No Real Justice Possible

Here’s another one to be filed with the litany of horrible abuses perpetrated in Europe for which the criminal faces a slap on the hand rather than real punishment. Die Welt is running this story under the headline of “The Unimaginable Suffering of a 13-Year-Old” [“Die unfassbaren Leiden einer 13-Jährigen“] and “Bald Nightmare” [“Albtraum mit Glatze“]. [Note, this post includes a translation of a portion of an article in a major German newspaper that gives some detail of the crimes that the perpetrator is accused of and videotaped himself committing. If a newspaper article about the suffering of a kidnapped and raped 13-year-old will be offensive to you, please read no further or skip over the lengthy block quote.]:

The 36-year-old [perpetrator] had recorded the majority of the abuse with a video camera and had meticulously catologued the different variations, which were presumably inspired by hardcore pornography and films of similar content.

Thus, the state prosecutor Pospischil was able to assign a specific date and time to almost every accused criminal offense. This fact made the depiction more nightmarish and the presentation of the dreadful situation of the 13-year-old, whom Mario M. called “my sex slave”, more vivid.

Almost every day of her [36-day] captivity there were multiple rapes, humiliations, and abuses. Stephanie was instructed daily by her torturer to offer herself to him in every conceivable position. With black gloves, lingerie, or also with a mask. And always smiling because otherwise it would ruin the fun of his savage activities.

If she did not succumb immediately to his wishes, Mario M. told the frightened child that he would handcuff her to the bed and let her starve. At night she was always chained to the bed or to a ring fastened to the wall. Or he threatened her that he would dismember her and throw the pieces to his two German shepherd mix-breeds who also shared the reeking apartment.

One time, when Stephanie could no longer hide the pain of one of the rapes, he held her mouth closed, grabbed her throat, and asked if he should squeeze.

It must have made the situation even more unbearable for the child that there was no hope for a foreseeable end to the torment. Mario M. had told her that he intended to keep her in captivity at least until she turned 15. This was conditioned on him being able to have worked through his entire pornographic wish-list by then. When he went shopping, he forced her, bound and gagged, into a narrow plywood box. On evening walks he threatened her with a knife.

The accusations against Mario M. extend from sexual abuse of a child to repeated rape. Bodily injury and sexual assault are listed by prosecutor Liane Pospischil, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and the creation of child pornography. For all this, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. And in addition, the chambers gave an appropriate legal instruction, a preventative detention that could lengthen his imprisonment.

[Der 36-Jährige hatte einen Großteil der Misshandlungen mit einer Videokamera aufgezeichnet und die verschiedenen, vermutlich durch Hardcore-Pornos und Filme ähnlicher Couleur inspirierten Varianten akribisch auf einer Liste abgehakt.

So konnte Staatsanwältin Pospischil dann jeder einzelnen vorgeworfenen Straftat fast immer auch ein konkretes Datum nebst Uhrzeit zuordnen. Was die Schilderung noch beklemmender machte und die Vorstellungen der grässlichen Situation der 13-Jährigen, die Mario M. „meine Sexsklavin“ nannte, noch plastischer.

Beinahe jeden Tag ihrer Gefangenschaft gab es mehrere Vergewaltigungen, Erniedrigungen, Misshandlungen. Täglich wurde Stephanie von ihrem Peiniger angewiesen, sich vor ihm in allen nur erdenklichen Haltungen darzubieten. Mit schwarzen Handschuhen, Reizwäsche, oder auch mit einer Maske. Dabei immer lächelnd, weil ihm ja sonst an dem grausamen Treiben der Spaß hätte vergehen können.

Kam sie seinen Wünschen nicht sofort nach, kündigte Mario M. dem verängstigten Kind an, es mit Handschellen an das Bett zu fesseln und verhungern zu lassen. Nachts wurde sie ohnehin jedes Mal ans Bett oder an einen an der Wand befestigten Ring gekettet. Oder er drohte ihr, sie zu zerstückeln und seinen zwei ebenfalls in der stinkenden Wohnung lebenden Schäferhundmischlingen zum Fraß vorzuwerfen.

Als Stephanie bei einer Vergewaltigung die Schmerzen nicht mehr verbergen konnte, hielt er ihr den Mund zu, umfasste ihren Hals und fragte, ob er jetzt zudrücken solle.

