Hutchinson Advocates for domestic abuse victims say the jailing of an alleged rape victim for refusing to testify against the man she charged with assaulting her sends a chilling message to other victims, and may dissuade some from reporting such attacks.
The Reno County woman has told police she was held for three days by her ex-boyfriend, Anthony Jefferson, last year between Jan. 30 and Feb. 1. He is charged with aggravated kidnapping, rape, criminal sodomy and aggravated intimidation of a witness.
Jefferson also is charged with trying to kill the woman's boyfriend. The woman testified in a June preliminary hearing in that case.
Last week, the woman told a Reno County judge that she would not testify against Jefferson at a preliminary hearing. District Judge Steven Becker charged her with contempt, and she spent three nights behind bars before being released Monday.
Becker told the woman she could spend four more months in jail if she refuses to appear and testify at a preliminary hearing, which was rescheduled for April 25.
"Her explanation for not wanting to testify is she doesn't have one," said Reno County prosecutor Keith Schroeder. "She says she's not scared, and she says what she told police is true. She essentially said: 'I'm not going to honor our justice system."'
Becker said he didn't want to put the woman behind bars, but it's in the community's best interest to put a violent offender behind bars.
"It bothered me tremendously to place an alleged victim in jail," Becker said "But what counterbalanced my concern is the integrity of the criminal justice system."
Jefferson is being held in the Lansing Correctional Facility. He has served prison time for convictions ranging from drug violations to criminal threats to battery. While serving a sentence for drug charges, he walked away from a work detail last July in Kansas City, Kan.
"In my opinion, we're dealing with someone really violent," Schroeder said. "I have to consider the desires of victims and what's in the best interest of community. That's a tough call to make."
Officials with the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence said the actions against the woman could keep other rape victims from coming forward.
"This is a chilling message to send to victims of rape," said Joyce Grover, the coalition's legal advocacy coordinator. "This is not something that encourages cooperation with the criminal justice system."
Despite the woman's insistence that she's not intimidated, Schroeder said he thought that was just a smoke screen.
"My hunch is that she's so frightened of him -- even though she says she isn't," he said. "She was willing to testify in the attempted-murder case, because she's not the only witness. In the assault case, she is the only witness, and I think that's a big concern."