Last August a news story about an alleged 14-year-old rape victim garnered national media attention. Various national media sources, including, reported that a former Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, corrections officer named Angelo Vickers was facing a civil lawsuit based on allegations that he raped a 14-year-old inmate in a parish juvenile detention facility.
Terrebonne Parish attorneys elected to fight the lawsuit. They responded to the sexual assault allegation with the defense that Vickers could not have raped the alleged victim because she “consented” to the sexual encounter.  The age of consent in Louisiana is 17 years of age. To get around this legal barrier, parish attorneys in their legal pleadings defined their affirmative defense this way:
“Vickers could not have engaged in sexual relations within the walls of the detention center with [the victim] without cooperation from her. Vickers did not use force, violence or intimidation when engaging in sexual relations.”
One anonymous parish official took that defense a step further, telling the local newspaper, Tri-Parish Times, that the victim shared blame for her sexual assault. “These girls in the detention center are not Little Miss Muffin,” the official said.
The media reported that local attorneys and victim rights advocates in the parish argued it was impossible for the victim to “consent” under her confined circumstances. Salon quoted one local attorney and child advocate named Carolyn McNabb as saying: “To say that a 14-year-old mentally and distressed girl with a history of having been abused and neglected as a child should be found at fault for consenting to be raped by a male guard while in confinement at the hands of my local government, which is charged with the responsibility of keeping her safe, not only sets the cause of children’s advocacy back a hundred years, but I believe the parish government commits a ‘documentary’ sexual assault against the child by taking this position in a public record.”
We understand, and appreciate, that sexual assaults and acts of violence are committed against inmates by the very staff charged not only with supervising but protecting them as well. ABC News on January 26, 2014 carried a report about a recently released Bureau of Justice Statistics (“BJS”) study which documented 8,763 allegations of prisoner sexual victimizations between 2009 and2011. This represented an 11 percent increase over the number of allegations documented by BJS in 2007 and 2008. Significantly, BJS found in its most recent study that 49 percent of what ABC News called “unwanted sexual misconduct or harassment involved prison staff as perpetrators.”
We don’t know the details of what allegedly transpired between Angelo Vickers and the underage detention center inmate. But we disagree with McNabb’s implied criticism of the “Little Miss Muffin” defense. The parish attorneys defending against this lawsuit, as well as criminal defense attorneys defending against criminal charges in these kinds of cases, have a legal obligation to raise the defense if the facts support it. While statutory law does not recognize “consent” as a defense in sex with an underage person, it does allow for impeachment evidence to be introduced, particularly when there is some evidence that the “victim” is fabricating the sexual assault allegations.  And we know, unfortunately, that children do make false allegations about sexual assault, especially juvenile inmates about their adult guards.
Several years ago a former Harris County juvenile detention officer retained the John T. Floyd Law Firm to represent him against child sexual assault charges brought against him by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The sexual assault allegations had been leveled by several former female residents at a local juvenile detention facility. The alleged sexual assaults had occurred nearly a decade earlier. The alleged victims convinced an overzealous prosecutor to ask for, and secure, a grand jury indictment for charges that would have sent our client to prison had he been convicted.
A comprehensive investigation by our firm determined that the allegations were patently false and would have been impossible to have occurred as described by the victims. A fair and reasonable prosecutor would not have even brought the charges; much less presented them to a jury. Our client faced two trials and was acquitted by two juries. Following the first acquittal, jurors were highly critical of the female prosecutor who presented the case to them. The jurors uniformly believed, and expressed as much, that the prosecutor had not only wasted their time but state resources as well by bringing the false charges.
The alleged victims in the cases against our client were also not “Little Miss Muffins.” They were liars, individuals willing to send an innocent man to prison for the rest of his life in order to seek “revenge.” The two juries in our case came to this same conclusion.
We recognize there is a significant difference in our case and the Louisiana case. There was no sexual encounter between our client and the underage inmates. Apparently in the Louisiana case the parish attorneys are conceding to a sexual encounter. But this difference alone does not undermine the “Little Miss Muffin” defense. It should be left up to the jury to decide whether “Little Miss Muffin” was sexually assaulted as alleged.