On Thursday, the Des Moines Register reported that supporters of two Creston police officers convicted of sexual assault showed up at the Capitol with more than 800 signatures petitioning Gov. Terry Branstad to release the cops from prison and grant them a new trial. They were convicted in 2009 for the rape of a bartender at a country club. The supporters previously launched a website that includes a quote from a 17th century jurist who famously sentenced two women convicted of witchcraft to death and denied that marital rape was a crime.
The website alleges that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict former police chief James Christensen and former assistant chief John Sickels, who was accused of raping the bartender as Christensen looked on. It also claims that evidence was unfairly excluded under Iowa’s rape shield law, and that the court improperly led jurors to believe there was a presumption of guilt.
The website has a page consisting entirely of a critique of Iowa’s rape shield law written by Sickels in 2010. “In closing,” he wrote, “I would like to quote Matthew Hale from The History of the Pleas of the Crown: ‘Rape is….. An accusation easily to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, though never so innocent.’”
That’s the same History of the Pleas of the Crown in which Hale wrote, “But the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract.”
On the website’s home page, Sickels’ sister Vicki also criticizes the rape shield law, bemoaning how easy it is for victims to “cry rape.” (Here’s a copy of the letter that supporters of Christensen and Sickels handed out at the Capitol on Thursday.)
The Creston cops have proclaimed their innocence since they were initially charged, but in 2011 the Iowa Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal.
This story has been revised for clarity.