ODOR IN THE COURT

IT TOOK COURAGE FOR THE DEAF GIRL TO ALLEGE RAPE. SHE WAS REWARDED WITH AN UNPREPARED PROSECUTOR WHO BUNGLED THE CASE.

Kim Bradley faced the sex-crimes detective at the Glendale Police Department last July 15. Haltingly, the shy teenager described being sexually assaulted two days earlier:

She first met Xavier at Metrocenter a few days earlier. She gave him her phone number--Kim communicates through a telephonic device for the deaf--and he called her. The two made plans to meet at the mall a few days later.

Skillman was cute and seemed nice, Kim said. They met again at the mall on July 13, communicating by note and with hand gestures. Skillman invited her to his house, saying his parents were there. She agreed to go.

But his parents weren't home. Skillman soon started to force himself on her. Kim told him repeatedly to stop, but Skillman wouldn't quit. She became frightened and at a loss about what to do.

"Sex was not what I wanted," she told detective Jan Whitson through an interpreter. "Again and again, I said no . . . I used my voice. I was really nervous and scared and trying to get away from him, but I was stuck. I told him, 'I'm not ready for that.' He just thought it was funny. He's saying yes and I'm saying no. And after that, you know what happened."

Kim said Skillman had sexual intercourse with her twice at the house. She'd been a virgin, Kim told Whitson, and having sex had caused her great physical pain.

She didn't run from Skillman's house. Instead, in a state of shock, she left with Skillman, stopping with him briefly at a supermarket and a fast-food restaurant before taking a bus back to Metrocenter.

Kim mentioned that she ran into her best friend upon returning to the mall. (Whitson didn't ask her to elaborate, an oversight that would have repercussions at Skillman's trial four months later.) Feeling dirty, Kim slathered herself with lotion after scrubbing at a ladies' room. (Trying to "wash away" a sexual assault is commonplace, experts say. However, no one would testify about the phenomenon at Skillman's trial.)

Whitson ended the interview by showing Kim a photographic lineup of six young black men. Kim focused on a photo of the man she said had sexually assaulted her. It was Xavier Skillman.

The Glendale Police Department knew Xavier Skillman well. In fact, when police arrested him in the Kim Bradley case in July, he already was awaiting trial on sex-related crimes against five other young women.

But the jurors who acquitted Skillman of assaulting Kim Bradley would never know until after the trial about the many other young women who had leveled charges of sexual misconduct against him. A more diligent prosecutor might have convinced a judge to allow those complaints into evidence.

Detective Jan Whitson's first contact with Skillman had been in 1992. That May, she'd investigated assault and sexual-abuse allegations made against him by a 15-year-old student at Glendale's Ironwood High School, where Skillman was enrolled. Records show that Skillman was convicted in Maricopa County Juvenile Court of simple assault in that incident, one of many documented by Ironwood authorities during the 1991-92 school year.

For example, Skillman's school file, which was obtained by police investigators, shows that in November 1991, a student accused him of grabbing her by the arm and throwing her against a wall.

"He kept trying to undo my shorts and untuck my shirt," she told a principal. "Every time I would try to get away, he would pick me up and I couldn't get away. Finally, he let me go."

Xavier Skillman's version: "Everything I did she consented to."
Another girl told a principal in late 1991: "[Skillman] is known as Molester Man, presses himself up against me and touching my breasts. . . . He won't take no for an answer."

School officials met with Skillman's parents, according to his file: "Told them about rumors, reputation and he can't keep hands to himself. Mother agreed. Offered solutions--`Another school.'"

But he stayed at Ironwood for another year, despite continued suspensions for "inappropriate physical contact" with female students.

In early 1992, Skillman agreed to seek counseling.
But that April, the father of another female Ironwood student had filed sexual-misconduct charges against Skillman--that complaint led to the Juvenile Court conviction. "He did not seem to understand the meaning of 'no,'" Ironwood principal Davita Sulter-Linquist told a Glendale detective in May 1992.

School officials asked Skillman at the start of his senior year in August 1992 if he'd sought counseling as promised. He said he'd seen a psychologist.

But the doctor's secretary told an assistant principal that Skillman had been in once, only for an evaluation.

Confronted with that fact, Skillman changed his tune, insisting that the psychologist had said he didn't need counseling. It turns out he was telling the truth this time.

"The doctor worked with parents and [Xavier] and services were provided, but no counseling," an Ironwood official noted in Skillman's file. "He thinks this might be enough to get it in [Xavier's] head to stop the behavior."

It wasn't.
In October 1992, more female Ironwood High students complained about Skillman. One girl told an assistant principal: "At the Cactus game, he wouldn't leave me alone. [Another girl] saw it and said he had done the same thing to her--in the cafeteria, trapped her in the corner and kept trying to kiss her. I'm really afraid of him. If we were alone, he would have raped me."

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