A Florida International University baseball star and two friends were arrested and charged with rape, more commonly known in the State of Florida as sexual battery. The three men were staying at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas when they allegedly met up with two 17 year-old women. The group of five people returned to a hotel room within the resort. The girls say they are the victims of rape, while the men have provided statements that they all engaged in consensual sex. The three men were arrested by Bahamian authorities and released upon posting a $10,000 bond. Evidence has already been collected including video surveillance and rape kits. As in the majority of sexual battery cases, the entire case will revolve upon the issue of consent. The issue of consent is no different whether the case is defended in the Bahamas or by a Miami criminal attorney in the State of Florida.
The age of the victims in the case is irrelevant under Bahamian law as the age of consent is sixteen. The laws of the State of Florida are slightly different as the age of consent is 18. However, for the charge of statutory rape ("Unlawful Sexual Acts with Minors") to apply, a defendant must be 24 years of age or older. As the alleged victims were over the age of 16 the defendants cannot be charged with statutory rape. Statutory rape is much easier to prove than sexual battery as consent is not an issue when dealing the former. Consent under Florida law is defined as intelligent, knowing and voluntary consent and does not include coerced submission. Consent does not mean the failure of the alleged victim to offer physical resistance to the offender.
Based on the information proved by the media, it appears as if the defendants have a very defensable case. The victims were caught on tape drinking at bar within the resort. Both girls were observed kissing at the bar. The video shows that the women gestured the men over to where they were sitting. The victims voluntarily went with the defendants to the hotel room. Blood taken from the victims revealed that they had alcohol in their system, but the actual blood alcohol level (BAC) has not been released. Most importantly the blood results did not show any form of date rape drug in either of the victim's systems. It is not clear whether or not a rape treatment exam was performed on the victims. If neither of the victims suffered any injuries inconsistent with consensual sex, that will be big plus for the defense. It is not clear whether the alleged victims resisted the defendants or were physically unable to resist due to alcohol consumption.
In sum, the case comes down testimonial, not physical evidence. The three young men involved will say that the alleged victims consented to the sex, while the victims will say that they are the victims of a sexual offense. All of the other facts mentioned earlier will certainly support the defendant's contention that the victim's regretted their actions after the fact. When dealing with testimonial evidence, the credibility of the defendants and victims in the case is crucial. The consistencies or lack of consistencies in the initial statements of the participants will also be critical. The backgrounds of the parties is also important, but due to the age of those involved, it probably will not have much bearing on the case. A preliminary hearing is set for April 18th and more information will be made public is the case develops.
No Date-Rape Drugs Found in Baseball Star Wittels Investigation, The Miami Herald.com, December 28, 2010.