#1Jan 30th, 2007
TAMPA, Fla. -- A 21-year-old woman who told police that a man raped her was jailed for two days after officers helping her found a warrant accusing her of failing to pay restitution for a 2003 theft arrest.
A jail worker later refused to give her a second dose of a morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy because of religious convictions, said Vic Moore, the college student's attorney. She was released from jail Monday only after Moore reported her plight to the local media.
"Shocked. Stunned. Outraged. I don't have words to describe it," Moore said Tuesday of his client's arrest and treatment in jail. "She is not a victim of any one person. She is a victim of the system. There's just got to be some humanity involved when it's a victim of rape."
Tampa police said Tuesday they were changing their policy to give officers more discretion on when to arrest a crime victim who has outstanding warrants.
"Obviously, any policy that allows a sexual battery victim to spend a night in jail is a flawed policy," police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. "So our city attorney is writing a new policy right now."
Hillsborough County jail officials didn't immediately return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday.
The woman is not being named by The Associated Press because she reported being the victim of a sex crime.
The premed student was in Tampa on Saturday afternoon for Gasparilla, a pirate-themed parade that draws thousands of revelers to the city's waterfront each year. She said she was walking alone to her car when a man pulled her behind a downtown building and raped her, McElroy said.
She reported the rape to police at 3:30 p.m. Responding officers took her to a rape crisis center, where she was given a medical exam and the first of two doses of a morning-after pill, McElroy said. The second dose is supposed to be taken within 24 hours.
She was riding in a patrol car trying to locate the crime scene in the dark when a police check revealed an outstanding warrant. She was arrested around 8:50 p.m.
"They stopped the investigation right there," Moore said. "She was riding in the front of the patrol car. They put her in handcuffs and put her in the back."
The warrant stemmed from a 2003 juvenile arrest for grand theft and burglary. It said she owed $4,585 in restitution.
But Moore said his client believes she paid the fine for what he described as a childish mistake by a then-17 year old. He didn't have details of the previous arrest, but the woman has no criminal history as an adult, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The April 2006 warrant required the student to pay the full restitution or stay in jail until she could face a judge in Sarasota.
McElroy said the arresting officer checked with a sergeant before taking the student into custody.
"It appears at face value that they didn't violate policy," she said. "It's just we had a flawed policy."
Moore said the woman was allowed to take the second emergency contraceptive pill Monday afternoon, a day late, and then only after reporters started calling police and jail officials. Authorities then arranged a special emergency bond hearing on Monday afternoon.
"When the chief's office learned we had a rape victim in jail, we began working very aggressively to get her out," McElroy said.
Moore said it was too soon to say if his client would sue. Her first priority was making sure detectives arrest her attacker, whom police were still seeking.
"She is brave," Moore said. "We are going to work with police to catch this monster."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.