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Inspired by Purdue case, bill tries again to add consent to Indiana rape law
Plus, Fairfield Township trustee pays up on rent damages dispute. WL school board regroups after superintendent search. And what’s the coolest thing made in Indiana?
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Four years after a former Purdue student was acquitted of rape charges, even after testifying that he initiated sex in a dark dorm room with a woman who thought he was her boyfriend, another effort to make rape by impersonation a crime will get a hearing in the Indiana House this week.
House Bill 1079, authored by state Rep. Sharon Negele, a Republican from Attica, also would add a definition of consent to Indiana’s rape law.
The bill is identical to a proposal approved overwhelmingly in the Indiana House but that was held back in an Indiana Senate committee in 2021.
“These things take time,” Negele, who represents a large portion of Tippecanoe County, said. “I think we have some momentum this time. People are starting to get it. Our law is just inadequate.”
House Bill 1079 is scheduled for a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday In the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee.
Indiana law defines rape in three situations: sexual contact when someone is forced or is under “imminent threat of force;” when the victim is unaware of the sexual contact; or when the victim “is so mentally disabled or deficient” that consent can’t be given.
Negele’s proposal – co-sponsored by state Reps. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, and Sue Errington, D-Muncie – would add two definitions to the statute. It would be rape when:
“The other person submits to the sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct … under the belief that the person committing the act is someone the victim knows, other than the person committing the act, and such belief is intentionally induced by any artifice, pretense or concealment practiced by the person.”
“The other person has expressed a lack of consent, through words or conduct, to sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct.”
The first part stems from a 2018 case involving two Purdue students. According to court records, a Purdue testified that she’d fallen asleep in her boyfriend’s room, just down the hall from her own in First Street Towers, after hanging out with friends. She testified that she woke up to the feeling of someone curling up with her from behind. She assumed it was her boyfriend and they had sex. Afterward, as she returned to the bed from the restroom, she found one of the guys who had been hanging out with she and her boyfriend that night, smiling up at her.
During a February 2018 trial, the defendant’s lawyer argued that what he did wasn’t gentlemanly or even right, but that it wasn’t rape under Indiana law. He argued that the woman knew she was having sex and wasn’t forced into having it. The jury agreed that the rape statute didn’t cover that situation.
Bills filed in 2019 and 2020 and inspired by the case at Purdue did not get through the General Assembly. A Statehouse summer study committee in 2020 helped guide the 2021 bill and the version she filed last week, Negele said.
“This is not a real common thing,” Negele said of the Purdue case. “But it’s an absolute loophole.”
More fundamental is the second part, with a provision for consent.
“The bottom line is that the jury is the determiner of facts in a case,” Negele said. “And we just want to make sure that there's this clear definition of what consent is to a jury. We don't want differences between the courts. In some cases, we heard in testimony, that a judge told a jury to just use your best judgment and what you think consent is. …
“I think that this is a very simple, concise, appropriate way to display consent to a jury,” Negele said. “It's very black and white when you read the sentence what consent means.”
A similar proposal, House Bill 1176, cleared the House on a 90-4 vote in 2021. It stalled after getting an April 2021 hearing in the Senate’s Corrections and Criminal Law committee.
That day, based on video of the hearing, state Sen. Mike Young, chairman of the committee, said he’d agreed to hear the bill, even though he didn’t like either of the provisions being proposed. Negele testified that day that some lawmakers were balking at the word “consent” and had come up with amended wording.
“The trier of fact may find that the defendant compelled the other person to engage in sexual intercourse or perform or submit to other sexual conduct from the facts and circumstances surrounding the charged offense, including any evidence that the defendant ignored the other person's attempts to physically verbally or by other conduct refuse the defendant’s acts.”
Advocates for rape victims and others testified that it wasn’t as clear as the direct wording about consent. State Sen. Karen Tallian, then a member of the committee before the Ogden Dunes Democrat retired later in 2021, offered that the amendment sounded more like jury instructions than a law. Negele testified that she agreed the language wasn’t as good, but that it took the rape statute a step forward.
Young said he wasn’t happy with either and held the bill, so there was no vote.
After filing House Bill 1079, this year’s version, Negele said she’s ready to make the case, again.
