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Nov 10, 2018

Case cleared (part 1)

Co-produced with PRX Logo

When police closed the rape case against Bryan Kind, they made it look like it had been solved. But he never was arrested – or even charged. We team up with Newsy and ProPublica to investigate how police across the country make it seem like they’re solving more rape cases than they actually are.

Credits

Reporters: Mark Greenblatt and Mark Fahey of Newsy, and Bernice Yeung of ProPublica

Lead Producer: Emily Harris

Editors: Brett Myers, with help from Andy Donohue, and Newsy’s Lawan Hamilton and Ellen Weiss

Our production manager is Najib Aminy. Original score and sound design by Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda who had help from Kaitlin Benz

Special Thanks: Zach Cusson, Kenny Jacoby, Vik Narayan and Luke Piotrowski of Newsy;  Sophie Chou, Robin Fields, Lena Groeger, Ryann Grochowski Jones, and Sisi Wei of ProPublica; and Reveal’s Michael Corey and Eric Sagara

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal's radio stories is the audio.
Speaker 1: ­

 

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Al Letson: From the center for investigative reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson. Before we start today's show, you should know that it deals with graphic allegations of sexual assault, something that the country has been wrestling with a lot lately.

 

Speaker 3: Dr Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh all assaulted you?

 

Dr Ford: 100%.

 

Brett Kavanaugh: I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr Ford.

 

Al Letson: Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation raised a lot of questions about how we deal with accusations of sexual assault. Here's how President Donald Trump dealt with Dr Ford's accusation.

 

Donald Trump: How did you get home? I don't remember. How'd you get there? I don't remember. Where is the place? I don't remember. How many years ago was it? I don't remember. I don't know. I don't know.

 

Al Letson: And on Twitter, Trump suggested that if the assault really happened, law enforcement would have been involved and charges would have been filed. In other words, there'll be proof because the police would have investigated this. But Trump's own justice department says that only about 20% of survivors ever report these crimes to police. Let's look at the president's other assumption, that after sexual assault is reported police would fully investigate, that they get to the bottom of it. Justice would be served.

 

Al Letson: When the president tweeted that, we were wrapping up an investigation that took over a year looking at how rapes are really handled in our criminal justice system. We teamed up with reporters, Mark Greenblatt of Newsy, The Online and Cable News Network, and Bernice Yeung of ProPublica. Together, we looked at more than 70,000 rapes from scores of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors all over the country. We read hundreds of detailed police reports and followed court cases from start to finish. What we wanna know, are police solving as many rape cases as they claim and if they aren't, who's getting hurt? Mark and Bernice Begin in Illinois on a case that will take them around the country.

 

Bernice Yeung: Mark and I are in Peoria to meet Andy Licensure. He's 37 years old, a friendly guy with a full beard and a quiet voice, built like a big teddy bear. We want to talk to him because he took a risk to try and bring a man to justice.

 

Mark Greenblatt: We're at a park by the Illinois River. That's where the three of us find a picnic table in a wide field away from playgrounds and ball fields. We wanna find somewhere quiet to talk. By day, Andy works as a youth pastor and that's his passion, but it's never paid very much, so he's always had other jobs.

 

Andy Licensure: As much as my call is to be a pastor. My call is to be hospitable to people and I get to express that through being a front desk clerk at a hotel.

 

Bernice Yeung: He likes connecting with people he would ordinarily never meet.

 

Andy Licensure: I think sometimes conversations are just meant to take place and you get to experience humanity with people on a little bit deeper level.

 

Al Letson: Up the highway a few hours away in Janesville, Wisconsin, Andy used to work the night shift at Ramada Inn. It looks pretty typical, two stories, lots of brick with a parking lot all the way around.

 

Bernice Yeung: Inside, all the hallways open onto a big arched glass atrium. There are Arcade Games in one corner, a swimming pool, a hot tub, and security cameras linked to a monitor at the front desk.

 

Al Letson: One night while keeping an eye on those security cameras, Andy notices a girl in the hot tub. He guesses she's about 16.

 

Andy Licensure: For a 16-year-old kid to be able to go hang out at a hotel room with a pool and a Jacuzzi. I mean, it seems trivial to us, but for a kid, I mean, that's exciting stuff and it's Janesville, it's not that exciting.

 

Bernice Yeung: Andy recognizes the girl, she's been a guest there before and from his spot at the front desk, through the video feed, he sees someone else in the hot tub with her. It's a man, he looks older than she is, too old.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Tell me about the first time you can remember seeing this individual, this older man hanging out at the Ramada that you worked at?

 

Andy Licensure: The hot tub, yeah-

 

Mark Greenblatt: What do you remember?

 

Andy Licensure: Them just being really a little too close. Even through the security camera, it just felt awkward. Yeah, I mean there was an intimacy happening, kissing and that kind of thing.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Real kisses, like mouth to mouth?

 

Andy Licensure: Yeah.

 

Mark Greenblatt: In the hot tub?

 

Andy Licensure: Yeah. And you don't know details, right? So it's not like you run out there and bust up whatever's going on.

 

Bernice Yeung: After all, privacy is part of what guests are buying, so Andy just watches and he worries. Watches the teenager and the man go upstairs to their room, worries as they leave the hotel arm in arm laughing. They had just walked out. In fact, when a young man walks in, he's delivering takeout for another guest and happens to know the girl.

