Sunday, February 15, 2009

When did rape become just a civil rights violation?

Via the Carnival Against Sexual Violence and Female Impersonator, we get more information about Montague County Sheriff Bill Keating who allegedly sexually assaulted a female informant, threatening her with jail if she did not perform oral sex and act as his snitch. According to the US Attorney from Texas' Northern District:
Signed plea papers have been filed with the Court in which William E. Keating, 62, admits that on November 14, 2008, while he was the elected Sheriff of Montague County, Texas, he willfully deprived another person, L.M., of her civil rights while under color of law, when he sexually assaulted her. ...

According to the factual resume filed in the case, at approximately 9:00 a.m. on Friday, November 14, 2008, Sheriff Keating, dressed in civilian clothes with his sheriff’s badge and gun in plain view on his belt, and other Montague County Sheriff’s Office employees, executed an arrest warrant at a residence occupied by the victim, L.M., and her boyfriend. As they entered the residence, L.M. and her boyfriend were asleep in a bedroom of the house. Sheriff deputies arrested the boyfriend on the outstanding warrant and removed him from the bedroom. Deputies searched the residence and discovered a bag that contained utensils and other articles used to manufacture methamphetamine. Deputies also located a plastic container that appeared to have trace amounts of methamphetamine on it.

After deputies removed the arrested man from the bedroom, Sheriff Keating ordered the other deputy to leave the bedroom so that L.M. could get dressed. Sheriff Keating then closed the door and, once alone with L.M., told her, “You are about to be my new best friend.” He told her that he found illegal drugs in the residence that belonged to her and that for her to avoid going to jail, she would be required to “assist” him. Keating admitted that the assistance he referred to included oral sex with him on multiple occasions and an agreement to act as an informant for the Montague County Sheriff’s Office. Keating told L.M. that if she complied with his request, that he would help her get a job, a place to live and that she wouldn’t be criminally charged with possessing any drugs or drug-making equipment that was found in the home. Keating also told her that if she didn’t comply, she would go straight to jail.

After Sheriff Keating and L.M. left the bedroom, he told her to get into his personal vehicle that was parked outside of the residence. He then drove to a secluded area in Montague County and instructed her to perform oral sex on him, and in the process, grabbed the back of her neck and pushed her head down into his lap, causing her pain and bodily injury.

That kind of abuse of power is scary because it's so likely to remain concealed, since a meth-cooking rape victim is unlikely to ever come forward.

Two questions arise from this news: 1) Should sexual assault only be charged as a "civil rights violation" when it's perpetrated by a peace officer?, and 2) Given that he wasn't actually charged with rape (at least yet), was it appropriate to let the Sheriff out on bail given the nature of his offense? I doubt a judge would grant him bond if the charge had been "aggravated sexual assault." As things stand, I'm not even sure if this plea agreement would get him on the sex offender registry.

Related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

Correctional officers can also be charged with a civil rights violation instead of sexual assault, even though their victims are locked up and are coerced through fear and lack of freedom into sexual acts. This is only a state jail felony, except in TYC. If this offense occurs at TYC, it's a 2nd degree felony. And no, people who are found guilty or plead guilty to this crime do not have to register on the offender database.

Rage Judicata said...

I asked this same question after Harris County set bond for a former sheriff deputy who molested a child ridiculously low, but sets bond unbelieveably high for non-former law enforcement officers.

The responses I got? They went a little like this:

"Rage, you're a $%#^^)."

No substantive responses at all, except for people obfuscating about "following the guidelines" when we all know bail could have been set higher, as is the case for non-law enforcement offenders.

Anonymous said...

Anyone in a position of power should be prosecuted more severely for abusing that power.

Mack T. Harrison said...

Should sexual assault only be charged as a "civil rights violation" when it's perpetrated by a peace officer?

The feds charged this guy with a civil rights violation because that's all they CAN charge him with under federal law. Rape is a federal crime only under certain circumstances, such as on federal property or crossing state lines with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a person under 12.

It's up to the local district attorney to prosecute any sexual assault charge against this individual.

Mack T. Harrison said...

To elaborate, the federal government often uses civil rights laws to punish public officials for conduct that goes unpunished under state law because local prosecutors can't or won't pursue charges.

Look at what happened with the Rodney King beating: A local jury acquitted the cops on the assault and police brutality charges in California state court, but they were convicted of violating King's civil rights in federal court.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Mack, perhaps then this case has more similarities with the TYC-Pyote case where the local DA refused to pursue charges, except that in that case the US Attorney didn't want any part of it, either.

And before Michael asks, the DA in Montague County is Jack McGaughey. Here are his particulars for anyone who wants to inquire why sexual assault charges haven't been filed.

Mack T. Harrison said...

To be fair to the Montague County DA, the Dallas Morning News reported Jan. 30 that "McGaughey said that by mid-February, he expects to secure indictments against Keating and other former jail employees." The story notes that the DA's office called in the FBI and the Texas Rangers when it first heard the allegations.

Story is here:

x4livin said...

The rug is up..the sweeping has begun...this will go away and he will walk, if not keep his ability to work as a peace officer..reference Tim Cole..DA...busted for several violations several years ago..and he was punished but given the option of having that punishment be whenever he was ready for it...apparently not yet, he's still DA at Wichita Falls.

TxBluesMan said...

Just off the top of my head, the Sheriff can be charged with numerous violations of state law.

