Read Sex Crimes Online

Authors: Nikki McWatters

Tags: #Fiction, #Psychological, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thrillers

Sex Crimes (21 page)

BOOK: Sex Crimes
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‘Interesting you say that, Kel,’ I nodded, pushing up my sunglasses. ‘I spoke with Bergin….he’s got Mason in the prosecutor’s seat….and Bergin was telling me that the combination of alcohol, cocaine and Viagra is commonly fatal. A reality television star in the US died that way. It drops the blood pressure to dangerous levels which is probably why he was unconscious and why he was so disoriented when he did come to.’

‘And from all accounts he did
come
to,’ Jim guffawed.

Poor old Chris will forever be a punch-line now.  Just like the jokes about Hugh Grant and Michael Jackson. Sex scandals stick like kick-me signs on your back. And it takes years for them to fall off, if ever.

‘Bottom line is she drugged him and used his naked body as a jungle gym,’ Karen said. ‘…while she and her friend filmed him without his consent. And if she’d been a fifteen year old male, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.’

‘She’s a kid, though,’ her husband countered. ‘A stupid kid… and let’s face it, he did put himself into that situation. He’d rolled the blonde, more than once from all accounts, and then fell asleep and the girls just kept the party going until he woke up for more.’

‘How would you feel if the roles were reversed and that was your daughter asleep on bed and you had two teenage boys filming her and doing things to her genitals, hey?’ Karen grumbled at her husband. ‘The O’Neil girl had not had any previous sexual action with Bergin so there wasn’t even the inference that he might consent to her performing oral sex on him and she tried try to take her own virginity with a part of his anatomy, like he was a human dildo!’

‘You’ve seen the footage,’ Jim said, turning to me, ignoring his wife. ‘In your opinion was the girl a rapist?’

‘According to the legal definition of the word?’ I pondered aloud. ‘Yes. Undoubtedly. In some states of the US a woman cannot be charged with rape but that’s not the case here. And with drugs such as Viagra and Cialis out there being abused, it’s becoming more possible, physically, I mean.’

While we were discussing the business on my boat, conversations on the same subject were being had all over the world. Eyes from Bagdad to Brazil were constantly scanning for tit-bits of information on the Bergin rape case, greedily lapping up information like media junkies.

‘But this is unheard of, surely,’ Jim said, shaking his head. ‘It’s crazy. Since when does a bloke cheat on his wife and then scream rape? It’s a cop out and he should have just manned up and bitten the bullet that he shot out of his gun as soon as he invited those girls to his room. I bet his wife is even more humiliated with how this has turned out.’

‘I don’t know about that,’ I said opening my palms. ‘But…’

‘Are you telling me that the girl from the Steubenville case should have just copped those boys filming her, having sex with her and urinating on her?’ Karen raised her voice at him. ‘Just chalked it up to a bad experience and let them go on to do it to another girl?’

Karen was getting quite heated. It was refreshing to me to see an intelligent woman coming down hard on the O’Neil girl. For so long, we’ve heard the outrage from women when a girl is taken advantage of when she is drunk or unconscious and we have readily embraced the idea that you don’t have to be conscious to object to the act. That was a breakthrough and one that has seen many drunken foolish young men thrown into prison. Kids these days are out of control and need to be dealt with firmly and without prejudice.

‘There was a case of a nurse administering Viagra to a patient and then having intercourse with him in the States. She’d also given him something to disorient him,’ I told them.

‘But that’s stupid. How could the Viagra work while he was out? You’ve still got to have the mental desire, the pill just helps you along.’

‘And you’d know!’ his wife snapped.

‘No,’ I said. ‘Not necessarily. The pill will still work when you’re asleep and in men without a genuine need for the pill, the results can sometimes be uncomfortable, prolonged and cause a state of disassociation, even during an ejaculation. Of course mixed with other drugs and alcohol you’re going to get all sorts of odd reactions.’

‘I think it’s a great drug!’ Jim laughed again. ‘Wouldn’t be without it, eh, Karen?’

‘But the girl was totally irresponsible for giving it to someone who was consuming other substances,’ I said and poured another glass of champagne for myself while Maddy put the prawns in the middle of the table.