 

Andy Licensure: He saw them leaving the hotel and he said, "I do," or whatever. And then came in to deliver a sandwich. He said, "Man, I wish I could do something about that." And I said, "Well, what do you mean?" He said, "Well she's only like 16 and he's 26 or something like that." And turns out, no, actually he's like 31. And I said, "Well, tell me more about that." And he said, "Well, she's been seeing him for a while now and everybody just wants it to stop, but nobody does anything about it."

 

Bernice Yeung: Pastor Andy decided somebody should.

 

Andy Licensure: I just said, "Well, I mean, if you can't, I will."

 

Al Letson: Andy calls the cops. Eventually he'll find out that police in the state hundreds of miles away, knew a lot about this man, could have arrested him but didn't. But right now, Andy knows nothing more than what he'd seen.

 

Mark Greenblatt: What was at stake in your mind?

 

Andy Licensure: The rest of that girl's life.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Did she look in duress?

 

Andy Licensure: No, she actually seemed to be enjoying her time, but that doesn't make it okay.

 

Bernice Yeung: About an hour after sunset, on a Monday evening in May, two Janesville police officers showed up at the Ramada Inn. The girl had already gone home. The officers confronted the man at the door of his room and confirmed that he was 31 years old. He admitted to kissing the girl. Police seized his belongings, including two cell phones.

 

Al Letson: And they arrested him. His name is Brian Shawn Kind. We're not naming the girl or any possible victim of sex abuse unless they choose to be named.

 

Speaker 4: Be seated. Cell phones turned off [inaudible 00:08:25].

 

Bernice Yeung: Last spring, more than a year after his arrest, Brian sits in a courtroom in Janesville. He's got a small build, blond hair and he's wearing an orange prison uniform.

 

Prosecutor: All right. I have two files, they're both entitled State of Wisconsin Versus Brian S. Kind.

 

Bernice Yeung: During this pre-trial hearing, the prosecutor asked Thomas Beschen, lead detective on the case about his interview with the girl the night Brian Kind was arrested.

 

Prosecutor: Did you ask her about what had happened with her and the defendant?

 

Thomas Beschen: I did.

 

Prosecutor: And what did she inform you had occurred?

 

Thomas Beschen: She admitted that they began dating on April, 1st of 2016 when she was 15 years old. Initially, she denied that there was any sexual contact but admitted to kissing, going on dates, that type of activity. However, eventually she did say that they had sexual contact and she estimated approximately 200 times.

 

Prosecutor: Approximately $200?

 

Thomas Beschen: Correct.

 

Al Letson: Brian Kind wouldn't agree to talk to us. And on this day in court said nothing, including about that accusation that he had sex with a teenager 200 times. Police say the girl was 15 when the relationship started, 16 by the time Brian was arrested.

 

Bernice Yeung: The police report says the two met online. That Brian regularly drove more than 300 miles from his hometown in Michigan to Wisconsin, taking the girl to the movies, shopping and out for ice cream. The police report says he was upset when she planned to go to her senior prom, that the girl skipped it to stay with him at a hotel instead. We talked to people who know Brian in the small town where he grew up. The police chief remembers arresting Brian for bounce checks than drugs. His mom called him a good student and a good worker, but immature, like 31 going on 18, she said.

 

Al Letson: In Janesville, Brian Kind could face decades in prison for sexual assault of a minor. And it's not just that, detective Beschen tells me that when police examined Brian's two cell phones, they found pictures of the girl and other girls too.

 

Thomas Beschen: And this wasn't the first child that he had had this type of contact with, this isn't the first child he had pornographic images of. To me, that would lead to a pattern or behavior.

 

Mark Greenblatt: It is not that he just had pornographic images of children that maybe he downloaded online. These were pictures that he took himself.

 

Thomas Beschen: Some of them that he probably took or directed the child to take.

 

Al Letson: Police found evidence that made them suspect Brian Kind is a repeat offender.

 

Speaker 5: Three total girls that we found, the local girl in our area and the Janesville area, a girl from the Baltimore area, and then a girl from Ohio.

 

Bernice Yeung: Janesville, Wisconsin outside Baltimore, Maryland, and Ohio. They suspected he had contact with underage girls in at least three states, so detective Beschen shared what he knew with police in those other states and he found out something really disturbing.

 

Al Letson: He found out that 800 miles away in a suburb of Baltimore, police already knew about Brian Kind. They had, in fact, spent more than a year building a case against him for an alleged sexual relationship with another teenage girl. They never arrested him, but made it look like the case had been solved. How could that happen and why? That's what Mark and Bernice wanted to find out. When we come back, they head to Baltimore looking for answers. That's coming up on Reveal from the Center for investigative reporting and PRX.

 

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Al Letson: So I wanna recommend a podcast that I think you'll like, it's called Someone Knows Something. In season five, host David Ridgen takes on one of Canada's biggest cold cases, the murder of Carrie Brown. In October, 1986, 15-year-old Carrie Brown disappeared from a house party. Her body was found two days later in a wooded area outside of town. A suspect was arrested and charged, but the case never made it to trial. David helps track down witnesses and suspects, and uncovering new evidence that may have been overlooked at the time. Subscribe to Someone Knows Something wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

Al Letson: From the Center for investigative reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson. When we left off, we were on the trail of an alleged child predator of man now in his 30s named Brian Kind, is currently facing trial in Wisconsin for allegedly raping a teenage girl there. But we also found out the police hundreds of miles away in Maryland, spent more than a year investigating him in a very similar case. Police there had never arrested him or press charges and he went free. Bernice Yeung of ProPublica and Mark Greenblatt of Newsy had been investigating what happened. A warning, before we pick up the story, it contains disturbing allegations of sexual abuse.

