We’re big fans of Craigslist here at Above the Law, especially the ridiculous job postings and lawyerly missed connections. But the site has a dark side too. A “forced connection” in December has led two men to be charged with rape.
Ty Oliver McDowell, a medical technologist, thought he was fulfilling a Wyoming woman’s “rape fantasy” after responding to her ad on Craigslist. In reality, Jebidiah Stipe, the woman’s ex-boyfriend, had posted the ad in a twisted act of revenge on his ex-girlfriend. From the Associated Press:
Blonigen’s office has charged Ty Oliver McDowell, 26, with three counts of first-degree sexual assault, one count of kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary. Jebidiah James Stipe, 27, a Marine based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., is charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual assault.
We’re not sure if this was posted in Women Seeking Men or Casual Encounters, but it wasn’t in Erotic Services, which no longer exists. The ad sought “a real aggressive man with no concern for women,” and included the victim’s photo. The woman saw the ad two days after it was posted and asked that it be taken down, but not before McDowell saw it….
McDowell responded to the ad and unknowingly corresponded with Stipe. He was given the victim’s home address and then showed up at her front door, raped her at knifepoint, and left her bound on her living room floor.
If you’re a regular watcher of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, this might sound familiar to you. The show featured the same storyline seven months before this attack, writes the show’s executive producer at the Daily Beast. Neal Baer mainly uses the column to defend Law & Order, but he also sneaks in some legal analysis of the rape case at the end:
[I]f we let ourselves be frozen by the fear that someone might copy something they’ve seen on television, in a novel, or on the Internet, we would soon cease telling stories. Our intent on SVU is not to provide a blueprint for how to commit a crime, it’s to engage the viewer in complex stories that raise ethical issues.
And as any fan of crime drama knows, intent is often what separates the innocent from the guilty.
One law school “near Wyoming” is buzzing about the issue of intent. An ATL reader tells us the case is a “flash point discussion amongst our law class.” Here’s the analysis:
Most people had an issue with the prosecutor charging the rapist at all. The logic behind it being that even though the rapist did not have the requisite mens rea for the assault, a Casper, WY jury would still convict him on the nature of the crime alone. The online correspondence, both prior to and after the attack, suggest that throughout the event the rapist believed it was consensual.
Also, the idea of prosecuting someone on the basis of their sick fantasy was unsettling. The consensus being it is not just to dictate what people can and cannot fantasize about if lawful, albeit creepy and perverse.
Aside from that, everyone believes the [ex-boyfriend who allegedly posted the ad] should go away for a long time.
Who’s guilty here? The rapist? The ex-boyfriend? Law & Order: SVU? We invite you to discuss in the comments.
Internet rape case jolts Wyoming city [Associated Press]
Former boyfriend used Craigslist to arrange woman’s rape, police say [Los Angeles Times]
Man pleads not guilty in Wyo. Craigslist rape case [Associated Press]
How ‘SVU’ Predicts the Future [Daily Beast]