Studies have shown that a surprising number of women that have been raped or sexually assaulted still choose not to report the attacks to the authorities. Assuredly, even fewer pursue civil actions against their assailants. Victims may be intimidated by the legal system and rightfully fear a loss of their privacy. But the attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone are firm believers that the system does work for those who are brave enough to pursue justice, and they are prepared to help victims skillfully navigate those waters.
Recently, the high-profile matter of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest has caused many laypeople to wonder how the criminal prosecutions of rape cases relate to the civil lawsuits filed by the victims. Generally speaking, a smart civil attorney will wait to file a lawsuit alleging a sexual assault until after the criminal court case has resulted in a conviction, for three reasons. First, if the defendant decides to plead guilty to a sex crime to resolve the criminal matter, his plea and allocution – which are done under oath – can be used as evidence (an admission, really) in the civil lawsuit. Of course, an admission by the defendant under oath makes the civil lawsuit very easy to win. Second, if the defendant is convicted after trial, that decision by the jury does not automatically guarantee a victory in the civil suit (as the criminal verdict does not constitute evidence in the civil proceeding), but it certainly makes a big settlement in favor of the plaintiff more likely. Third and finally, civil lawyers also want to delay the filing of the civil lawsuit because the filing of that suit is likely to jeopardize the victim’s credibility in the criminal trial. Indeed, one of the easiest ways for a criminal defense lawyer to discredit a rape victim at trial is to ask her, “And you have filed a civil lawsuit seeking millions of dollars, have you not?” Of course, the implication for the jury is that the complainant has fabricated her story because she wants to get rich. (This may have in fact contributed to the acquittal of the “Rape Cops” Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata). Fortunately, the CPL allows attorneys to delay the filing of their sexual assault lawsuits when the criminal case is pending, without statute of limitations penalties.
An acquittal of the perpetrator in criminal court doesn’t necessarily mean that a civil lawsuit will be unsuccessful, however. For example, O.J. Simpson was found “not guilty” of murder in criminal court, but was later found to be criminally responsible for the death of Nicole Brown in a civil trial. The reason for these different results is that the standards of proof are different: in criminal court, the defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but in civil court, the defendant must be proven liable by a preponderance of the evidence. Clearly, the latter is a less difficult standard of proof than the former. Thus, a civil claimant need not abandon her lawsuit simply because her accuser was found not guilty by a criminal jury. (As an example, the writer thinks it will be very interesting to see the resolution of the $57 million civil lawsuit in the “Rape Cop” case involving Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, who were found not guilty of rape and sex abuse but found guilty of official misconduct.).
Civil lawsuits can even be successful in cases where the perpetrator is destitute or not apprehended. That is because there may be liability on the part of the operator of the premises where the rape occurred. Hotels, bars, and concert venues that fail to provide adequate security to prevent a sexual assault can also be sued, even where the perpetrator eludes capture or is not apprehended.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of a rape or sexual assault and are considering starting a lawsuit against the perpetrator, you should strongly consider contacting the experienced attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone, LLP. In particular, Matthew Galluzzo served as a prosecutor in the famous Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan D.A.’s Office, and thus he has real-world experience building and proving cases of sexual assault and rape. His efforts have resulted in the conviction and incarceration of numerous sexual criminals, and now, he is available to help victims obtain the justice they deserve in civil court. He has been recognized by the U.S. government as a leading expert in the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes, and his opinions on the prosecution of sex crimes have been sought out by television and print media. Plainly put, if you have been a victim and are seeking justice in civil court, or if you just need help understanding the often daunting and intimidating criminal justice process, you would be hard-pressed to find someone better suited to do so. Give him a call today to schedule an appointment.
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