 

Al Letson: We got our hands on a report put together by police in Howard County, Maryland. It says Brian Kind met a girl online, a local girl who was just 12 years old.

 

Bernice Yeung: 12 years old. Take a minute and think about that. A girl, not even a teenager, a middle schooler just starting to figure out who she is in the world. From the police report, we know a few things about her, that she has shoulder length hair and shows her teeth when she smiles. When she writes, she colors in her exclamation points, and we know that she and Brian Kind sign many of their messages by spelling out mwaah, the sound of a kiss.

 

Al Letson: Police say she was 13 by the time Brian meets her in person in Howard county.

 

Bernice Yeung: That's where we head, to the suburbs outside Baltimore. There's the Wendy's right on the corner.

 

Al Letson: Yeah, there it is.

 

Mark Greenblatt: We made it.

 

Bernice Yeung: This is our first stop in reconstructing the case that Howard county police built against Brian Kind. The police report says Brian met the young girl for the first time in person right here.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Here it is that the victim stated that she got herself over to Wendy's in order to meet Brian Kind and they had lunch.

 

Bernice Yeung: July 2015. He had driven from Michigan to Maryland to come to this very Wendy's.

 

Mark Greenblatt: To have lunch with a 13-year-old here.

 

Bernice Yeung: Taking a child out to some place special, some place fun, buying them treats. Child therapist tell us it's one of the ways that predators groom potential victims.

 

Al Letson: In the evidence file we find two video interviews the lead Howard county detective did with the girl and her parents. In one video, the girl wears Jean shorts and shoes with bright pink laces. She fidgets as she talks, or the detective leans in and listens closely. In the other video, the girl tells the detective that being with Brian felt protective. They compared themselves to Romeo and Juliet. The girl's step Dad tells her if he's doing it to you, he's doing it to someone else.

 

Bernice Yeung: The same detective interviewed the girl four times over six months learning new details with each conversation. The detective spent months building trust with the girl and pieced together a bunch of evidence, including photos, phone records, and hotel receipts. She boiled it all down into straightforward bullet points typed into the police report. That's what guided Mark and me to the Wendy's where police say Brian Kind first met with the girl, and it's what we use to follow their journey from there.

 

Bernice Yeung: So this is the second interview that the detective does with her. Once again, the Wendy's is brought up for lunch, but this time she talks about a hotel motel.

 

Mark Greenblatt: By now the detective is piecing things together, right? That Brian Kind had stayed in a place called The Homestyle Inn.

 

Speaker 5: At The Homestyle Inn, twice in July, once in September 2015, she says that she had sex with Brian Kind.

 

Bernice Yeung: So she's really coming out for the first time at admitting that they had sex in this hotel motel.

 

Mark Greenblatt: You wanna go check it out? Let's go check it out.

 

Bernice Yeung: The Wendy's is in Howard County, Cul-de-sac Suburbia, west of Baltimore. Crisscrossed by big busy roads like this one. We hit a big bump as we crossed the county line.

 

Mark Greenblatt: We just drove from Howard county where the young victim lives, across the county line into Baltimore County, which is where this will motel is.

 

Speaker 3: In one mile, the destination is on your right, Homestyle Inn.

 

Mark Greenblatt: So we're a mile away now. It's just across the county line and that one mile seems to have made all the difference in this case.

 

Bernice Yeung: All the difference because even though Howard County police spent nearly a year investigating, the alleged sex crime happened across the county line, in Baltimore County. Oh my gosh, Homestyle Inn with the special rates, starting at $49.99 plus tax.

 

Mark Greenblatt: I see rust on the walls. Paint scraping off.

 

Bernice Yeung: It's a two story motel with these teal doors, brick facade, you can see almost straight into the rooms themselves. The Windows are covered with these curtains that look like they've been hanging there for a long, long time, and it's just truly a decrepit building, but there's a guy standing in the doorway.

 

Mark Greenblatt: In room 2:45. That's the room where they were in. There's someone in there right now standing out looking at us.

 

Bernice Yeung: It looks like the place of Last Resort. You've got nowhere else to go. They've got the single occupancy, sign up front. It's just grim.

 

Bernice Yeung: We leave bothered by this place and what authority say happened here. Howard County investigated this case for close to a year. They did a very detailed investigation, interviews with the girl, phone records, hotel receipts, but ultimately, Howard County prosecutors sent the case to neighboring Baltimore County because that's where the alleged rapes happened. We requested interviews with Howard County police, but they declined.

 

Al Letson: And when all this was handed over to Baltimore County, the investigation stalled. The case was open for six months, but police there added no new investigative information.

 

Bernice Yeung: Baltimore County police spokesman, Sean Vinson, agreed to talk to Mark by phone, but he wouldn't let us record his end of the conversation.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Hey, I'm okay. Sean, how are you doing?

 

Bernice Yeung: Mark asked Sean about what happened with the Brian Kind investigation,

 

Mark Greenblatt: Just so I have the facts right here. So it looked, so you received the case in December of 2016 from Howard County, you're saying.

 

Bernice Yeung: Sean says a detective from Baltimore County tried to get in touch with the girl's family.

 

Mark Greenblatt: The next five months, detective say that they were attempting to make contact with the victim or the family.