‘What are you all talking about?’ she asked, smiling from beneath her wide-brimmed sun-hat.

‘Viagra!’ Karen laughed. ‘Of all things.’

‘Oh,’ she said, rolling her eyes. ‘The bloody Bergin case. Please!’

‘That girl’s life will be wrecked now and pregnant too,’ Karen said shaking her head. ‘But they were her own mistakes and the problem lies in education. We need better sex education in schools.’

‘You know she was photographed out shopping the other day and she was wearing the band t-shirt stretched over the big belly with the navel popped out beneath?’ Jack Edgar shouted from the other end of the table.

It seemed to be the only topic of conversation on board.

‘The media have a lot to answer for,’ Maddy piped in. ‘They’ve been brutal with the musician and then the girl and now I’m sensing that they’re over the initial championing of the equality issue and back to thinking the Bergin fellow is a bit of a tosser.’

I watched my wife of thirty-three years sit opposite me. Forget silly young things running around hanging their bits out for the world to see. My Maddy was the real deal. She was sexy and beautiful and became more so every year.

I opened a bottle of Veuve and aimed the cork away from my guests. It popped loudly, leaving behind a smoky sigh and arced out over the water to land with a plop to bob there, like a knot of driftwood.

Jack called out again.

‘He’s a rock star. He’d be loving this publicity!’

‘No, Jack,’ I called back. ‘I can quite categorically shoot that idea down. Bergin is completely gutted by the whole ordeal and taking this action might be the only way he can reclaim a shred of dignity.’

I looked down to the end of the table and looked at Jack. His new wife Melanie glowed beside him. Now, the age difference between them easily exceeded the difference between Bergin and O’Neil. Seeing an old codger like Jack with a trophy wife has become mainstream enough to not even be commented on. The power of her youth balances out the power of his money.   

‘Well, I just hope they give her the same sort of sentence they’d give a boy in the same situation.’ Karen said to me and then looked at her husband. ‘I hate the idea of double standards just because it’s a sexual offence. What’s the big deal with sex? A crime for one human is a crime for another. If this girl was up for murder or stealing a car you’d send her down in an instant!’

‘I’m old fashioned and I just don’t think the charge of rape is appropriate,’ Jim shrugged casually. ‘I think it’s an overreaction to some badly behaved teenage girls whose parents have got to take a good hard look at themselves. If it was my daughter, I’d be cutting off all the money and …and I’d be locking my damn medicine cabinet!’

I was nervous about the whole business. I knew a lot was riding on this for Chris. He’d paid for what he’d done. Getting involved with those girls. His reputation was shot and they were considering stripping his Australian of the Year title from him. That was an unprecedented dishonour in this country. The girl is the one that came forward with the false claim of rape, a claim that gave a man an instant life sentence of suspicion and shame.

The false claims of rape didn’t crop up all that often in courts. Most false claims made to the court about abuse, were seen between warring, divorcing couples but I had seen a couple of shocking cases in my time.

Once a man was jailed for the repeated rape of his daughter. She’d laid the charges eight years after the alleged rapes had occurred. He served four years in prison before the woman recanted and admitted she had lied because she was angry at him for having a child with a new wife. The man-haters came out in her defence saying that the girl probably
had
been raped but changed her story because of the shame she carried.

That was another good man who lost a fight and could never be compensated for those lost years. I hoped that Chris’s case would help to shine the light on the possibility, no matter how remote, that women were capable of pulling out the rape card as a weapon. There were plenty of men who used sex as a tool of anger against women. Far too many. But it is irresponsible and shameful to suggest that no woman is capable of being just as despicable.

 

‘She’s just a scapegoat,’ Jim Iver said again. ‘Being unfairly turned into a monstrous demon child. They’re making an example of her and I don’t think it’s fair, that’s all I’m saying.’

‘It may well be that she’s being made an example but it’s an example that must be made, must be examined. The appearance of Libby O’Neil has cropped up now and we’ve decided to use her to let this gender question be openly debated. And we’re all debating it, aren’t we?’

‘You can talk,’ Kathy Cruise called from the other side of the table. ‘The criminal justice system is notoriously biased against women.’