“Looking at other states and listening to victims,” Negele said, “our rape statute is archaic in the sense that it doesn’t address consent. We need to fix that.”
FOLLOW THE BILL: House Bill 1079 will get its first hearing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee. To watch testimony or follow the bill, here’s your link.
This and that …
A TRUSTEE SETTLES A RENT DISPUTE: Just closing the loop on this one … Taletha Coles, Fairfield Township trustee, paid off a $1,109.45 bill from a previous landlord, who claimed the Fairfield Township trustee owed for back rent and damages at a house she rented on North 10th Street. Tom Herr, an attorney for B.W. Parks Property Management, told Tippecanoe Superior Court 7 Judge Dan Moore on Monday morning that Coles had sent a check to cover the amount listed in a small claims lawsuit filed Nov. 19. Herr said Coles did not address another $318.74 in legal fees and court costs. Moore gave the two parties until Feb. 14 to settle that. Coles was not in court Monday and didn’t immediately respond to a message. And court filings did not spell out what sort of damages there were in the apartment where Coles had lived since 2013, before moving in 2021.
WEST SIDE SCHOOL BOARD REGROUPS: After a superintendent search that further revealed tensions and some frustration about communication between the West Lafayette Community School Corp. board and some segments of the school community, the board announced a series of new, monthly drop-in sessions to meet with board members and administrators. Starting Saturday, and then the first Saturday of the month after that, the sessions will start at 9 a.m. in the upstairs space of the West Lafayette Pay Less Super Market, 1032 Sagamore Parkway W., board member Rachel Witt said. She called it one more way for the parents and community members to meet with board members and ask questions.
The announcement came Monday during a monthly meeting where some of those frustrations continued to simmer right at the surface.
Board member Yue Yin voiced some of that Monday night, fresh off accusations that the board stifled Yin in the final weeks of a sixth-month superintendent search played out during public meetings at the end of 2021, including when the board announced it would hire Shawn Greiner, now superintendent of Southmont School Corp. Yin was the lone vote against the hiring, saying it had nothing to do with Greiner and everything to do with that process.
Yin took issue Monday night with board’s annual reorganization, typically a perfunctory process at the start of each year. Yin questioned whether Witt, nominated to lead the board as president, was “ready for the role, yet,” citing Witt’s approach to the superintendent search. Outgoing board president Alan Karpick called Witt’s years on the board “exemplary.” And Witt was selected on a 6-1 board vote.) Yin also presented herself as vice president. That motion died without a second, and Brad Marley was selected.
Yin echoed recent calls for the school board to move away from attorney Bob Reiling, who has been the district’s legal counsel for 20 years, saying he’d been abrasive with patrons and too pricey. Interim Superintendent Ross Sloat said Reiling understood school law and the community, things the district didn’t take lightly. Yin suggested that maybe it was just a matter of bringing on someone else from Reiling’s firm. Witt said reviews had already started on the matter and that final decisions weren’t expected until after Greiner started Feb. 1. Reiling wasn’t at the meeting, where legal rates for 2022 were set. Yin was the lone vote against the rates.
COOLEST THING MADE IN INDIANA: Subaru of Indiana Automotive wasn’t shy this week, lobbying to advance in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s bracket-driven Coolest Thing Made in Indiana competition. Subaru’s entry in a field of 65 companies: The Ascent, Subaru’s built-in-Lafayette full-sized SUV.
The win-and-advance bracket voting – think March Madness office pools – started this week, with one more round each week until the finals from Feb. 10 to 14. (First up for the Subaru Ascent, an opening round matchup with Wheelin’ Water, a portable water tank designed for sports teams and manufactured in Fort Wayne.)
Subaru isn’t the only manufacturer from Tippecanoe and surrounding counties in the competition. Among the companies and the product in the bracket:
Caterpillar: The 3512E Tier 4 Dynamic Gas Blending Engine, built in Lafayette.
Lafayette Instrument Co.: The LX6 polygraph instrument. No lie, built in Lafayette.
Old 55 Distillery: Bottled-in-bond 100% sweet corn bourbon. Crafted in the renovated gym of Richland Township High School in Newtown, southwest of Lafayette in neighboring Fountain County.
Richey Athletics: Pole vault landing systems, made in Frankfort.
For a full list, check this link.
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