouri. I'm very emotional over this and want the last 1/3 of his sentence spent for what he did to me.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You certainly can contact the prosecutor. Whether or not the prosecutor is willing to protect your identity is usually very dependent on the individual prosecutor. For example, the prosecutor might really want to prosecute for the crime they didn't know about against you, assuming the statute of limitations has not run on it. Your best hope for anonymity may be to talk to a sexual assault advocacy organization and have them make the call for you.

Judges normally don't have any say over what happens to people after they are sentenced -- though parole boards and prison officials may. In any event judges cannot accept ex parte contact from anyone -- essentially it is unethical for judges to communicate with anyone about a case privately.

Again, I'd suggest you contact sexual assult advocacy agency and see if they can help you with contact with prison/parole board and prosecutors office, and of course with talking about your experience.

Needless to say I am so sorry this happened to you.
posted by bearwife at 10:40 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not sure of Missouri laws in particular, but some law enforcement agencies will let you speak to detectives who specialize in child abuse/sexual abuse and let them look into the case. Since this man is in jail already, it might be worth contacting a detective just to let them know the situation. I'm not sure you'd be able to remain *totally* anonymous for it, however most if not all agencies will look into these things despite the amount of time lapsed since the incident. You may also look into contacting the prosecutor directly through a throw-away gmail address or a phone number where they'd not be able to trace back. IANAL/IANYL but it seems to me like asking them (politely of course) for anonymity and stressing this point would at least get you an answer on whether or not they could keep your name out of it.
I'd try the detective route first.
And I'm so very sorry you had to deal with this and are still dealing with it...people like this guy are scum.

EDIT...bearwife beat me to the punch. LOL.
posted by PeppahCat at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2012

I am not an expert in Missouri law, but it may be difficult to "influence" a decision about releasing a prisoner without the prisoner gaining any knowledge of you and your accusations. The rights to know about and respond to the evidence against oneself are diminished once one is already serving the sentence, but I don't know if they're non-existent.

So don't be surprised if it proves very difficult to play a serious role in keeping this person's in prison while also keeping this person in the dark about why he is being kept in prison.
posted by willbaude at 11:02 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am so sorry you went through this but keep in mind the legal system is based on the idea that a defendant can face their accuser. Allowing anonymous complaints without physical evidence would lead to a very bad place very quickly. There are rape shield laws however that would keep your indentifying information out of public documents. Do speak with the prosecutor and find out what your rights are and what the likely outcome of you coming forward will do to his pending appearance before the parole board.
posted by saucysault at 11:05 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Whether he gets out now or sometime later probably depends mostly on his behavior as an inmate and his completion of a mandated program- see p.10 of this pdf.

I agree that you should contact your local domestic violence/ sexual abuse program and ask to speak to a counselor. someone there should be able to help you more than we can. They can also provide you with counseling. This was a horrible experience you went through at a very young age and of course it continues to affect you. It's very brave of you to share it with us here. I hope you find some resolution soon.
posted by mareli at 11:05 AM on February 6, 2012

I'm very sorry to hear this.

To answer your question: generally speaking, no, you won't be able to have an anonymous influence. But Missouri does have crime victim advocates, and you may want to start by contacting them. Here is the page from the MO Attorney General's Office.

If you do decide to contact someone about this, one of the first questions you should ask should be about confidentiality. Ask that in your first conversation, as a matter of fact. If your desire for confidentiality outweighs your desire to have an impact on this offender's potential release, you'll want to know very quickly what being involved means.

It's a long shot, but one way you can arguably have a somewhat anonymous influence is simply by motivating the people charged with keeping this guy locked up. I don't know what the circumstances are for the release of sex offenders in Missouri, but in many jurisdictions there are hearings before a release is authorized. If in fact there is going to be a hearing, perhaps the state will be motivated to put up more of a fight if they know there are other victims out there, even if they won't put on any of this "other victim" (ie, you) evidence at any type of hearing. Like I said, this is a real long shot. But getting your story in front of the people who could possibly oppose his early release might be worth something. On the other hand, I'm not sure that this can be done anonymously. Once you decide to talk to anybody about this, you're putting your anonymity at risk.

If what you were really hoping to hear is that you can send an anonymous email or letter, or call some kind of former victim tipline for this, I'm afraid the answer is "no." As others have pointed out, our legal system just isn't designed that way.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:25 AM on February 6, 2012

I believe (in US law) those accused of crimes have the right to face their accuser. You might be aggravating a situation that already bothers you.
There may also be a statute of limitations on sex crimes where you live. Such a statute is indeed regrettable, but it would make your accusation futile.
posted by Cranberry at 2:54 PM on February 6, 2012

Even in things like sentencing or early release, the convicted person has due process rights which are going to conflict with your desire to remain fully anonymous while at the same time influencing the decision to keep the person locked up. I agree with bearwife that your best bet is to inquire with a sexual assault advocacy group. But it's likely, I think, that there is no way to really do what you want to here.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:59 PM on February 6, 2012

I've found through court documents that he may be eligible for early release. Is there any way I can contact the prosecutor or judge to tell them not to do this

The time to contact the judge would have been prior to sentencing.

Early release is something that is generally handled by the appropriate incarcerating agency, e.g. state department of corrections. There is likely a parole review board or modern-named equivalent that makes the actual determination of eligibility for release. As they are not part of the judicial system, they have a much broader array of considerations and are, anecdotally, easily influenced by emotional appeals from the public. As to having such an appeal remain wholly confidential, that will be up to their procedures and policies, so I would inquire how it works before you actually write any letters.

that it wasn't a one time thing and there's a history.

Of this, you can be assured, the people in the system are well aware. It's possible that with your condemnation in hand at the time they could have achieved a longer sentence, but in my experience, they would have tried to obtain the longest one possible in any case -- and child molesters are really not only the lowest of the low in the prison system, they are given few passes by the judicial system.

In a sense you may want him to be serving that last third of his sentence "for you", but it doesn't work that way. Early release/parole are tools for controlling behavior. A period of early release exists so that someone can live under the supervision of a parole officer for a time, rather than just walk out of prison and into the mist.
posted by dhartung at 1:54 AM on February 7, 2012

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