How the MCSO Neglected a 14-Year-Old Rape Victim — and Went to Town on Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon

Abigail Brown was 14 years old — a high school freshman and a virgin — when some juniors and seniors got her drunk at a party and videotaped her having sex with them.

The young men, go figure, had all the usual excuses. She was drunk, man! She was asking for it! "Dude, seriously, I'm not the raping type," one of the suspects protested to sheriff's investigators — just minutes after admitting to having had sex with an extremely drunk 14-year-old girl on the bathroom floor while a half-dozen of his friends watched.

"We went into the bathroom to fuck," the suspect admitted. "Girls and morals just . . . I mean, not that many of them have them these days. I guess I don't have that many either."

Now there's the understatement of the year.

The law is very clear on certain points. Even if a girl is "asking for it," if she's 14, it's statutory rape. No amount of flirting makes it okay — even if she's drunk.

Make that, especially if she's drunk. And especially if there's a videotape! This wasn't an incident where two in-love teens were playing around; this was the very definition of exploitation.

Just don't try telling that to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

For these guys, apparently, it's still 1953. A drunk girl is a slutty girl. And if he says she wants it bad, well, undoubtedly she's to blame for her own assault.

We now know that the MCSO was told the truth about what happened to Abigail Brown in 2001. The investigators' efforts were half-hearted at best: They never tracked down a copy of the videotape, even though dozens of kids had seen it. They didn't bother to find most of the students at the party. And when one of the suspects suggested that Brown had a "tarnished reputation," the detective working the case seemed all too willing to agree.

After one suspect failed to show up for questioning, the MCSO closed out the file. It didn't even bother to tell Brown.

"The detective didn't even answer my phone calls after a few months," Brown says today.

"America's Toughest Sheriff," it seems, is only tough when the case is high-profile and the cameras are rolling. Give him complicated circumstances or the slightest setback and he folds like a card table.

And here's the kicker.

When the MCSO closed Abigail Brown's case, it filed the case under "cleared."

The FBI requires that "cleared" cases result either in arrest or "exceptional" circumstances — meaning that the agency knows who's guilty but can't actually arrest him. (For example, the suspect might be dead or imprisoned in a country that refuses extradition.)

Abigail Brown's case meets neither of those requirements.

When the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office touts its high clearance rate and argues that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is running a professional law enforcement agency, it's worth remembering what happened to Abigail Brown.

Hers was a case the MCSCO cleared: A case where it dropped the ball, let the bad guys go free, and left the victim hanging without so much as a phone call.


Abigail Brown is now a pretty, poised woman. And, yes, Abigail Brown is her real name — she decided to come forward, on the record, because she wants changes to be made. She wants to make sure that the Sheriff's Office can no longer sweep cases like hers under the rug.

Last week, on what happened to be her 23rd birthday, Brown addressed the media from a podium at the Goldwater Institute, the libertarian think tank in Phoenix.

The director of the institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, Clint Bolick, issued a report last year that was highly critical of the Sheriff's Office's "misplaced priorities." Bolick's report noted that the MCSO appeared to be violating FBI rules by "clearing" an abnormal amount of cases without actually, you know, solving them.

In the aftermath of that report, a former colleague of Bolick's in Boston put him in touch with Abigail Brown. She agreed to become the "face" of a very real problem in this county.

As Brown explained last week, in the aftermath of the assault she suffered eight years ago, Moon Valley High School was abuzz with the drama. The videotape of that night — which supposedly showed Brown drunkenly having sex with at least one guy, and then naked in the shower — was played at numerous parties and whispered about in the hallways.

One of Brown's friends was so concerned that she contacted a family friend, an officer with the Phoenix Police Department. When the officer realized that the incident actually took place in the jurisdiction of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, she referred the case to it.

At the MCSO's behest, Abigail Brown sat down with officers and told them what happened. She told them there was a videotape and that numerous people at her school had seen it. (In fact, a friend of her sister's had seen the video at a party, just weeks before.) She explained that she was 14 at the time of the incident and that the guys were upperclassmen.

The Sheriff's Office closed the case.

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15 comments
MICHAEL KOLLIE
MICHAEL KOLLIE

Dear friends the only way we can stop rape victime is to remove porn from the media. What good does porns do to our children? What education does watching porn give to our children? parents are making love in fornt of thir two yeras old son/daughter, five years old son/daughters in america everyday. what do we think about the impact that all of the activities have on our children. the olny way we can stop rap is to stop porn.