 

Bernice Yeung: Baltimore county records show a detective there talk to the girl's mother at least once. His notes say the mother told him that she would talk to her family about next steps. When he didn't hear back, the report says he sent a letter telling them he planned to suspend the case, which he did two weeks later. Sean confirms all of this.

 

Mark Greenblatt: There's no record of any kind of any contact or interview with the suspect Brian Kind by detectives. Is it accurate to say they never interviewed the suspect?

 

Bernice Yeung: They hadn't.

 

Mark Greenblatt: All right. Thank you so much. Thank you. Corporal.

 

Bernice Yeung: In a later email, Sean says they never interviewed or arrested Brian Kind because the alleged victim and her family didn't participate in the investigation. He says it's all about a child centered approach, making the welfare of child victims the top priority, not the success of the criminal investigation or prosecution.

 

Al Letson: The department does acknowledge a better option may be to review all these types of cases with prosecutors before suspending them, and experts tell us there's even more that could have been done. For instance, police could have used the evidence they had to try to force a confession and they could have tried that while still protecting the victims.

 

Bernice Yeung: We want to parse the Maryland investigation in more detail, so we drive two hours north to downtown Philadelphia to talk to an expert who can evaluate this case.

 

Tom Mcdevitt: My name is Tom Mcdevitt. I'm a retired, Lieutenant Philadelphia police department.

 

Al Letson: Tom Investigated sex crimes for the Philadelphia police for most of his career.

 

Tom Mcdevitt: I thought we were really good. I mean, I thought we were the best. There's no doubt about it.

 

Bernice Yeung: He was commander of the sex crimes unit in 1999 when a news expose on the Philadelphia police broke. It showed that for years, Philly cops would make legitimate rape cases disappear by wrongly categorizing them as false or baseless reports. Tom's chief assigned him to work closely with women's advocates to review all of those cases. Day after day, file after file, he tells us this process changed him.

 

Tom Mcdevitt: And I can tell you that you have to look into thousands of cases. There was a day that I looked over at the other lieutenant and said, "How did we get this bad?"

 

Bernice Yeung: These days, Tom trains police across the country and how to investigate sexual assault cases. We brought Tom all the files on Brian Kind and asked him to give us his take on how police handled the case.

 

Mark Greenblatt: There is no record of an interview at any point with the suspect. What do you make of that?

 

Tom Mcdevitt: I tell can you that if it was my investigation, we would have had him interviewed. We have had either the local police department or the Internet crimes taskforce. Almost every state has one which consist of local and federal authorities go out to his home, interview him, would obtain search warrants for his computer and his phone.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Why?

 

Tom Mcdevitt: You need that? I mean, more than likely he's gonna tell you what happened. You got a confession from him. It's more likely that you don't have to have the victim testify. You're gonna gather more evidence from his computer. Stuff that may have been not been able to been retrieved on her phone,

 

Al Letson: Howard County, which did the detailed investigation, collected more than 70 pages of text messages and emails going back and forth between Brian Kind and the young girl. Many are goofily romantic, but in some, Brian cautions the girl to keep quiet. In one he writes, "You know, you tell anyone I come to see you." In another he tells her, "You have to understand what would happen if they see me with you." We asked Tom what he sees in the messages.

 

Tom Mcdevitt: In the emails it was obvious that they had some kind of sexual relationship. When he talks about her laying in his lap and crying, and saying you love me. And he gets the age difference and the difference between us, plus the whole world against us. My opinion is that this type of person hasn't matured, he may have a job or something else, but emotionally, he hasn't matured past a certain age and he's more likely to tell you what happened when your question him.

 

Bernice Yeung: So here on this document, which is the last page of the police file that we have from Baltimore County, it says-

 

Al Letson: We show Tom a place in the report we found where Baltimore County police say how they resolved the case, how Brian Kind was never charged or arrested. The police were able to make it look like a success. The report is marked X-clear. That's police shorthand for exceptional clearance.

 

Tom Mcdevitt: An exceptional clearance means that you know the crime, you're able to prove a crime occurred. You have a victim, you know where the person is and who they are, the defendant. And either the prosecutor doesn't wanna prosecute or the victim doesn't wanna go forward with the case.

 

Bernice Yeung: An official at the Department of Justice tells us that exceptional clearance is supposed to be used rarely. For example, when a suspect can't be arrested because they're dead or already in prison, a victim won't cooperate or a prosecutor refuses to take the case. But even then, police have to meet a high bar. FBI rules require that the police still need to have enough evidence for an arrest in order to exceptionally clear that case.

 

Tom Mcdevitt: But here's the thing. Exceptionally cleared cases are often presented to the public as solved even though no arrest has ever made and no charges were ever filed, and the suspect remains on the streets. They were included in crime stats many police agencies use to show what a good job they're doing.

 

Bernice Yeung: It turns out that this is a pretty common practice for Baltimore County. We reviewed three years of crime data from the county and found that they reported really impressive clearance rates for rape, 70% in 2016. That's getting close to double the national average, but when we unpack those numbers, we found that more than half of those rape cases were cleared by exceptional means, meaning no suspect was ever arrested or charged with a crime.

 

Al Letson: Take the Brian Kind case, there was a suspect and strong evidence, and police say the victim and her family were unresponsive and not cooperating with the investigation. So this case may meet the requirements for exceptional clearance, but it may not. We just don't know because Baltimore County police won't comment directly about why they exceptionally cleared the case. In part, because the county just got sued over how it handles rape investigations. But Tom says this is where exceptional clearance gets complicated because the question is always, what more could police have done? In this case he says a lot. Did they work to build trust with the victim and why didn't they interview the suspect?

