Criminal charges still haven’t been brought in the rape case involving a Stanford student from Juneau who says she was raped by a fellow college and high school classmate while in Juneau over Christmas break.
Juneau District Attorney James Scott told the Empire he is waiting for documents from the recently concluded Stanford investigation before making a charging decision. He expects to make that decision in the coming weeks.
“I’m making an effort to acquire everything that I can from Stanford before we make a final decision,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “That has been an ongoing and active process, not something that’s moldering. I mean, literally, that’s something that we’ve been working on every day.”
Leah Sharon Francis, a 21-year-old Stanford senior who graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 2010, sparked a firestorm of national media attention last month when she publicly announced she was raped, criticizing the university’s lenient punishment of the male student she alleges raped her. Francis galvanized support for her cause — to reform Stanford’s policies by making sexual assault grounds for automatic expulsion from the school — by organizing rallies on campus that were well attended by local media in California and through an online petition. Throngs of supporters online expressed solidarity on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites with the hashtag #StandWithLeah.
“Stanford’s behind the times,” she told the Empire in a previous interview of Stanford’s handling of her case. “They need to catch up.” The Empire does not disclose the names of rape victims without their permission, which Francis granted to the Empire as well as to other media outlets.
Francis says she was raped by her ex-boyfriend, who is also from Juneau and attends Stanford, at his parent’s house in Juneau on New Year’s Eve. She reported it to the local police in California, which did not have jurisdiction over the case since the alleged crime took place in Juneau and turned it over to the Juneau Police Department.
Francis also reported it to Stanford so she could go through the judicial affairs process, known as the Alternate Review Process. The ARP is in place to discipline students accused of serious misconduct, including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual assault.
After conducting a five-month long investigation, the ARP Board in May found the alleged assailant, who has not been named, responsible for sexually assaulting Francis. But they only sanctioned him to complete 40 hours of community service, to attend a sexual assault awareness program and to be suspended from school for five quarters, effective this summer.
Francis said that decision as too lenient, especially since it allowed him to finish classes on campus where she would see him and it would allow him to walk at graduation. He also could return to Stanford for graduate school, if he wanted.
She appealed, demanding her attacker be expelled or suspended from the school. A review panel denied that appeal last month and also found that the male student was not a threat to the campus because he and Francis had dated previously. They found that he could finish his senior year, although his degree would be withheld for two years. He was also denied entry into graduate school until 2016. The decision, which was handed down by Stanford’s Vice Provost of Student Affairs, rescinded the five-quarter suspension and the community-service hours.
“My assailant is walking away with an almost complete lack of undergraduate consequences,” Francis wrote in an email to the Empire and on a Facebook post online, sharing her reaction after the decision was made.
As the Stanford proceedings unfolded, the Juneau Police Department completed its investigation and forwarded the case to the DA’s office. DA Scott said he’s had the police report for months, but has to hold off on making a charging decision until he receives the documents from the Stanford proceedings, which includes sworn statements from Francis, the male student accused of rape and other witnesses.
The university’s proceedings were confidential, and there were only two ways to obtain the documents: to obtain and execute search warrants on Stanford, or to have the people involved sign confidentiality waivers that releases the material to the DA’s office. Scott said the latter option was quicker and that his office is in the process of having the witnesses, including Francis and the man accused of raping her, sign the waivers.
“Ms. Francis, the accused, any other name of any other person we think made a statement, we approach them and we ask them if they’re wiling to waive, and in fact, the principal parties involved have both indicated that they’re willing to waive, and we just need to get those documents on file with Stanford,” Scott said.
The reason for waiting for those documents is due diligence on the part of state prosecutors, Scott said, especially if there’s a jury trial in the future.
“If I were to charge and then find out at trial that, in fact, there was evidence that was deduced at the Stanford case that we should have considered before charging, then that would be lack of due diligence on my part,” he said. “... It’s weird. It’s like there’s a whole investigation that I don’t know about, and I can’t know about, until I get the Stanford information.”
Scott added carefully, “As soon as I get sufficient information from Stanford to make sure there’s no information there that would change or affect or impact the decision that we would otherwise make, based upon the material that we’ve been provided, then we’ll make a decision, and my hope is to do that in the coming weeks.”