Offensive Remarks of the Month: Defense Attorneys Gone Wild Edition

by Cara on June 9, 2008

in assholes, courts, misogyny, offensive remark of the week, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, slut-shaming, violence against women and girls

Via SAFER, I’ve just found out about an abhorrent rape trial that’s been going on in the area where I live. Good job not reading local news, Cara. (Though actually, a search on the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s website didn’t turn up any coverage, and it’s the area’s biggest newspaper.)

In short, Preston Wido is accused of raping three fellow classmates and sexually assaulting a fourth. But the person whose actions are currently making me nauseous belong to defense attorney John Parrinello. He made it clear that he wasn’t going to defend his client so much as viciously attack rape victims with insult after insult, during the unusually long jury selection (emphasis in all quoted text mine):

In his questioning Tuesday, Parrinello revealed some of what his defense might be: Cracking away at the credibility of the four girls who say Wido, 20, of Latham, Albany County, raped or sexually abused them while they were students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva between September 2005 and February 2007.

“Would you take into consideration that none of these young women, when they were removed from the situation, called 911?” he asked a potential juror. Parrinello asked other potential jurors if they would consider that there were “no eyewitnesses” and “no DNA” and that none of the alleged victims had gone to the hospital to have what’s called a “rape kit” examination for signs of assault and evidence.

[District attorney] Tantillo, meanwhile, asked potential jurors if they would consider that the girls might have been too scared to immediately report what had happened to them or even confused.

Parrinello later asked the panel of potential jurors: “Does anybody know what’s so confusing about whether or not you’ve been raped?”

But please. Saying that any woman who does not immediately report her rape just must be a liar, therefore using the very kind of language that causes rape survivors to blame themselves and be “confused,” while denying that the phenomenon exists? That’s only the beginning.

Two days later, he had this to say:

Tantillo told jurors in graphic detail about the claims made by the four women. Their stories were each somewhat different, he said, but they had one thing in common: “They all made it crystal clear that they did not want it to happen.”

Parrinello is expected to crack away at the alleged victims’ credibility, drawing attention to the fact that three of them had consensual sexual relations with Wido before the alleged attacks. “How do you know any of them said ‘no’?” he said.

The defense attorney pointed out that the women were slow in notifying authorities and said there is no DNA evidence or eyewitnesses, “no credible evidence.” He asked the jury: “Is this a rush to judgment? Is this a slanted prosecution? Is this a Duke lacrosse prosecution?”

That’s right — he used the “once consented, always consented” defense. Of course, a much more ethical argument (though most likely still a false one) would be that the women did consent during the “encounters” in question. But where’s the fun in that? No, you fuck someone once, and no one should ever believe you about trying to refuse fucking that same someone again.

As for the rest, someone really needs to change the “Tawana Brawley” square on the Rape Apologist Bingo card to “Duke Lacrosse.” I think it’s virtually undisputed that it has become the new “women are lying whores” rallying cry. If one woman lies about rape (ftr, I’m not at all convinced that the Duke accuser did), they’re all lying. This isn’t a defense, it’s a “scare the shit out of the jury” tactic. Few people want to put away a nice, clean-cut, athletic white boy for rape, guilty or not. Referencing a case that has turned into shorthand for “mean vengeful bitches lie about rape to ruin good men’s reputations” is precisely about calling into question whether or not such a nice guy could commit such a horrible crime. And it’s about asking the jury if it’s really so important to consider whether or not Wido did or did not commit the crime as it is to consider whether this kind of crime justifies ruining the poor guy’s life.

Parrinello is like the Energizer Bunny, though, and he just keeps on going. In the process, he got way more personal than that. He reportedly called one of the accusers “a psycho.” And then there’s this:

In his hours-long cross-examination in the Ontario County courtroom, Parrinello tried to crack away at the woman’s credibility. He suggested that she had gone to Wido’s dorm room on the night she claims he forcibly fondled her knowing he wanted to have sex.

[. . .]