 

Tom Mcdevitt: I think that the biggest thing to take from this and almost any sexual assault investigation is you have to handle this as if it was a homicide investigation. You have to do every single thing possible and that includes gathering all the evidence you can, and don't ever miss the opportunity to talk to the defendant. And then you got to remember that you have to look at these cases, that every single one of them has a potential to be a serial rapist.

 

Al Letson: Baltimore County pushed back on Tom's analysis, questioning his expertise, In Maryland law.

 

Bernice Yeung: We take what we learned to Pastor Andy licensure, the man who called police, when you saw Brian with another teenage girl at that hotel in Janesville, Wisconsin. Andy had no idea about Baltimore. He didn't know that there were other possible victims or that police in Maryland knew all about Brian, but failed to stop him. Mark explains.

 

Mark Greenblatt: It appears as if you may have actually stopped someone who has been on record and on the radar of other police agencies in other parts of the country.

 

Bernice Yeung: Andy is quiet. Mark tells him what Bryan kind was accused of in Maryland. Then shows him the evidence.

 

Mark Greenblatt: What's your take and just seeing a little bit of this right here.

 

Andy Licensure: It's gross. It's really gross.

 

Bernice Yeung: They read through the emails and compare the dates.

 

Andy Licensure: This police report was filed a year and a half before the incident in Janesville.

 

Mark Greenblatt: That's correct.

 

Andy Licensure: They should have prosecuted to the full extent of the law at that point.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Why? What's at stake if they don't?

 

Andy Licensure: More 13 year old girls.

 

Bernice Yeung: Mark explains to Andy, the way that Baltimore County cleared the case.

 

Mark Greenblatt: So, it turns out the leadership from the Baltimore County Police Department has talked about how their clearance rates are higher than the national average on things like the category of rape. When we dug into their crime statistics, we found that a lot of the crimes that they quote unquote clear are similar to this where they actually never make an arrest, clear the case, exceptionally leave the suspect on the streets and move on.

 

Andy Licensure: So they got a feather in their cap and it comes at a high price.

 

Al Letson: What happened in Baltimore County police did there. Well, it may have shocked Andy, but it turns out please do this all the time. Mark and Bernice investigated law enforcement agencies across the country and found that in cases of rape, exceptional clearance is not so exceptional after all. So, let's get the big picture. Mark. How did you start?

 

Mark Greenblatt: Well, we started by looking at how many rape cases law enforcement agencies say that they solve. More than 18,000 police departments report their crime stats to the FBI, but we found that when they report those stats, most big cities lump together all their cleared cases into one big number. So there's no way to tell which cases were cleared by arrest or by invoking exceptional means. They're all just marked cleared and to the public they'll look like they're solved. In fact, many police departments actually described their combined clearances as solved cases, but we knew it was more complicated than that.

 

Al Letson: So, how did you dig below those FBI numbers to figure out how many rape cases police are actually solving?

 

Bernice Yeung: So, we as law enforcement agencies for their role numbers and then we analyze them. This was a big team effort really led by our colleague Mark Fahy over at Newsy, we reached out to every major jurisdiction in the US with more than 300,000 people and that's more than a hundred city and county law enforcement agencies. We file public records requests, so we could run the numbers and calculate how many rape cases they cleared by arrest and then how many they cleared by exceptional means.

 

Al Letson: And we got data back from more than 60 of them and what we discovered was shocking. Almost half the big cities and counties took more rape cases off of their books by marking them exceptionally cleared than by actually arresting a suspect. That's according to their own numbers. So does that mean most clearances don't include an arrest?

 

Bernice Yeung: Well, in almost half the community is that we looked at that's exactly what we found. Take Hillsborough County, Florida where Tampa is, there's a really big sheriff's office there and in 2016, if you look at the combined clearance rate, it looks really good, 65%. But when we analyze their raw numbers, we found that only 12% rape cases lead to an arrest and more than three times as many were cleared exceptionally. No arrests made and no charges filed in those cases.

 

Mark Greenblatt: And we found very high exceptional clearance rates in lots of place; Oakland, California and Austin Texas, or just two more examples, and in smaller cities to really just all over the map.A few law enforcement agencies cleared over 60% of their rape cases by exceptional means.

 

Bernice Yeung: And I should add that there were many cities and counties that did not turn over their data on clearance information despite repeated asks, they include Washington DC, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Cleveland. And because they wouldn't share their information, it's impossible to know how well police are doing when it comes to investigating rape.

 

Al Letson: Are any of these cases that police are clearing by exceptional means actually false reports, ones that should really be taken off the books?

 

Bernice Yeung: No, that's something entirely different. If police think a sexual assault report is false or that maybe something happened but it wasn't a crime, police would categorize that as unfounded and they drop it from their crime counts.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Yeah. And police to clear case by exceptional means, they have to have enough evidence against the suspect to establish probable cause. These are supposed to be good cases, arrestable cases. Again, the only reason police are supposed to use exceptional means is when something stands in their way of making an arrest.

