It is time to name names, as they say. The man who actually physically raped Sephora Davis at knife point on December 8, 2003 is named Eric Harder. He was, and perhaps is, a police informant. As far as I know he still lives in Mount Morris, New York. About six weeks later he and a then Mount Morris police officer named Dana Carson, who remains a police officer in Geneseo, New York, conspired to fabricate evidence and commit perjury to implicate Sephora in an armed robbery and “kidnapping” that took place in the hours after Harder had raped her. Other police officers were involved, though I can’t identify them specifically based on particular evidence. Strong circumstantial evidence indicates that the Livingston County District Attorney, Tom Moran, knew about and participated in this conspiracy from the beginning, perhaps even orchestrating it. In any case it is 100% certain that Moran at the very least became aware that the criminal charges against Sephora Davis were based on perjury and fabrication but continued prosecuting her anyway. Moran is still the Livingston County District Attorney, but – of course – he is running for judge this year (although the Monroe County Bar Association seems less than enthusiastic about that) as a Republican and presumably will win. He is just the kind of person who often becomes a New York State Supreme Court judge. His election will be perversely appropriate.
Several individuals who were judges at the time are also implicated. Ronald Cicoria, who retired as a Livingston County Court Judge at the end of 2005 – and tellingly thereafter became a “special assistant” in the Livingston County District Attorney’s office under Moran – “presided” over Sephora’s prosecution until his retirement and refused to stop it, issuing an opinion in September of 2005 in which he refused to mention the allegations that Harder had raped her. He was replaced by Monroe County Family Court Judge Joan S. Kohout, who eventually sent Sephora Davis to prison even though she knew her to be innocent, a rape victim and that the evidence implicating her was fabrication and perjury. Several justices of the state Supreme Court serving on the Appellate Division, Fourth Department are involved: Nancy Smith – who is up for re-election this year but probably unopposed – and justices Hurlbut, Centra, Pine, and Kehoe. These five judges at one time or another presided over a special proceeding to prohibit Sephora’s continued prosecution in Livingston County Court. Despite the fact that they knew she was a rape victim and that the charges against her were based on perjury and fabrication, they repeatedly refused to stop the prosecution. In their written memorandum opinion finally dismissing the special proceeding and clearing the way for her imprisonment they deliberately misrepresented the factual record, also somehow forgot to mention the evidence that she had been raped, and ignored the governing law. And the ground given for their determination – “mootness” – was preposterous: within two weeks of that determination (which occurred on December 22, 2006), Sephora Davis was delivered into the hands of the New York State Department of Corrections as a prisoner, which a contrary determination by that court would have prevented.
What a strange thing, then: a criminal act fully documented in the public records by the criminals themselves, all of them public officials. A new low, even by the increasingly meager standards of the American judicial system.
Many other government officials in New York bear a degree of responsibility for this crime, notably former Attorney General Elliot Spitzer and former Attorney General – now governor – Andrew Cuomo. But I’ll get to that more specifically as we go along.
It is also important to note that while this has been mainly a disaster for me, I have had help along the way from very unlikely sources – people who, unlike the many public officials, had no official or personal obligation to do anything. Chief among these are members of the Grammatico family in Rochester – Rosanne, Lou (yes, that Lou Grammatico) and especially Nick. It is hard for me to imagine how I would have survived to this point without their support and friendship – and indeed protection – which was extended to me with full knowledge of what I was facing and no real expectation of return. Even so, I hope some day to be able to express my gratitude to them in more tangible terms than words.
I am also grateful to a few members of the Rochester legal community. I won’t name them all. Lamentably, this is for their own protection. But the involvement of a couple of them – Don Thompson and Catherine Cerulli – is already known. Kate provided her very important expertise in dealing with sexual assault victims pro bono; Don Thompson took over from me in Livingston County Court in 2006, probably sparing me from being arrested, prosecuted or even killed.
Last along these lines, I want to emphasize what a privilege it has been to represent Sephora. She is a very brave young lady of very high character, for which the world has for some inexplicable reason mercilessly tormented her.