Thursday, September 9, 2010
Court of Appeal Upholds Ex-Minister’s Conviction in Rapes of Prostitutes
Defendant’s Use of Knife Vitiated Whatever Consent He May Have Had, Justices Rule
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Evidence that a former minister convicted of raping four prostitutes held a knife to his victims’ throats, and explicitly or implicitly threatened to use it, was sufficient to prove the element of lack of consent, the Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The justices affirmed the convictions of Anthony Ireland, serving 100 years to life in prison for raping the four, who were picked up along Motel Drive, an area of Fresno well known for prostitution.
The incidents occurred between September and November 2007. Each of the women later testified that they and Ireland had agreed on a price for sex, and that Ireland told them he did not want to go to a hotel or motel.
Two of the women said they agreed to sex in the defendant’s car at a location a few minutes from where they were picked up, and the other two in a cemetery. All four said the defendant used a large knife, with a blade seven or more inches long, and that they begged him not to hurt them and were told they would not be hurt if they cooperated.
None of the women were paid for their services. Ireland’s West Fresno church relieved him of his license to preach shortly after his arrest, local media sources reported.
Police investigating the rapes focused on Ireland after obtaining descriptions of the rapist and his vehicle. After Ireland’s car was stopped, he told police he had a knife in his waistband and was arrested.
After three of the four women picked him out of a lineup, he admitted having had sex with the women but claimed it was consensual. He said he carried the knife for protection but that used it during sex with one of the women because she liked it; he denied holding it to her neck.
He subsequently admitted using the knife on other women, but said he did not threaten them and that they all agreed, at least initially, that he could use it. He told officers he was sorry, and—at their suggestion—wrote the women a letter of apology.
In addition to testimony from the police and victims, prosecutors presented evidence of a prior uncharged incident. A Clovis woman testified that in September 2007, she was taking a shower and heard a noise outside.
Police were called and found Ireland in the woman’s front yard. Shoe prints in the dirt below the woman’s windows and a fingerprint matched those of Ireland, who admitted looking into the window and seeing the woman’s exposed breasts.
Jurors found him guilty of four counts of forcible rape, and Fresno Superior Court Judge Gary Orozco sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison on each count.
On appeal, the defense argued that each of the women had consented to sex, and that the use of a knife did not necessarily terminate that consent, so the prosecution failed to present substantial evidence of lack of consent, as required by law. The defense further contended that even if the women no longer wished to have sex with the defendant, the defendant was entitled to rely on the prior consent because none of them expressly or implicitly communicated that they had changed their minds.
Justice Betty Dawson, writing for the Court of Appeal, disagreed. What the defense was arguing, in effect, was that the victims were required to resist, which is “certainly” not the law, the justice said.
“When appellant used the knife and expressly or impliedly threatened his victims, and in the absence of any conduct by the victims indicating that they continued to consent, the previously given consent no longer existed, either in fact or in law,” Dawson wrote.
Besides, she wrote, the victims’ testimony was sufficient for jurors to find that the defendant was aware that they no longer wished to have sex with him once he held a knife to their throats.
In an unpublished portion of the opinion, Dawson said evidence of the peeping incident should not have been admitted under Evidence Code Sec. 1108 because “window peeking” is not a “sexual offense” as defined by the statute. The section gives the court discretion to admit evidence of such offenses, contrary to the general rule that uncharged conduct may not be used to show a propensity to commit crimes.
But the evidence was harmless under any standard, the justice said, given the “overwhelming” evidence of the defendant’s guilt.
The case is People v. Ireland, 10 S.O.S. 5336.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company