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Monday, July 14, 2014

Gaming Commission Chairman Avoids the Issues in College Rape Case

You may have read the front page article in the New York Times on Sunday regarding the case of a woman at Hobart and William Smith Colleges who accused three members of the football team of rape.  It's quite disturbing and graphic.  I'm not going to go into detail; here's the link.  After an on-campus hearing, the players were cleared of any wrongdoing.  The only reason I mention it on this site is because, as noted insistently by Teresa on her Twitter feed, the president of the school is Mark Gearan, who also happens to be the chairperson of the New York Gaming Commission.

At first, I wasn't sure exactly how or what to write about it.  Gearan was not quoted directly for the article, only a reference to his asserting that the school followed federal law.  (HWS is one of 55 school under federal investigation by the Department of Education for violating federal rules regarding sexual harassment).  There was drinking involved, and the accuser herself does not completely recall exactly what transpired.  And I have to say that the fact that the article was written by Walt Bogdanich gave me some pause, considering that he co-wrote some of the articles in the paper's misleading and biased Death and Disarray at America's Racetracks series.  When Gearan claims that "responses were either ignored or downplayed in the article," there is surely precedent for that from this writer.  Hey, that's what happens when a writer and/or newspaper distorts facts to fit their agenda; it calls the credibility of their subsequent work into question.

So, I was going to mention the reported, by the Times, incompetence of, and aggressiveness toward the accuser by, the panel that conducted the investigation; note that, as president, the buck stops at Gearan's desk for any such mishandling; point out that the same man ultimately responsible for what was reported to be a flawed process is now the head of the commission which regulates all racing and gaming in the state, and which has employed a panel to decide where four upstate casinos will be sited.  And call it a day.

Then I read Gearan's response to the article.  I think he should have left well enough alone.

In a message to the HWS Community, Gearan refers to a website that includes information that was provided to the Times reporter which is largely missing from the article.  Ah, here was his chance to support his claims that the article was distorted.  On said website, we're told:

Below are some of the points that were made to the New York Times that were either missing or downplayed in the story.

And then it proceeds to not address a single one of the key damning points of the article; Not. A. One. We're told about all the programs in place and planned for the future; it's noted that four students have been expelled for sexual misconduct in past cases; we're told that "out of respect for the privacy of the currently enrolled student who made the complaint," they can't discuss details of the case (but it was OK to disclose the accuser's identity to "dozens' of students? While the accused football players remain anonymous because they were cleared?); and we're fed a lot of fluff worthy of a corporate or politician's press release.

But there's nothing to explain or dispute the key assertions contained in the piece:  That the chairwoman of the panel did not share the medical report with the other two members - a sexual-assault nurse reported 'blunt force trauma within the last 24 hours indicating “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful."  That one of the panel members, who are required by federal law to have “adequate training or knowledge” for the task, was the director of the campus bookstore "who the school said had expressed an interest in serving."  That one panelist asked whether a witness "had seen the player’s penis in Anna’s vagina or if he had just seen them having sex." That the accuser was repeatedly interrupted by the panelists, preventing her from telling her story in a coherent way.  That it took five months to discipline one of the players for contacting her in violation of a strict no-contact order.  That the accused attackers conveniently changed their stories as the investigation went on.

I will take the lack of response to these accusations raised by the Times to mean that all of them are true as reported.  So, I will reiterate, more forcefully now, that the chairperson of the New York Gaming Commission oversaw a process at his full-time job which was flawed, most innocuously; if not downright tilted against the accuser.  In addition, his effort at deflecting attention from the substantive issues with what is nothing more than a flashy PR deke worthy of a corrupt New York State politician makes it quite clear that Gearan is (nearly) as adept of playing the political game as the man who appointed him to his position.  And that any false hope that some may, for some reason, still harbor that the process of selecting the casino sites will be free from politics as usual should be put aside for good.