 

Al Letson: You mentioned that to the public, all of these rapes look solved. Our police departments actually massaging the numbers.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Well, they're certainly not making any effort to spell out the differences between clearing a case by arresting someone versus clearing it exceptionally. In fact, many departments boast publicly about their high rape clearance rates and, and they never breathe a word that over half the time no one's been arrested. You hear this, for example, when police officials testify in front of city council, it's useful for law enforcement to look successful, especially at budget hearings when they come looking for money.

 

Al Letson: So you guys spent a year on this. What's the takeaway?

 

Mark Greenblatt: To me Al, is that some cities are really honest and transparent and when they tell you that they cleared a bunch of rape cases, they really did. They really took a lot of people off the street, but then, what you don't know is that there are other cities that don't do that, that are telling you that they're clearing a lot of cases, but that in fact, it's, it's almost like a smoke screen. It's not really giving you an accurate representation of how well the police are doing.

 

Bernice Yeung: And for me Al, it's really that all of these numbers, they mask what's really actually happening in the real world. We're presented with this picture that law enforcement is making our community safer by taking alleged rapists off the street when really what's happening is they're just gaming the numbers

 

Mark Greenblatt: And in the end it's really the public that loses, people do not know how rape is really handled in their community.

 

Al Letson: Mark, Bernice. Thank you.

 

Bernice Yeung: Thank you Al.

 

Mark Greenblatt: You bet Al.

 

Al Letson: Coming up. Mark and Bernice, take us to Austin. What police officials have repeatedly bragged to city council about their high clearance rates for rape? We'll introduce you to a whistleblower who says she was pushed to change the numbers that's coming up on Reveal. From the Center for investigative reporting and PRX.

 

Al Letson: From the Center for investigative reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson. Today we're looking at how police handled sexual assault cases. Our reporting partners of ProPublica's Bernice Yeung and Newsy's Mark Greenblatt. Together we reviewed data for more than 60 major American cities and counties. We found that when the police say a rape has been cleared, it doesn't always mean it's been solved. A lot of the time suspects walk free, no arrests made, no accountability.

 

Al Letson: One place that stands out for clearing cases this way is Austin, Texas. That's where Bernice and mark follow the story next.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Austin is a college town with a vibrant nightlife. We're on Sixth Street in downtown, a hub of bars and dance clubs. This strip stays busy most nights until the wee hours.

 

Bernice Yeung: Marina Connor came to Sixth Street a lot when she was a student at UT Austin. She grew up in a small Texas town, but always dreamed of moving here, wanting to be around big thinkers by day. And like so many college students to have fun at night, and she says she always felt safe.

 

Marina Connor: I didn't have any problem walking up and down the drag at night by myself or with just a friend, walking to the corner store by myself at night, wasn't scared about that, walking on campus at night. Definitely wasn't scared about that.

 

Mark Greenblatt: One night on Sixth Street, three years ago, Marina and a friend who sat on the curb waiting for a ride home. It was about 2:00 AM, she says, a man approached selling drugs.

 

Marina Connor: Yeah. So, [inaudible] to buy any cocaine, and the conversation turned into that we only wanted to buy it if it was good coke. And the man said, well, I will give her a bomb if she comes into the alley with me and she can tell you if it's good or not.

 

Bernice Yeung: Marina doesn't remember everything about that moment, but she says many details are crystal clear. In fact, she says they're impossible to forget and we should let you know that what she tells us is both violent and disturbing.

 

Marina Connor: This man leads me into the alley. Leads me to a parking garage, two men were there. The man that led me into the parking garage, he slammed my head against the wall, and then he raped me. I remember crying, I remember saying, "Stop" and "No." And I remember the pain mostly is what I remember how painful it was every time he penetrated me is what I remember the most.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Marina's eyes are distant and her face, sometimes titans as she describes that night. We're talking in the living room of her small Austin apartment. She still can't fully remember how she got home.

 

Marina Connor: I woke up in my bed, in my underwear were gone. And then things slowly started coming back to me and then it just hit me that I had been raped

 

Mark Greenblatt: Later that night Marina sister took her to a local organization for sexual assault victims, where staff helped her get a medical exam and call police. There was about 24 hours after the rape.

 

Marina Connor: In that moment, I did not understand why women didn't report I did not get it. Like I knew I was raped and I was like, "why would you not report to the justice system that is going to find your rapist prosecuted and put them in jail? Like, why would you not do that?

 

Mark Greenblatt: Austin police, just like police in many places around the country, point to their clearance rates as a measure of how well they're doing, solving crimes like rape. Here's then assistant chief, Brian Manley at a public safety commission meeting in 2016.

 

Brian Manley: We also wanted to educate council, on where we stand with our crime clearance rates. That is a very critical and an appropriate measure of, of our performance. And we're fortunate that we do exceed the national averages on all categories. As you can see what the homicide, the rapes, all three categories of robberies lumped together-

 

Bernice Yeung: Manley flips through papers and his dark blue uniform. The silver stars on his collar matches silver hair, when he testifies as interim chief at city council the following year, his message stays the same. Again, he notes his department is exceeding the national average for solving crimes.

 

Jimmy Flannigan: All right, on the activity reports-

 

Bernice Yeung: Councilman Jimmy Flannigan asks, what he should make of the clearance rates.

 

Jimmy Flannigan: Is percent of violent and property crimes cleared a number that is at all useful. Is this … remember actually being used as a metric operationally?

 

Brian Manley: Yes, it is. We compare ourselves nationally and we are above all of the standards that were compared to, I have the numbers here if you want them as far as our clearance rates, but clearance rates show the effectiveness of the work that we're doing. So to us, we consider that a bad thing if our clearance rate is down, we want a high clearance rate.