Es gab, das muss dem Kind die Situation noch unerträglicher gemacht haben, keine Aussicht auf ein absehbares Ende des Martyriums. Mario M. hatte ihr mitgeteilt, sie mindestens bis zum vollendeten 14. Lebensjahr in Gefangenschaft halten zu wollen. Vorausgesetzt, seine pornografische Wunsch-Liste sei bis dahin abgearbeitet. Wenn er einkaufen ging, zwängte er sie gefesselt und geknebelt in eine enge Sperrholzkiste. Bei nächtlichen Spaziergängen bedrohte er sie mit einem Messer.

Die Vorwürfe gegen Mario M. reichen von sexuellem Missbrauch von Kindern bis hin zur vielfachen Vergewaltigung. Körperverletzung und Nötigung werden von Staatsanwältin Liane Pospischil aufgezählt, Kindesentziehung, Geiselnahme und das Herstellen von Kinderpornografie. Dafür drohen ihm maximal 15 Jahre. Und anschließend, die Kammer gab einen entsprechenden rechtlichen Hinweis, die haftverlängernde Sicherungsverwahrung.]

This is a highly disturbing tale, once again, of a society that simply refuses to mete out just punishment. It is nice that the judge’s chambers eventually gave legal instruction that they may prolong the maximum 15-year sentence for this litany of offenses but it hardly goes far enough. An extra couple of years looking at hardcore pornography and playing video-games in a German prison, all the while concocting up a new list of sexual perversion to perpetrate on your daughters or mine once released from prison, simply does not do justice. How have many European jurisdictions come to a point where the rape of a child (even in one single instance, whereas here there were more than 35 rapes) merits a maximum of 15 years in prison? The problem starts right there, in the punishments prescribed by the criminal code. Why are these punishments not more severe in the first place? But then, when confronted with atrocities of this nature, heaping offense upon offense does not lengthen the sentence under the code.

To add insult to injury, because of Germany’s (and Europe’s) hysteria about “privacy rights”, the media are prevented from printing Mario’s last name or showing his unobscured face, and his defense attorneys succeeded in moving the court to exclude the public from his trial. Meanwhile, even though Mario recorded most of his rapes on his video camera, and the prosecution has the tapes and has presented them to the court, the now 14-year-old victim has to take the stand to provide eye-witness testimony of the rapes, sexual torture, and brutality in order to make sure that the criminal goes to prison for, hopefully, no less than 15 years. This is asinine where, as here, there is no doubt of the crime because, aside from the video tapes, there is a confession.

Gotta protect those rights of child rapers and torturers, you know.

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28 thoughts on “No Real Justice Possible

  1. So, any takers on blaming society for not doing better at discovering Stephanie’s captivity and rape by being nosy neighbors rather than expressing a desire to hold Mario accountable for his depravity and evil and society for its tolerance of pornography and its fetish with privacy rights?

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  2. John – this is a horrifying story. Horrifying. Along with adding a disclaimer to the beginning of your post warning potential readers that the following article contains sexually explicit and very disturbing graphic details, I take offense at your exploiting the misery of this child to publicly express your contempt for the German judicial system.

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  3. Ouch. But it’s just a translation of a newspaper article in a major German newspaper. And the issue presented by the blog post is real and is not exploitative of the victim. Rather, the German judicial system is exploitative of the victim, do you not agree?

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  4. ECS, is it your view that stories such as Stephanie’s should not be discussed to figure out how better to mete justice because to discuss it and to criticize the system that allows the senseless aspects of it is to exploit the victim? Your comment is truly a mystery to me.

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  5. First, the article is not the kind of information I’m accustomed to reading on this blog. Therefore, I suggest you warn readers of the graphic nature of this post. Second, your outrage is just that _outrage_. Where is your compassion for the victim here? Her story is merely a vehicle for expressing your outrage. I find that shameful.

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  6. I have loads of compassion for the victim. I admit, however, that the post evidences a noticeable lack of compassion for the perpetrator. I fail to see how anything in my post reveals a lack of compassion for the victim; the entire post is motivated by a combination of compassion for the victim and outrage against the perp and the system. I didn’t mean the post to be offensive to you in a graphic way; again, it is only a translation of an article in a mainstream, major German newspaper (I guess it’s a good thing you don’t live in Germany!).

    Now, to be honest, there is perhaps some intended offense, but not to you personally or based on graphic content; rather, any intended offense is toward people who think that 15 years is an appropriate maximum sentence for kidnap, rape, and bodily injury to a child. That would be people who included this provision in the criminal code and a society that has not thus far remedied the oversight and has not as a consequence demanded a more just punishment to attach to such a crime.