Oni_chiba
Oni_chiba

Rape is a crime of dominance and control. Sexual attraction has very little do to with it. You are very very wrong.

brad poulos
brad poulos

yeah.. she had no responsability while getting laid. they were all drunk.. you people never got drunk when you were under 18? You never had sex while drunk and a minor. The boy's life would have been ruined. Sounds like she claimed rape after everyone of her fellow students found out she was easy.

you all need to look at how bad this news paper (cough) wants to get Joe.

Do you realize this same paper would be attacking a prosecuter for going after this boy if it would some how make Joe look bad.

David E. Smith Jr.
David E. Smith Jr.

The Abigale Brown story doesn't surprise me. The main priorities ,in Maricopa County, involve drug cases.

There is a 97 percent plea-bargain rate , in Arizona. Thousands of young people, without the monetary means toobtain treatment are victims of a " Bathtub" conspiracy.

Attorneys , in Arizona , promise their clients an aggressivedefense , but often coax their clients to take the plea - bargain instead.

It's a legal-welfare system ,which opts to warehouse addicts and mentally ill individuals rather than to salvage and rehabilitate a human life.

When the State of Arizona has Plaintiff status , without producing any evidence of a true crime , It is apparent that no victim can be produced and there is Consitutional conflict of interst.

I often wonder how any of them sleep , at night , and in turn wonder where "American" compassion resides. In additon, I know full well that there is no Consitutional amendment that legislates or demands "Self-Protection."

It seems to me that Arizona Legislators pass statutes , without any real thought as to their long term affect or any real thoughts - as to social impact.

All the while - The Abigail Browns of our society are told to kindly take a number. " Where have all the Flowers Gone??"

Thomas Coletto
Thomas Coletto

To the Greater Phoenix Community,

I have come to truly realize that what I was doing for those two months was so terribly wrong. I can't begin to know where to start, but I will try.

After my best friend died of causes which are still unknown, I have had a void in my heart. Nothing in my life was more painful then loosing him, and I think apart of myself died with him.

I will not release his name, because I have already destroyed my name, my families name, my mother, my father, and my grandfather's name. I can only wonder if they will ever truly forgive me for what I have done, and who I associated with.

I associated with true evil, I know this because a member of the NSM Las Vegas Unit, is a self-proclaimed satanist, as is Scott Hume, leader of the Arizona National Socialist Movement.

He has a satanic symbol tattooed on his upper back, the 5 pointed star with a goat head. Why am I telling you this? Because I realized through my own research, how associating with these people was the most damning decision I could have ever made.

I am an Atheist, I chose not to believe in god for my own reasons. Scott tried to push satanism on me, many nights, we would talk over yahoo messenger, and he would ask me to accept a Nazi demon, it was just insane. And he would push it on me. Just as he did to join the NSM. Satan is true evil, and I fell into his trap.

I was indeed influenced, stupid, and I allowed myself to be brainwashed, by people who seemed, so kind, and honest, and true at heart. But I was wrong. I always wondered if they knew I was 1/8th Native American. Would they still have accepted me?

I realized that jewish people, are indeed people, each of us, all of us, including myself have shades of gray. And there are people who are evil. I can't begin to forgive myself for what I did. But I know that the jews were exterminated. I know it because my Grandfather liberated a death camp in WW2. He was in the 26th ID 328th Infantry Regiment. He rarely spoke of WW2 at all, but I remember him telling me that evil people in the war tried to kill an entire people for their belief in god.

I find it hard to look at myself in the mirror, go outside, show my face. I never hated anyone, regardless of my stances on Illegal Immigration. This is fact: I used to HATE Arpaio, because he violates the constitution which I so strongly stand to protect, EVERY day he violates it.

I was not allowed to vote because of my felony, luckily it goes away, once my sentence is up. I tried to VOTE in November, and I did. My name was not removed up until a few months ago. This is the truth, and I was SO proud I even took a cell phone picture.

I voted for Obama, who I now disagree with on most issues, I just never liked McCain. I was a Ron Paul guy.

But I remember the feeling that night, when he won. I felt so proud, because of what happened. History unfolded before my eyes. I voted for, and witnessed history before my eyes, and I was so proud, I remember the warmth I felt in my chest when he spoke after he had become President Elect.

Illegal Immigration is wrong, yes, and I was never for any amnesty. But I felt always that our laws are outrageous, and unfair. We need workers, we need hard workers like them. Especially since this hits so close to home. A very good friend of mine immigrated here from Holland when he was a boy. He was with us when we got arrested for vandalism. He was landed with a permanent felony, and after he serves his probation... He is getting deported, and he can never come back, or visit again.

Not only did my best friend die, but now another close friend is moving away, and I will never see his face again... The last time I saw his was at my best friends funeral. Our group was a strange one, at least people in school thought so. It was me, a kid from Holland, a black Muslim, and a few other guys.