 

Mark Greenblatt: But a long time, Austin police insider says, there's a big difference between wanting a high clearance rate and earning one.

 

Liz Donegan: Either chief Manley is being given bad information from those working underneath him or you know, they're trying to proport something that's not true or they are reporting something that's not true.

 

Bernice Yeung: Liz Donegan, retired from Austin's police department almost a year ago after a quarter century on the force and nearly a decade as the sergeant in charge of the sex crimes unit. This is the first time she's come forward about the way Austin PD handles rape crimes.

 

Liz Donegan: At my level, I don't understand why you would not report something accurately. I, don't get it and that's maybe why I got in trouble.

 

Bernice Yeung: Liz is a nationally recognized leader who regularly trains other police agencies on how to better investigate rape and how to treat victims.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Knowing her reputation I asked Liz, "What did you do to get in trouble?"

 

Liz Donegan: I had been told on two different occasions from the same commander under two different lieutenants that I needed to go back in and look at these cases that were suspended and changed the clearance code, because we were not up to the national average of exceptional clearance in Austin.

 

Bernice Yeung: Strict requirements must be met before police can clear cases exceptionally.

 

Mark Greenblatt: But Liz says the cases her bosses wanted her to change, did not meet those requirements. Still. She says she was pressured to change cases from suspended to exceptionally cleared, so that they would look like they were solved. That would help the city stack up better against other police departments around the country.

 

Liz Donegan: And I told them that if information comes in that lends itself to this particular investigation that would have changed the case closure, then that will happen. But me going in and looking at these cases is not going to change the case closure. It is what it is

 

Mark Greenblatt: Liz tells me defying her boss's orders came with a cost.

 

Liz Donegan: Well, I don't know what was going on behind the scenes. I mean, I can only guess, but I eventually was removed from the unit

 

Bernice Yeung: That was in 2011. The next year, exceptional clearances spiked.

 

Mark Greenblatt: In 2012, we found the share of rape cases cleared by exceptional means, shot up by 50% higher rates continue through today making it appear like the police solve more rapes than they actually do.

 

Bernice Yeung: For more than a month, Austin police ignored our requests for an interview, but after the mayor's office intervened calling the allegations, very serious, chief Manley agreed to talk with us, in the police headquarters media room. He sat near a Texas flag and a dark wooden podium. Mark outlined Liz's claims to the chief.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Sergeant Donegan, Assertions are, that she was told directed on multiple occasions to go back in and change clearance codes for the crime of rape, from suspended to exceptionally cleared, and she said, "It was wrong to do," and she refused the order.

 

Brian Manley: Yeah. I think there was a difference of opinions on what the appropriate way to clear cases were.

 

Mark Greenblatt: You have no reason to believe she's not trustworthy.

 

Brian Manley: No, I'm not here to make character assessments. I think we're here to talk about the data and all and I think that if we get back onto what we're here to talk about, it was a difference of opinions back in 2011, 2012.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Chief Manley says, that in 2012 supervisors analyzed how the Department handled rape investigations. They concluded they weren't doing it right. That too many cases were listed as suspended when they should have been exceptionally cleared.

 

Bernice Yeung: So they started clearing more cases by exceptional means after Liz Donegan left in the way that she'd refused to do. Chief Manley says, "That's what accounts for the jump in exceptional clearances."

 

Mark Greenblatt: In 2016, there were more than 800 rapes reported to police in Austin. Of those 4% were thrown out as false or baseless. Half of the rest were cleared. But look at how suspects were only arrested 17% of the time, twice as often, 33% of the time reported rapes were cleared by exceptional means.

 

Bernice Yeung: Mark asks, chief Manley, about telling the city council member that Austin has high crime clearance rates. Why did the chief not also mentioned Austin high rate of exceptional clearances?

 

Mark Greenblatt: Should you not also have gone on to tell him we only are arresting maybe 17 or 20% a year and perhaps that's information that he would have valued in that interchange.

 

Brian Manley: I believe I gave him a fair and accurate answer to his question.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Without going into how many crimes were cleared exceptionally versus how often you make arrests.

 

Brian Manley: Again, I gave him a fair and accurate response and I explained what that data is and how we stood compared to our comparative cities.

 

Bernice Yeung: Liz Donegan, sees it differently.

 

Bernice Yeung: Liz Donegan: I think it gives it a false sense to the community that this case has been thoroughly investigated and it's closed. It's not truthful, I think it just gives the appearance that we're able to clear more of these rapes than we actually are.

 

Bernice Yeung: Data shows Austin exceptionally cleared more than 1400 rape cases between 2012 and 2017. That means they didn't arrest anyone in those cases

 

Mark Greenblatt: with the rapes that are exceptionally clear, do you do believe that the Austin police department, something in the case file means that you've gathered enough evidence to support an arrest?

 

Brian Manley: Yes. I couldn't exceptionally clear it otherwise.

 

Mark Greenblatt: That means there are 1000, 416 people out there who the Austin police department has established probable cause to make an arrest on but has not made the arrest. There is no prosecution and there on the streets. That's a lot of people out there that you have probable cause to make an arrest on its. You're not arresting.

 

Brian Manley: It's the unfortunate reality of sexual assault in this country is that the process itself unfortunately keeps many survivors from wanting to participate in the process and ultimately the prosecution.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Is it really the victim's fault or is there something going on within the Austin Police Department that maybe is not helping those victims feel as comfortable or safe in talking to you, to your agency. And is it really fair to blame the victims here?

