A week ago Friday, she stood in a courtroom cage and cried.
On Monday, a 17-year-old alleged rape victim jailed on a material witness warrant to ensure her appearance in court against the man accused of attacking her sat at the lawyers' table and at times wore a grin that spread from one side of her face to the other.
The girl was happy because she was getting out of juvenile hall. She had spent 24 days there on the warrant sought by the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office and signed by two Sacramento judges after her failures to appear on two previous court dates prompted prosecutors to dismiss the case, which has since been refiled.
"She's feeling much better," the girl's attorney, Lisa M. Franco, said in an interview. "She's being treated like a human being. She's at the counsel table, instead of in the cage. She's being treated differently. She's getting the respect she deserves as a witness."
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lawrence G. Brown said from the bench he agreed to release the girl after her lawyer and the District Attorney's Office reached an agreement under which she will be monitored by a GPS tracking device. She is one of two reported victims in the case against Frank William Rackley Sr., 37, who is scheduled for trial Monday.
"This case has charted thankfully rare legal territory," Brown said. "It represented a difficult balancing of protecting the community from an alleged violent criminal and ensuring the integrity of the court subpoena process of a critical witness."
The judge told the girl, "I am truly sorry for all that you have been through. I hope that you have been strengthened by the outpouring of community support and concern for you. You have demonstrated great courage for a young woman and may you continue to do so in the upcoming trial of Mr. Rackley."
The girl, whose name is being withheld by The Bee because she is an alleged sexual assault victim, was abducted last year from a light-rail station on Del Paso Boulevard and then driven away and raped by Rackley, according to the criminal complaint.
She was scheduled to testify against Rackley at his preliminary hearing and then at his trial, originally set for Feb. 28.
She failed to appear for either session.
Rackley's complaint accuses him of raping two women. But the other alleged victim has been identified in court papers as a prostitute, and the DA's Office felt it was critical to have the girl appear because prosecutors think she is a more credible witness.
It is not clear if the girl will actually be forced to testify at trial. The state's Code of Civil Procedure says sexual assault victims don't have to testify. Nor is it clear under what circumstances the DA's Office would be allowed to introduce the statements she gave to police to the jury or if they'll be able to at all if the girl takes the witness stand but refuses to say anything. DA's officials declined to comment on the case Monday.
Franco said her client got what she wanted Monday her release from the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility.
"Now she can decide if she wants to testify or not," Franco said.