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  7. John, the taunting tone in your first and last comment is precisely why I’m offended at your using this article in this manner. Without question, the rapist deserves severe punishment for this horrible crime. But you are not inviting rational debate on the “substance” of this topic. Instead, you are using this story just as George Bush’s campaign strategists used the 1988 “Willie Horton” ad.

    Surely, there is a more productive, less incendiary way to begin a debate over the significant shortcomings of the German (you say “European”) criminal justice system than this highly prejudicial account of the brutal rape of a child. The tone of this post demonstrates to me that you are more interested in using this article as ammunition against people who disagree with you than in a serious exploration of the topic.

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  8. ECS, for your information, the sentences in Austria for this type of crime are even less. This is also true of other European jurisdictions. Therefore, I intended this post to address the problem not only in Germany, but in Europe more broadly.

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  9. I have edited the introductory note to address your concern in your 6:57 pm comment.

    It’s not like I made this stuff up out of a perverted mind or anything. This really happened to an innocent victim. Nonetheless, the perp, who should never see the light of day again, faces only a maximum sentence of 15 years under the relevant German law.

    By the way, the incident itself is indeed ammunition against people who prioritize the rights of Mario over the rights of Stephanie or who think that the problem with society is harsh prison sentences and not perps like this monster.

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  10. John – for your information, harsh prison sentences do not prevent criminals from committing crimes again – unless the particular criminal is locked up for the rest of his life. Look, if you want to fight, then keep posting explicit articles like this to build up your stores of ammunition. If you want to facilitate a reasonable discussion over appropriate sentencing guidelines, rates of recidivism, and the like, you need to present probative, rather than prejudicial evidence.

    And, as I’m sure you are aware, the Confrontation Clause in the U.S. Constitution, requires rape victims to face their rapists at trial. Do you think the constitutional protections afforded to criminals under the Sixth Amendment are similarly “asinine”?

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  11. By the way, have you read the Maryland v. Craig decision? The case where the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a child victim of sexual abuse to testify through closed circuit television so as not to have to face her rapist. The Court held that the prosecution must show the child would not be able to testify in the presence of the rapist due to severe emotional trauma – making communication impossible.

    Justice Antonin Scalia, however, in dissent, wrote that he was “persuaded…that the Maryland procedure is virtually constitutional. Since it is not, however, actually constitutional I would affirm the judgment of the Maryland Court of Appeals reversing the judgment of conviction.”

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  12. Under the U.S. guidelines, aggravated sexual abuse carries a statutory maximum
    term of life imprisonment; sexual abuse has a maximum penalty of 20 years:

    A. §2A3.1
    This guideline applies to convictions for aggravated sexual abuse, 18 U.S.C.§ 2241, the most serious federal sex offense, and to convictions for sexual abuse, 18 U.S.C. § 2242. These provisions were codified as part of the Sexual Abuse Act of 1986, which revised and recodified previously existing federal rape statutes. These sections prohibit engaging in “sexual acts” in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States or a federal prison in circumstances involving force or threats or the administering of a drug, intoxicant, or other similar substance. Subsection (c) of section 2241 makes it an offense to knowingly engage in a sexual act with a person under 12 years old, or to attempt to do so. It proscribes non-coercive conduct in
    which “older more mature persons take advantage of others whose capability to make judgments about sexual activity has not matured.” Aggravated sexual abuse carries a statutory maximum term of life imprisonment; sexual abuse has a maximum penalty of 20 years.

    Guideline 2A3.1 has a base offense level of 27 and “represents sexual abuse as set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 2242. An enhancement [of 4 levels] is provided for use of force; threat of death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping; or certain other means as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2241. This includes any use or threatened use of a dangerous weapon.”8 The guideline provides for a 2-level enhancement if the victim is less than 16 years of age and a 4-level enhancement if the victim is less than 12 years of age. If the victim was in the custody, care, or supervisory control of the defendant, the guideline provides for a 2-level increase. The guideline also provides for sentence
    enhancements for permanent, life threatening, or serious bodily injury, and abduction. For any given case, the sentencing guidelines call for life imprisonment if each adjustment is applied, regardless of prior criminal history. Finally, the guideline provides for a cross-reference to the murder guideline if the victim was killed under circumstances that would constitute murder under 18 U.S.C. § 1111 (first degree murder).