 

Brian Manley: I'm not blaming the victims, and they're survivors by the way, but I'm not blaming them. If we've got a survivor who initially is unwilling to participate in the investigative process, the detective will not stop the investigation at that point. They will still track down every possible lead and work that case as far as they can and then at that point, if the survivor is still unwilling to cooperate, then it would be exceptionally cleared.

 

Mark Greenblatt: But let's go back to Marina, the Austin College student.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Marina Connor I told my detective I wanted to be involved in every step of that from the beginning that I wanted to be there.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Austin PD won't comment on her case or share her police report with us. Marina says they also haven't given it to her, but she says police did tell her they found the rape suspect.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Marina Connor He is describes me to a teen, he described my outfit from that night, and he said that we had consensual sex.

 

Bernice Yeung: Marina's medical exam after that night, documented bruises, tears, and trauma on the form in a section marked "Impression from exam," the examiner typed sexual assault among other findings.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Police let the man go, waiting for the rape kit, samples to come back from the lab, that took two years and the lab didn't find DNA evidence, Marina says she learns this from the police detective.

 

Marina Connor: I finally gone to some therapy and was returning to school that August and she called me two weeks before I was about to start back to tell me that was closed.

 

Bernice Yeung: Marina couldn't believe it. We reached out to the district attorney's office here in Travis County and they wouldn't comment on Marina's case, but did say they have additional facts they can't share with us right now. And then having enough evidence to arrest isn't the same as having enough to convict. Marina tells us she was angry and insisted on talking to the prosecutor in the case.

 

Bernice Yeung: And then I sat down with her and she immediately started to talk. I told her, no, I was like, you're gonna let me talk. I described my raped to her. I made her look at me while I told her what happened to me. it was like, you're going to look at me as a person, as a survivor, not as this file sitting in front of you and you're going to tell me why you're not prosecuting my rapist. And she told me the CSI effect,

 

Mark Greenblatt: The CSI effect, meaning Juries are influenced by crime TV shows like CSI or DNA always saves the day. But in this case, the man confirmed to police, he had sex with Marina. He gave the place. And the date, the issue wasn't that, it was whether this was consensual. Do you believe the jury should have been allowed to weigh in on this?

 

Bernice Yeung: That's all I wanted was to be in a courtroom with him.

 

Mark Greenblatt: We learned that Marina's case was exceptionally cleared and told her

 

Marina Connor: I didn't know that my case was considered exceptional cleared. It's just very offensive to me that they're using me and using my case to make it look like the city safe.

 

Marina Connor: Al Letson Mark and Bernice, you raise some big questions about how people can trust rape clearance numbers from police, so are folks supposed to do?

 

Mark Greenblatt: Well, people can start to ask police about the difference and pointed out publicly. For example, at City Council meetings like the one that we heard in Austin, the FBI has also, I should note slowly migrating to a different system of tracking crime. It's much more detailed and police will be specifically required to report to the feds how many cases they exceptionally clear and say, "Why?" But transparency alone does not necessarily solve this whole problem because we've looked at the cities who are using the new system and found that many continued to have very high exceptional clearance rates compared to arrests for rape,

 

Bernice Yeung: so some survivors have chosen to do what Marina has done, after her rape kit sat untested for years and her case was not prosecuted. She joined a lawsuit with other plaintiffs to sue the city of Austin and Travis County for failing to bring justice to victims.

 

Bernice Yeung: Al Letson Okay, so most of the stories we heard today focused on how police are making it look like they've solved cases when they've only cleared them, but as we just heard with Marina's story, prosecutors are also a big part of the problem and that's what we're gonna focus on next week, right?

 

Mark Greenblatt: Yeah. We go to Minnesota and meet a woman who accused a man of raping her. Prosecutors there refused to charge him, so she does her own detective work.

 

Bernice Yeung: She actually cuts a hole into a teddy bear and hides a camera inside. We have the secret recording she made from that.

 

Bernice Yeung: Al Letson I can't wait to hear. Thank you both very much.

 

Mark Greenblatt: Thank you, Al.

 

Bernice Yeung: Thank you, Al.

 

Al Letson: Thank you. I'll Mark Greenblatt and Mark Fahy of newsy along with ProPublica, has reported today show. Our lead producer was Emily Harris. Brett Myers edited the show with help from Andrew Donohue. And newsy is the one, Hamilton and Ellen Way's. Special thanks to Zack Hussein, Kenny Jacobi, Victor Ryan and Luke Piotrowsky of newsy, Michael Corey and Eric Sagara of Reveal, and Sophie Chow, Robin, lena [inaudible 00:52:41], Ryan [inaudible] Jones and CC way of ProPublica.

 

Al Letson: Our production manager is, Mwende Hinojosa. Our sound design team is my man, Jay Breezy, Mr Jim Briggs and Fernando, my man yoh, Arruda. They had help from Katelyn Bends and Catherine Raymond. Our CEO is Christa Scharfenberg, our senior supervising editors is [inaudible 00:53:01]. Our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camerado Lightning.

 

Al Letson: Support for Reveal is provided by; The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan family foundation, the Ford foundation, the Simons foundation, and the ethics and excellence in journalism foundation. Reveal is a coproduction of the center for investigative reporting and PRX. I'm Al Letson, and remember there is always more to the story.