FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2020
Contact: Justin Boardman
Boardman Training & Consulting
801-231-0881 (text or call)
BREAKING: COURT GRANTS RAPE SURVIVOR’S REQUEST FOR GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION IN GROUNDBREAKING KANSAS CASE
County Attorney Refused to File Any Sexual Assault Charges, Calling Rape “Immature Sex;” Survivor Petitioned for Grand Jury via Rarely Used Kansas Statute
McPherson County, KS – A Kansas district court granted a rape survivor’s request for a grand jury investigation yesterday in a groundbreaking victory for survivors struggling to obtain procedural justice within the system. Madison Smith, a rape survivor, petitioned the court for a grand jury investigation following the county attorney’s refusal to file any rape or sexual assault-type charges in her case, instead prosecuting Ms. Smith’s attacker on one count of aggravated battery.
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 about this unlawful and potentially fatal type of violence. The assault left visible marks on her body.
In August 2020, Ms. Smith watched her attacker sentenced to only 24 months of probation for aggravated battery. He did not have to face any sexual assault charges, pleading guilty to the single count of battery filed by County Attorney Greg Benefiel, who referred to Ms. Smith’s rape “immature sex” in a private meeting with Ms. Smith, and refused to file any sexual assault charges because she did not verbally revoke consent while being strangled, filing the count of aggravated battery for the strangulation. Ms. Smith petitioned the court for a grand jury investigation into her case, ultimately seeking to assign a new prosecutor who will file the appropriate charge of rape and move forward with a new trial.
At sentencing, Ms. Smith gave a victim impact statement, stating in part, “The criminal justice system has failed me. In my first meeting with County Attorney Greg Benefiel (CA), he told me the rape I had experienced wasn’t a rape, but was ‘immature sex.’ Then he told me he wasn’t filing charges. I was devastated… those words he said re-victimized me… the one person I believed was supposed to fight for the victim on the legal side has pushed me aside, stalling, and waiting for me to give up… I won’t ever give up. Ever.”
Following Mr. Benefiel’s refusal to charge the case appropriately as a rape, Ms. Smith hired an attorney and pursued a seldom-used Kansas statute calling for a grand jury investigation of her case. Kansas is one of only six states in which members of the public can petition for a grand jury. The county attorney blatantly violated several parts of the 2019 Kansas Statute 74-7333, a bill of rights for victims of crime created to ensure the fair and compassionate treatment of victims of crime and to increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system by affording victims of crime certain basic rights and considerations:
- Victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and with respect for their dignity and privacy and should suffer the minimum of necessary inconvenience from their involvement with the criminal justice system.
- Victims should receive, through formal and informal procedures, prompt and fair redress for the harm which they have suffered.
- Information should be made available to victims about their participation in criminal proceedings and the scheduling, progress and ultimate disposition of the proceedings.
- The views and concerns of victims should be ascertained and the appropriate assistance provided throughout the criminal process.
- When the personal interests of victims are affected, the views or concerns of the victim should, when appropriate and consistent with criminal law and procedure, be brought to the attention of the court.
In light of these statutes, Ms. Smith and her supporters decided to hold the system accountable. They secured 332 approved signatures on her petition, exceeding the required 329 signatures and meeting the statutory requirements of the Ninth District Court of McPherson County. On September 28, the Court notified Ms. Smith that a grand jury would be impaneled sometime after January 2021, when Kansas jury trials are approved to resume following COVID-19 restrictions.
”Madison Smith’s resilient inner strength and powerful support system are helping to blaze new pathways for survivors to achieve procedural justice in a system that is unfortunately not designed to work for them,” said Det. Justin Boardman (Ret.), a nationally-recognized expert in trauma-informed protocols for the justice system who is consulting on Ms. Smith’s case.
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.