    B. §2A3.2
    As originally enacted in 1986, criminal sexual abuse of a minor (statutory rape) carried a statutory maximum penalty of five years. In 1990, Congress increased the statutory maximum to 15 years. The commentary to §2A3.2 states that “[t]his section applies to sexual acts that would be lawful but for the age of the victim.” The guideline’s base offense level of 15 can be increased by two levels if the victim was in the custody, care, or supervisory control of the defendant. The guideline also provides a cross-reference to §2A3.1 if the offense involved criminal sexual abuse or attempt to commit criminal sexual abuse.

    Both the maximum for aggravated sexual abuse (life in prison) and sexual abuse (20 years) are harsher than the maximums in Europe, or at least in Germany and Austria. The U.S. guidelines set 15 years as the maximum sentence for sexual contact that is lawful but for the age of the victim. Germany has 15 years as the maximum for someone who has kidnapped, raped repeatedly causing severe bodily injury, threatened with a deadly weapon, and otherwise sexually abused a 13-year-old. The U.S. punishments are a little more in the interests of justice for their length. But the U.S. sexual abuse maximum of 20 years is a little lenient, though, don’t you think, ECS?

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  13. First, these are the federal guidelines. Some states are more lenient. I’m no judge or prosecutor, but I would recommend the maximum sentence possible for these crimes, depending on the circumstances.

    Second, I wonder how many rapes occur (proportionally) in the U.S. versus in Germany. I’d venture a guess that the number of rapes in the U.S. is significantly higher than in any European country.

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  14. ECS, I’m wondering why that matters at all to this discussion. Is it your view that locking up the Marios of this world is solely a function of prevention?

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  15. I agree that deterrence should at least partially be a factor — particularly specific deterrence, i.e. get specifically Mario out of society where he will not kidnap and rape someone else’s daughter as soon as he gets out after a mere 15 years. If he ever gets out, he needs to be so old that he simply can’t commit a crime like this again.

    ECS, thanks for the stats, but truly I feel they are irrelevant to a discussion of why Germany has such lenient laws to punish those who abuse children. I believe that justice can and should be served independent of whether it will generally deter others from committing the same crime. At least it will get the particular perp off the street.

    What about the connection to pornography? Do you think that illegalization of pornography could contribute to the general deterrence that you seem to think is relevant in a discussion of sentencing child rapers? Or is it too sacrosanct a right to wallow in that filth?

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  16. John,

    Is it possible that we have made incorect assumptions about the strength of the connection between pr0n and sexual assault? I think in all the countries in the table ECS provided above, pr0n is not only more readily available than in the U.S., but it is also more explicit. If we want to point to pr0n as the cause of sexual assault, I think we first need to explain why Germany, for instance, with its anything goes attitude towards pr0n, reports only 25% as many rapes as the U.S. To me, that is a fascinating question.

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  17. I read some article recently that suggested that rising porn use is correlated with lower sexual crimes.

    Some article recently. How’s that for hard data!

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  18. Mark, I take that back. I see where you are coming from. After all, we all know that in Germany you will see scantily clad women, often in sexually explicit poses, etc., on advertisements at bus stops and around town. So, I would actually agree that Germany is a more sexualized society than the U.S., if that is your criterion. As for data on amounts of porn produced or consumed in the U.S. or Germany, I have absolutely no data at all and simply can’t refute or substantiate your claim.

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  19. Ronan, exactly. I saw the same article. I was think about writing a blog post about that topic. 🙂

    John, I have absolutley no data whatsoever about which country consumes the most pr0n, so I could be completely off base. I was just going from memory from a couple of decades ago when my companion and I had to walk the long way around the block to get to the U-bahn in order to avoid the billboard (billboard!) depicting a beautiful woman, undraped from the waist up. She was selling bath soap, I believe.

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  20. This may or may not be the article referred to, but this article says that prOn decreases rape: http://www.slate.com/id/2152487
    John – the story is truly horrific, and the maximum sentence not enough – should be mandatory life for rape in my opinion – but tarring the rest of Europe with the same brush isn’t that helpful. It comes across as an excuse to slander the whole of Europe because Germany and Austria have crap sentences for this crime. Europe is a great place to live and as ECS’s stats show – way safer in terms of rape.

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  21. Becky, I never said nor implied that Europe was not a great place to live. The criticism is aimed at the sentence for these crimes. Are you suggesting that France, Italy, Denmark, and other European countries have a statutory sentence that is more appropriate for the crime than Germany’s and Austria’s sentence?

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  22. No I’m not – but you implied the rest of Europe is equally as bad, without supporting it with facts. I’m happy to concede that ‘Europe’ is lame on sentencing for rape if proved. Examples from 2 countries, doesn’t prove it.

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