Philly Judge Criticized for Rape Decision

State bar association president decries "unforgivable miscarriage of justice."

February 18, 2009, 7:30 PM

Oct. 31, 2007 — -- A judge in Philadelphia has come under fire for a controversial ruling in which she reduced charges so that a man accused of raping a prostitute at gunpoint faced only robbery charges for "theft of services."

Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni earlier this month dismissed rape and sexual assault charges against Dominique Gindraw, who is accused of forcing a prostitute at gunpoint to have sex with him and several other men. Deni left intact charges of armed robbery for theft of services against Gindraw.

Prosecuting Gindraw for rape, the judge said in a subsequent newspaper interview "minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped."

The decision — and Deni's subsequent comments to a local newspaper — prompted about 40 complaints from around the country to the local bar association, said executive director Ken Shear, as well as a campaign by women's groups to encourage people to vote against Deni when she is up for reelection Tuesday

The Philadelphia Bar Association this week took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the ruling.

"I am personally offended by this unforgivable miscarriage of justice," said bar association chancellor Jane Dalton. "The victim has been brutalized twice in this case: first by the assailants, and now by the court."

"A victim is a victim regardless of how they come to be in that position," Dalton told ABC News.

Deni did not immediately return a message for comment left this morning.

Her lawyer, George Bochetto, said Deni "makes decisions based on the evidence presented in a court of law, not newspaper accounts of the story. She finds the chancellor's comments to be regrettable."

The accuser testified that she initially agreed to have sex with Gindraw and a friend of his in exchange for money, but that Gindraw refused to pay her, held a gun to her head and forced her to have sex with several men, according to a transcript of an Oct. 4 court hearing.

"She consented and she didn't get paid. … I thought it was a robbery," Deni told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Prosecuting Gindraw for rape "minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped," she told the paper.

The bar association on Oct. 1 recommended that voters retain Deni for another six-year term. That recommendation came before Deni's decision in the Gindraw case, and the commission that recommended her retention could not be reconvened before the election, Shear said.

Dalton said Deni's ruling misapplied the state's rape laws.

"Her decision in this case was based on a pre-existing bias as to when sex can be consented to, and as to when that consent can be withdrawn, and reflects, in my opinion, a clear disregard of the legal definition of rape and the rule of law in this case," she said.

The reduced charges against Gindraw are still pending in the Municipal Court, but the district attorney's office has refiled the rape charge at a different local court, the Court of Common Pleas, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events