FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 4, 2020
Contact: Justin Boardman
Boardman Training & Consulting
801-231-0881 (text or call)
BREAKING: JUSTICE SYSTEM FAILS KANSAS RAPE SURVIVOR
County Attorney and Defense Fast Track Hearing in Order to Block Victim’s Petition Calling for Grand Jury Investigation
McPherson County, KS – Madison Smith, a rape survivor, was denied her day in court on Thursday, when the county attorney prosecuting her case fast tracked a plea hearing, allowing Ms. Smith’s attacker to plead to charges of aggravated assault. Ms. Smith had filed a petition two days prior calling for a grand jury investigation into her case, ultimately seeking to file the appropriate charge of rape, which the county attorney refused to do.
Ms. Smith reported that she had been raped on February 11, 2018. What began as consensual first-time sex between Ms. Smith and the suspect escalated to violence when he repeatedly slapped her across the face and strangled her with both hands several times. Ms. Smith tried to remove his hands from around her neck but was unable to: when she struggled, he squeezed harder, until she started to lose consciousness. They had not had any prior communication or agreement about this violence, and the encounter left visible marks on her body.
County Attorney Greg Benefiel, who prosecuted the case, asked to meet privately with Ms. Smith, telling her his office couldn’t move forward with charges of rape or sexual assault. The county attorney called what happened to Ms. Smith “immature sex.” Stunned, she requested her parents’ presence. Eventually, the county attorney filed a charge of aggravated battery for the strangulation, but refused to file the appropriate charge of rape and other sexual assault charges because Ms. Smith did not verbally revoke consent while being strangled.
Ms. Smith hired an attorney and pursued a seldom-used Kansas statute calling for a grand jury investigation of her case.
“The justice system actively prevented this rape survivor from having her day in court,” said Detective Justin Boardman (Ret.), a consultant working on Ms. Smith’s case. “Instead of working to protect victims, the system is working to silence them. The accused had a defense attorney looking out for his interests and the state had a prosecutor, but this victim of a violent crime had to hire – out of pocket – an attorney to look out for her rights. And she was still denied justice.”
On May 31, 2020, Ms. Smith and her supporters held a petition signing in Lindsborg, Kansas. 335 signatures were required to file the petition to convene a grand jury, and in just three days, 426 signatures were collected. At that time, the arraignment hearing to enter a plea on the aggravated assault charge was scheduled for July 2, 2020.
On June 1, following the successful petition drive and at the end of the day, Ms. Smith was notified by the county attorney that the defense wanted the arraignment moved to June 4, and the county attorney agreed in a deliberate move to block Ms. Smith’s petition. Ms. Smith filed the petition to convene a grand jury on June 2, 2020 and concurrently filed a motion to postpone the arraignment hearing.
The motion was denied, and the hearing took place on June 4, where the county attorney argued against the continuance, stating, “I don’t personally see a reason to continue. I don’t think it will achieve anything.” Ms. Smith’s attacker, Jared Stolzenberg, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated battery, which the county attorney himself noted involved nonconsensual strangulation that could have resulted in death. Mr. Stolzenberg will be sentenced on August 21, 2020.
For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Justin Boardman at Justin@JustinBoardman.com or 801-231-0881 (text or call)
Boardman Training & Consulting provides training and consulting services in the field of gender-based violence with the goals of raising awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence from a trauma-informed perspective, being victim-centric, and holding offenders better accountable.
McKenna Law Office PA provides criminal and family law attorneys to the Salina, KS area, and has built a reputation for protecting the rights of clients ethically and competently.