Judicial Comment in Arizona Draws Ire

Robb Gary Evans, a police officer in Arizona, drove to a bar, flashed his badge to avoid paying entry, and downed eight beers. He then proceeded to sexually assault one of the patrons, and when he was tossed out of the bar he threatened to have the bouncers arrested.

Following an internal investigation Evans was fired from the police force. He was also convicted by a jury for sexual assault and sentenced for two years probation. I’ve made the minute entries from the case available here.

Despite the disturbing nature of the facts, this case takes an even stranger twist. At Evans’ sentencing hearing the Honorable Jacqueline Hatch of the Cococino County Superior Court had some interesting things to say to the victim. According to Eric Bertz of the Arizona Daily Sun:

Bad things can happen in bars, Hatch told the victim, adding that other people might be more intoxicated than she was.

“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said.

Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.

“I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.”

Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.

Hatch went further, and told the victim that even going to a grocery store after 10pm was risky.

Public outrage resulted in national headlines on Friday, and an online petition calling for her resignation reached 10,000 signatures.

Justice Hatch released the following statement yesterday:

As a Coconino County Superior Court judge, it is my responsibility to ensure that all victims and defendants are treated fairly and in a respectful manner in the courtroom. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously. I also believe victims should not be blamed for coming forward to report crimes.

In a recent case, my in-court comments to the victim at sentencing did not further these important tenets. My comments were poorly communicated and for that, I am truly sorry if they caused the victim further distress.

I apologize to the victim for any additional anguish my comments may have caused. It was never my intention to make a situation worse for any victim. I have learned an important lesson and will apply what I have learned to future cases, to ensure that the rights and views of all victims are heard and respected.

The victim has indicated that she has accepted Justice Hatch’s apology, and is appreciative of the public support she’s received.

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