A 17-year-old Sacramento girl has been locked up for more than a week now for her failure to appear in court against a swastika-adorned defendant with a 20-year criminal history who is accused of three counts of raping and sexually assaulting her.
Sacramento County prosecutors sought the material-witness warrant on the alleged rape victim, and two Superior Court judges have since ordered her detained to ensure her presence as a witness in a trial scheduled to begin April 23.
The girl is being held in juvenile hall in lieu of $50,000 bail. She is scheduled for a hearing Friday in front of Judge Lawrence G. Brown to determine if she will remain in custody. She is entitled to a court hearing every 10 days.
The girl's lawyer said she will ask Brown to set her client free.
"I think it's outrageous that the DA's Office wants to put a rape victim a juvenile rape victim in custody, as if she were the criminal, in a case where she is the victim," attorney Lisa M. Franco said.
The Bee's policy is to withhold names of those who may be victims of sexual assault.
Prosecutors said the danger they believe that defendant Frank William Rackley, 37, presents left them with a single-option "Hobson's choice" of seeking the material-witness hold.
"It's the last thing we ever want to do," Assistant District Attorney Albert Locher said Wednesday. "You never want to have a victim or a witness in custody. But you have to balance protecting the community. When you look at (Rackley's) background multiple victims already it's important that we try to prevent another victim from being harmed."
One expert on criminal procedure said prosecutors face a tough balancing act in forcing victims to testify by incarcerating them first. But the district attorney's job is to represent the people, McGeorge School of Law professor John Myers said, and not necessarily victims.
"Sometimes the balance is struck in favor of the prosecution for the protection of all the other women out there who would be preyed upon by this guy if the state's evidence is really the way it is," Myers said. "Sometimes that means a witness has to be severely inconvenienced."
According to the DA's court papers, Rackley is a parolee who has six felony convictions dating back to 1992 three for robbery, one for stalking, one for stolen property and one for felony evasion.
He also was arrested and charged twice in December 1996 on suspicion of rape. Those cases were dismissed. The DA's papers said the alleged victim in one of them didn't show up for trial. No information was available on why the other case was dismissed.
In an affidavit for the material witness warrant in the Rackley case, Deputy District Attorney Alan R. Van Stralen described the 17-year-old as a dependent of the state who had twice run away from her foster care placement and did not appear at the defendant's Oct. 18 preliminary hearing.
The deputy DA said he subpoenaed her again through her Child Protective Services social worker to testify at Rackley's Feb. 28 trial. This time, Van Stralen said, she ran away from the Children's Receiving Home, apparently to her mother's residence in Contra Costa County, according to her lawyers.
Van Stralen said he contacted the girl before trial and she agreed to appear, but that she again failed to show up and he was forced to dismiss the case on Rackley.
"Based upon (her) extensive runaway history, and the fact she has specifically told me she would not come to court to testify in this matter, I believe that (she) will not appear and testify unless security is required," Van Stralen said in his affidavit.
Judge Kevin J. McCormick on March 14 signed the warrant. Arrested in the interim, the girl appeared before Brown on March 27, who further ordered her detention.
According to the prosecution trial brief, the girl, then 16, was abducted July 22 at the Del Paso Boulevard light-rail station by a man in a red pickup truck who drove up and said, "I'm Frank. Do you have a boyfriend?"
When the girl rebuffed him, the man "got angry," according to the brief written by Van Stralen. The man then grabbed her arm, "threw her into the driver's side of the truck," and "drove to a dark spot on a residential street and parked," the brief said.
The man raped the girl and pushed her out of the truck, according to the brief. She "ran from the area as fast as she could," the brief said, until she found a sheriff's deputy and reported the alleged attack.
A rape examination of the girl turned up Rackley's DNA, prosecutors charged.
Rackley also is charged in the same case with raping a 30-year-old prostitute he picked up on Watt Avenue on June 22, the brief said. That woman later picked Rackley's picture out of a photo lineup, according to prosecutors. She identified Rackley's "numerous" tattoos, including a swastika on his chest and the letters "SAC" on his abdomen, the brief said.
Attorneys for Rackley could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Locking up rape victims to force them to appear in court against their alleged attackers is so rare that one local DA's official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the pending case, said he was aware of only one other case.
It also pits a Penal Code section that allows for warrants to ensure material witnesses "appear and testify" against the state's Code of Civil Procedure, which says you can't "imprison or otherwise confine" sexual assault victims who refuse to testify.
Franco and attorney Amina Merritt, who represented the girl in her juvenile dependency matter, said the girl has told them she now is willing to both appear and testify against Rackley.
"She told the DA that last week," Merritt said.