The judge apologized to the teenage witness who stood and sobbed in the courtroom cage usually reserved for accused felons.
"I can't tell you how terribly sorry I am you're in the circumstance you're in," Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lawrence G. Brown told the 17-year-old witness and alleged rape victim.
Then he ordered the girl to remain in the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility, to make sure she appears in court against the man accused of raping her.
"I need to have every confidence you would in fact make your court appearances," he said, "and your track record has not been good."
Twice, the girl failed to appear in court to testify against defendant Frank William Rackley Sr., 37, a man the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office believes is a serial rapist.
Last month, prosecutors obtained a material witness warrant on the girl. She has been in custody since March 23, her lawyer said. Brown set her next detention hearing for April 16. Rackley's trial is scheduled for April 23.
The girl's attorney, Lisa M. Franco, said it is the first time her client has ever been jailed.
"We feel that this is very punitive," Franco told the judge. The lawyer added, "She does not want to be treated like a criminal, which is happening right now."
The second of the girl's two court no-shows took place on the date of Rackley's scheduled Feb. 28 trial. It prompted the DA's Office to dismiss charges against Rackley, a parolee with a 20-year criminal past.
A day after they sought the dismissal, prosecutors refiled charges on Rackley. The state Penal Code allows for one such refiling of a felony case and additional refilings under certain circumstances.
Franco said the girl has been "revictimized" while in juvenile hall, once getting pepper-sprayed by authorities who were trying to quell a fight between two other girls. The lawyer said her client has been denied contact visits with her mother. The witness also injured her ankle and nearly passed out after being "forced" to participate in a physical education class, Franco said.
The lawyer said her client "is not a flight risk" and "I have made it abundantly clear" the girl will make all of her future court appearances. It is still not clear, however, if the girl will testify. Under the state's Code of Civil Procedure, she doesn't have to.
Franco suggested to Brown that the girl be placed in the Children's Receiving Home of Sacramento and be equipped with a Global Positioning System device. Franco said the steel-banded GPS device can't be cut off and is more reliable in ensuring that a detainee stays within a proscribed perimeter than electronic ankle bracelets that transmit through phone lines and can be more easily removed.
Brown said he is "very interested" in learning more about the GPS devices Franco mentioned and the DA's Office is reviewing them. He said their logistics "seem feasible," but "also complicated."
If "something can be worked out" with the DA before April 16, Brown said he would be willing to move up the girl's next hearing for a possible earlier release.
Outside court, Franco said Brown made "the wrong decision, obviously," in keeping her client locked up.
"She needs to be released," Franco told reporters.
Deputy District Attorney Alan R. Van Stralen told the judge the case poses an "extremely difficult situation" for prosecutors. Van Stralen said they believe Rackley is a serial rapist. He said the girl's release "would seriously jeopardize that prosecution."
"It's the last thing we want to do," Van Stralen told reporters outside court, about the material witness hold. "But we have to look at the big picture. There's a very dangerous man out there."
Rackley is accused in a six-count complaint. Prosecutors have identified a second victim but think she is a prostitute creating a potential credibility problem. Rackley has six felony convictions going back to 1992 and was arrested on suspicion of raping two women in 1996 in a case prosecutors dismissed.
Rackley's lead attorney, Assistant Public Defender Richard Berson, was unavailable for comment Friday.
The defendant's son, Frank William Rackley Jr., said in an interview that his father "is a good man," the "best dad I know" who "did everything for me." He said "I know in my heart this is a lie."
"Why else wouldn't she testify?" Rackley Jr. said.
The girl showed up in court wearing juvenile hall-issued black pants, a white sweat shirt and sneakers. She appeared blank-faced at the outset of the hearing but then broke into sobs for its short duration. Franco said the girl proved she is not a flight risk when she was accidentally released from juvenile hall last week but reported directly to the receiving home.
The lawyer said that while the girl's appearance may strengthen the Rackley case, the actions of the DA's Office and the court could undermine "thousands" of other rape cases nationwide.
"We're setting the clock back 20, 30 years," Franco told the judge, "telling women all over the country, you're going to be put in jail if you refuse to come forward."
Brown disagreed, saying the DA's pursuit of the Rackley case shows prosecutors are willing to take on difficult cases that might have been abandoned in the past.
Turning to the girl, Brown twice told her how "terribly sorry" he was, that "I want to believe" she will show up for the future court dates. But, "I still find sufficient good cause that I'm not sure you would show up for future court appearances," Brown said.