PC 22.011. Sexual Assault.
PC 39.03, Official Oppression.
PC 39.04, Improper Sexual Activity with a Person in Custody.

As to being held without bail, there are very limited times where being held without bail is appropriate (and legal) under Texas law. Texas Constitution, Art. 1 (Bill of Rights), Sec. 11 (Bail) requires that bail be allowed except under very limited circumstances.

Grits, surely you are not advocating that he be denied his rights?

Since he apparently has already confessed to the act (as to the federal charge), he will probably be convicted of the state charges when the time comes.

Until then, you should let due process take its course.

Anonymous said...

It became Civil the moment they put that stupid registry in place... After that, anyone can play!

Anonymous said...

Easy folks in this case indictments are coming on state charges. we dont know what state chargs will be but it looks as if he will be gettig what coming to him. just remember they are having to sort through the violations at the jail too.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:08, I agree the DA should be given a little more time before he's accused of Randy Reynolds type stalling on prosecutions. But that doesn't explain how this happened without his knowledge - it took years for the jail to get that bad - or what kind of oversight he provided when the Sheriff was making drug cases based on this sex-assault victim/informant?

Surely the Montague District Attorney, before now, must have had some suspicion about the rampant misconduct alleged to be happening at the jail?

This is a case where I was glad to see the feds step in to provide oversight beyond the clubby local courthouse set, but it makes me wish once again, perhaps futilely, that there was a more systematic external oversight system for police and prosecutor misconduct like that proposed by Sen. John Carona that would ensure an independent investigation and remove even the appearance of institutional or political collusion - sidestepping the 'circle the wagons' reaction among local officials like we saw in the Tulia case, in Pyote, and elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

from 1008 grits I have actually talked to some of the investigators in this case I work a few counties over but know several of the players. From what i am getting there should be indictments on numerous charges in the next week or so about 12 or so from what I hear. there is no way the sheriff didnt know what was going on actually what I am understanding is that there will be more sex offenses from the jail and he is involved. and as faras pyote goes maybe the whole story will come out one of these days but i doubt it. It was worse than what was publicised I actually worked on that when I was at TYC. just wonder what the Hell happened with the texas criminal justice system in the last few years.


Anonymous said...

What happened to the Texas Judicial system? It became less about the rights of citizens and more of what can be taken from people that are being controller by the ones in charge.

Anonymous said...

No 1141 I dont think thats it that just sounds like meaningless political spin. I think it is due to US accepting this kind of crap. sure everyone will sit and complain but when is the last time someone actually took a meaningful stand.


Anonymous said...

Naw, that wasn't political spin at all. I really do believe that when our elected officials stopped remembering that they are VOTED into Office and not appointed by the pope that they really stopped giving a crap-ola about the rights of people in this state. Take Deferred Adjudication for you. A rule allowing for one to start over.. Have we actually seen the completion of one of those contracts ABOVE a Class C? nope.. Why, cause then they can;t be tough on Crime. I thought is if you don;t want to give the chance, then don't offer it.

Look at our prisons. FUll of pathetic 1.01 ounce convictions for drugs.. Who were they hurting? themselves, yeah.. locked up for an extraordinary period of time.. How about Sex Offenders. ALL signs point to 90 % of them will never harm again. Not from fear, but from real remorse.. do you see any of them getting a chance to re-make what they are and actually contribute something.. nope.. gotta watch them, gotta ensure they don't get a second chance..

So it isn't about political spin, it is solely about observation. The elected body in Austin could give a S*** about any single one of us.

Anonymous said...

There is no Justice in the Criminal System in Texas. It is no longer Inocent until proven guilty it is Guilty until proven inocent. I no longer see to serve and protect on officers cars. It has been a while since I seen those words, can't really remember how they go, maybe it was to protect and serve, anyway apparently the justice system took a crap when it became more profitable to put people in prison and make the tax payers foot the bill. The prison system is big business. Crooked cops are good for business not to mention crooked DAs and Judges. They help keep this system going so that big investors can line their pockets with tax money.

Anonymous said...

5:39 you are right abot hem not giving a damn but then again why do we keep electing them? I cant agree on the drug comment though I see first hand what it does to others around the user frankly I could care less if someone wants to use a little until it starts affecting others. I am not talking about a little recreational weed I ame refering to what I see when people start with the harder stuff I work in Law enforcement and anyone who says they are not hurting anyone but themselves really should come along when we are taking children out of a dope house. there has to be a line somewhere. and sex offenders I am not talking about BS statuatory offenders but the real hard core preditors the rapists and child molesters lock them up forever because they wont change. I think the real problemis hat e try to have a blanket fix for everything and are not allowing the system to address individual problems. I just really think the time has come that we need to stand up and say enough. just a thought


Anonymous said...

It became Civil the moment they put that stupid registry in place... After that, anyone can play!

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Anonymous said...

I am the husband of the personb sheriff bill keating tried to molest. People need to know that everything read about his case is just his side, One of his deputys took my stepdaughter to a ladys house in bowie, i went to file a complain't on this deputy and sheriff keating assigned the deputy in question to handle my complaint. If a person had any kind of illegal back ground, the man treated them like crap, no matter how that person was straightening there life up. I wish he would not have died so he could of done his federal sentence. If the readers knew the history of Montagues justice system, they would agree the only cure for that county as i am sure this also applies to many other Texas Co., Federal intervention will be the only answer, as much as I dislike the Federal Gov. involving it's self in state or county business this is one time the people of Texas needs the gov. intervention