His name was never released (the black muslim), he was tried as a juvuinale, and is now on his way to Harvard. I just wish I could still have a positive future. But I fear that since I was so brainwashed and so stupid, I may have destroyed my life in it's entirety...

You know, I wanted to become a Criminal Defense lawyer, for people who could not afford it. I planned to get my Journalism Degree, and then go to law school. But I also fear now that all of that is lost.

I have done some terrible things, but I can't forgive myself for this mistake. I know I am not evil, I never hated anyone. I grew up in a all white neighborhood in New York, there was one black student in my class. He turned out to be my best friend until I moved here when I was 5. And we still talk occasionally. But I only fear that he google's my name, and then I would loose another life time friend.

The damage I have done to myself, and my family is overwhelming... And my mind was just filled with things, that when I look back and think about them now... How stupid was I. Why did I join them? Why didn't I think? What pain and suffering have I caused?

I thank you for reading this ramble to those of you who did. If you wish to contact me on this matter please do so at thomas.coletto@gmail.com

I hope that at least maybe someone could forgive me, and the mistakes I have made thus far.

Regards,Thomas Vito Coletto

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

-Sorry, Abbey, but if you don't want to get hit by a train, don't walk on the tracks.Comment by Jerry Valejo from Phoenix on Jun 1st, 2009, 12:05 pm-

Wow, and here I was impressed that no asshats had chimed in... That is, until I stumbled upon Jeyy's little nugget of wisdom.

What a schmuck, are you really this stupid, or is it just an act?

Jerry Valejo
Jerry Valejo

Sorry, Abbey, but if you don't want to get hit by a train, don't walk on the tracks.

Sue the County
Sue the County

I wonder if this young lady has any sort of legal recourse after they open up this investigation for the whole world to know what happened to her. Then failed to punish the kids that raped her and with the kids getting off scott-free, they had this attitude "WTF, Dude" This young lady was raped by these thugs and then raped by the MCSO for their inaction.

She obviously endured emotional trauma as a result of both the actions and inaction. Perhaps Chad can answer this - does she have any recourse against the MCSO?

Rev Robert
Rev Robert

Please join me in the recall effort against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas. Enough is Enough and we need change in Maricopa County

Recallcorruptpoliticians.info

Thanks

Rev Robert

Chad Snow
Chad Snow

Anyone have any idea what "what the fuck ever, dude" actually means??? I kind of like it - we should get T-shirts made of Arpaio and Henderschott's greasy mugs saying "what the fuck ever, dude".

Great article, Sarah, as usual.

Chad Snow
Chad Snow

It seems like almost daily, the list continues to grow of Arpaio's political opponents or critics who have been arrested, jailed, falsely accused, slandered, or otherwise intimidated. For those of us hoping to overthrow Arpaio, this kind of naked abuse of power might connect with and shock the 55% of voters who buy into his schtick on immigration or otherwise support him. Americans can tolerate a host of shortcomings from our politicians - corruption and abuse of office aren't two of them.

helentroy4
helentroy4

I am becoming more and more impressed by the Goldwater Institute. Will it be that they will finally be the catalyst that brings Sheriff Arpaio to justice? I am extremely impressed that they, although very conservative in their stance on illegal immigration, are wise enough to not buy into Arpaio's bullshit when it comes to the horror that he was wrought upon so many that so many nativists and conservatives approve of because of his racist, bigotted attitude toward minorities that feeds their own sickness and allows all the closet racists to express their bigotry at the voter's booth.

david saint
david saint

Excellent article about the bogus clearance rate over at MCSO, and their supreme lack of effort in some cases. And if you take into consideration that they said last Friday that they didnt know the home address of someone they have been supposedly investigating for 5 years now (AG Goddard, remember they claimed they had "no idea that was his house"), one would suggest only 2 variables apply. Lack of intelligence, or lack of effort when it comes to non political investigations.

The saddest part though isnt that a top Law enforcement agency has decided to make a political issue front and center over the increasing crime rates, and its not even that they seemingly always get away with what would end careers for most others. Its that 55% of voters in this county refuse to acknowledge any of it, or refuse to care! When this story was on AZCENTRAL, the people were complaining and blaming the victim!! Not one word about MCSO's lack of effort and attempted bloating of closure rates, just trash talking the victime...Now that is SCARY! Add that to the fact that Fed Judge Neil Wake said just yesterday that "arpaio and his men conspired to arrest Dan Pochoda for intimidation purposes, violating his civil rights", and any sane, logical person has to be scratching their head asking "How is this guy still in office?". Well, apparently here in Aribama things like education, arresting criminals who have warrants, and victims rights are a distant second to peoples hate and anger over the immigration problem. Aribama, nuff said.....

 
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