Many years ago, a friend of mine stood accused of a misdemeanor crime involving sexual contact with a minor — a crime he pled no contest to, & for which, based on conversations with him, I felt he bore responsibility. But nonetheless I went to court with him. I paid a price for that — turns out that I knew the mother of the youth in the case, & she never forgave me for taking, as she thought it, the side of the man who victimized her son. But the reason I’d gone was not because I judged him innocent (I didn’t), but because a guilty person needs friends in facing his guilt, & facing the consequences of his crime, as much as he’d need friends beside him if he’d been innocent.
Based on accounts in the press of the evidence in the case against Anchorage police officer Anthony Rollins, accused of sexually assaulting six different women while on duty, I’m inclined to believe that he, too, is guilty. But I’m less certain of the motivations of the numerous people, fellow members of Lighthouse Christian Fellowship, who have been packing the courtroom at Rollins’ hearings to the point — well, I’ll let AK Muckraker’s words speak here, in the Mudflats post she wrote earlier this week:
At the first hearing, according to a source at STAR [Standing Together Against Rape], two victims were forced to fight their way through the mass of people and stand, “crushed against the back wall” by the crowds that had come to give moral support to the man they say sexually assaulted them. “They couldn’t even see,” she said. “The mood of the people who came was like it was some kind of social event. It was appalling.”
The court room was packed to overflowing, with Rollins’ church supporters filling the defendant’s side of the room, the seats in the jury box, the side of the coutroom usually reserved for the plaintiff, and spilling out into the hall when the room reached capacity. [Ref #1]
Were they there because they’re certain, based on factual evidence, that he’s innocent? Were they there because they believe him guilty & are helping him to face the consequences? Or were they there based on “he goes to my church & I feel in my heart he’s innocent” evidence (which is hardly evidence) & are thereby not only helping him maintain but actively participating in denial of crimes he’s committed?
In the witness, yet, of the very persons he’s accused of violating? To the extent that those women, & their friend & families, couldn’t even get a seat?
At least there was some improvement at the latest hearing, last Tuesday:
This time, knowing what awaited them, arrangements were made in advance for the victims and their families to have access to the courtroom and a place to sit down. What that experience must have been like, facing your accused rapist in a room full of his supporters is to most of us, unimaginable. [Ref #1]
But my questions stand: what are the motives of the churchgoers who are packing the court for Rollins? At Alaska Commons, John Aronno writes:
Rollins was released on $100,000 bail and is now under house arrest. He also gets field trips every Sunday, because the judge recognized how important it was for him to attend his church. And what church does he attend? Christian Lighthouse Fellowship. And how might the judge have reached the conclusion to release an alleged serial rapist? Well, the fact that the church came together as a “community” in support of Rollins probably helped; Lighthouse parishioners packed the courthouse, leaving standing room only, even forcing the alleged victims to be packed against the wall while people stood in a pathetic brand of solidarity in support of their fellow Christian; someone who may have raped a half dozen women, while wearing a badge. [Ref #2]
Is this, for members of Lighthouse Christian Fellowship, just a matter of Christian solidarity? Or shall I say, Christianist solidarity. Blind support for another believer who may have committed serious crimes is not actually Christian — but fits right in with the Christianist ideology which assumes as a matter of course that only people outside the flock are guilty.
Celtic Diva wrote yesterday about an Anchorage police officer she personally knew who used his position to rape and torture women, & concluded:
I share [this story] now in hopes that supporters of Officer Rollins will open their minds to the possibility that six women are not lying. I ask them to think back on their relationship with him and remember past inappropriate comments, humor or boundary issues…they have leaked out somewhere, giving hints of his true nature. [Ref #3]
A friend’s duty to a friend who stands accused of a crime is not to blindly assert his innocence — but to discern, to the best of one’s ability, whether he might be guilty. And if he is, to help him face his guilt. And to accept the consequences that are due him.
If any of you are reading this, I hope you’ll think about it.
Meanwhile, a demonstration has been called today for people to support the victims & to protest the preferential treatment this accused serial rapist has already received. Here’s the press release:
ALASKAN WOMEN DESERVE BETTER
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 9, 2009
Kirsten Stolle, 907-602-8042
Sara Anderson, 907-903-4121
Community to Rally Against Release of Accused Rapist Cop
CONCERNED CITIZENS TO PROTEST AT COURTHOUSE TODAY
A group of concerned citizens will gather today in front of Nesbett Courthouse to protest the limited-release of accused rapist and Anchorage Police Officer Anthony Rollins. On October 5th, a bail hearing was held in which Judge Phillip Volland modified third party conditions to allow for electronic ankle monitoring and house arrest that included a provision to allow Rollins to still attend church while awaiting trial.
“Alaskan women deserve better than this,” said Kirsten Stolle, a concerned citizen working to organize today’s rally. “Officer Rollins stands accused of raping six different women while on duty, and is now free to cause more pain.”
“Our state leads the nation in so many of tragic sexual abuse statistics. It’s time for our legal system to send a strong message to perpetrators that Alaskans simply won’t stand for it.”
Officer Rollins is currently under house arrest where he is living with his wife, who is also an acting Sergeant with the Anchorage Police Department.
Today’s rally will be held in front of Nesbett Courthouse (corner of 4th and I Street) at noon.
- 10/6/09. “Indicted Serial Rapist Receives Overwhelming Support by AK Muckraker (The Mudflats).
- 10/9/09. “Anchorage Rapist Revered by Fellow Church-Goers. Is That Okay with You?” by John Aronno (Alaska Commons).
- 10/8/09. “Welcome to October 8th, ‘D-Day’ (Dividend Day) in Alaska” by Linda Kellen Biegel (Celtic Diva’s Blue Oasis).