‘I disagree,’ I retorted. ‘The improvements for victims in the area of sexual assault, particularly against women, over the past thirty years have been monumental. The rape-shield laws have turned the tables and made it much harder for men to defend themselves. And feminist advocacy has made huge and welcome advances in the care and respect of victims and their treatment in the system.’

‘I read somewhere that only two percent of rape allegations are false,’ another voice added.

‘I think you’ll find it’s a little higher than that,’ I replied. ‘…many of those that
are
found to have been fraudulent are born of revenge or for attention.’

‘But you would say that, Murphy,’ Karen lowered her glasses and looked across the table at me. ‘You’re a defence lawyer. All your best friends are murderers and rapists.’

‘Not on this boat,’ I winked back at her. ‘At least not today!’

***

 

9.

Detective Simmonds

You could have heard a pin drop when Libby O’Neil took the stand. The Magistrate had ordered a closed court and no cross examination of the defendant so she would only be questioned by her own defence lawyer, Sheryl Linstead and she was as shrewd and cunning as a defence lawyer got.

The footage from the night in question was not shown to the court but had of course been tendered to the Magistrate as evidence from the prosecution team. Libby had indicated at the outset that she intended on pleading ‘not guilty’ to the charge of rape but guilty to the false claim charge. The charges against the Proudfoot girl had been dropped in response to her assistance with the prosecution case. She was singing like a bird about how Libby had never mentioned rape and had admitted that she had not had  intercourse with the musician. No doubt, their friendship was history.

Chris Bergin sat in the room. He had been told it wasn’t necessary for him to attend but he had applied to the bench for permission to be present and it had been granted. The prosecution produced no oral evidence so things had proceeded quickly. When you’ve got something as damning as that film on hand there are not too many more questions to ask. Chris had made a lengthy statement to us and as the Head of the Investigation Team, I had passed that on to the judge via the prosecutor. We also had the written testimony of Abigail Proudfoot which was especially damning. 

After the O’Neil girl was sworn in the Magistrate addressed her.

‘Miss O’Neil, you may take a seat. Now that I have all the evidence in from the prosecution, the defence may begin its submission. I would like this to be wrapped up by five.’

‘Yes, Your Honour,’ Lindstead nodded. ‘You have our hand-up-brief and there is only this questioning of the defendant and then we’re done. We won’t keep the court long.’

In the relatively empty court house, a change from the last time we saw this cast of characters, there was the defence team, the prosecution team, the relevant court staff and the investigating police. Chris Bergin sat on one side of the court up in the back corner and on the other side of the court room, further toward the front, Libby O’Neil’s parents were seated. Rigid backs. Staring straight ahead. As the girl being questioned was only sixteen it was always preferable to have her legal guardians or representatives present. Neither of them looked very happy to be there but I knew how these things worked and if it was a minor defending the charge, the defence liked to present the Magistrate with a united family front as a Magistrate might look more kindly on dismissing a case with a warning if the minor would be returned to a stable home.

Sheryl Linstead  was a good one to be defending a girl on trial for rape and making a false claim of rape as she had balls of steel, that woman. I wouldn’t like to run into her in a dark alley way. She would also be relishing the mass media attention on her. She was a bit of a show pony.

Chris  Bergin was sitting forward, his elbows on his knees, his face resting in his hands. He was looking at the girl and I wondered what was going through his head. I wondered what was going through
her
head. Looking between them I was shocked to see the girl give him a nod of acknowledgment. Bergin sat up straight, as if she’d slapped him. She was a precocious one, that one. Feisty. Dangerous.

‘From the outset, I will say that I was not happy that you insisted on having  the defendant take the stand,’ the Magistrate said sternly. ‘I warn that given her age and the sexual nature of the charge, you should restrict your questions to a general and not graphic nature. And there will be no cross examination by the prosecution.’ Hallinan said even more gruffly. 

The questions began.

‘Now, you claimed at the start of proceedings that your client is intending to plead guilty to the charge of making a false rape claim against Christopher John Bergin and not guilty to the charge of rape. Is that correct?’

BOOK: Sex Crimes
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