On the stand for Ontario County District Attorney R. Michael Tantillo, the woman on Thursday said she had gone to see Wido in hopes of borrowing his football jersey for a themed party. She said he pushed her against a wall and picked her up twice, both times setting her down and forcing his hand down her pants, despite her repeatedly telling him to stop.

Parrinello questioned the woman about the details of that night —everything from the numbers on the jersey she wound up wearing to the party, to items in his room, to which of them stepped into the room first — in an effort to illustrate instances where she could not remember or had changed her story.

Because if you go to someone’s dorm room knowing that he wants sex, I guess he has the right to sexually assault you? Or something? And of course, if you can’t remember who walked into the room first, it’s highly questionable that you really remember whether or not you were sexually assaulted. Certainly, no one forgets insignificant crap like this on a daily basis. And it’s not like women ever blackout during sexual assault because of the trauma, or like that same trauma could make your memory fuzzy or entirely focused on the assault itself, not the events leading up to it. Any real sexual assault victim would certainly have paid close attention to the numbers on the jersey she wore one time, on that same day!

But it’s funny how no one uses a person’s inability to remember what they ate for breakfast on the day of a car crash as evidence that the accident didn’t happen.

Jesus Christ, I don’t normally remember what I was wearing two days ago. I can’t imagine being asked to remember what I wore last year on one of the most traumatic days of my life. If the victim actually can answer these questions accurately, that’s some damn good memory retention and should probably be used by the prosecution to argue that wow, her version of the events must be the correct one! Really, the logic is no more flawed and is perhaps less so.

But this asshole’s worst offense is right here. Brace yourself.

The scene unfolded just before 3 p.m., minutes after the jury was let out of the Ontario County courtroom so District Attorney R. Michael Tantillo and the defense attorney, John Parrinello, could debate whether certain evidence would be admissible.

While the prosecution witness — one of Wido’s three alleged rape victims — was still seated, the argument began, with Parrinello at one point highlighting previous testimony that she had willingly performed a sexual act on Wido in the weeks before the alleged rape — only Parrinello used crude, street language to describe the act, drawing out both Tantillo and the judge, William Kocher.

“What Mr. Parrinello just did was outrageous in the presence of this witness!” Tantillo shouted, calling it “abusive,” “harassing,” and “disgusting.”

Parrinello fired back, “You know that’s what happened — I’m not making it up… I have a right of free speech.”

Parrinello then briskly approached the judge, coming within a few feet of his bench and pointing his finger while defending his actions. A security guard rushed to Parrinello’s side.

“I want him away from me,” Parrinello told the judge of the guard. Then Parrinello pointed at the guard, face to face, and hollered, “You’re not to get near me.”

Parrinello then told the judge: “He’s not going to intimidate me. If he does it again, we’re going to have a big problem: I’ll have him arrested.”

The guard held his ground, briefly tapping his metal sheriff’s badge, until Kocher told him it was OK to step away from the defense attorney.

The judge told Parrinello, “Your conduct is bordering on contemptuous. The comment you just made is outrageous.”

Kocher ordered the defense attorney not to “make such editorial comments” and asked him several times if he understood. Repeatedly, Parrinello told the judge that no, he did not.

Amid the fiery exchange of words, the alleged rape victim began to wipe tears from her eyes, eventually breaking into sobs. The young woman was led out of the courtroom by Sarah Utter, the victim and witness advocate from the D.A.’s office.

Bordering on contempt? Bordering on contempt???? Parrinello keeps demanding a mistrial from the judge, but for completely different reasons, I sure as hell want one, too. The dude’s ass should be in jail for his actions, and if the witness acted this way, I don’t have a damn doubt in my mind that hers would have been. Parrinello didn’t just inappropriately argue with and show great disrespect towards a judge — he purposely and maliciously attempted to humiliate and trigger a rape victim giving testimony. He clearly doesn’t understand the concept of sympathy, and certainly doesn’t deserve any himself.

But hey, you can’t touch Parrinello. He was once a Republican candidate for mayor. He’s on the Monroe Community College Board of Trustees. So what if he has quite a history of this shit, and has been held in contempt of court before?

Moving on, Parrinello has tried to discredit a cop to whom Wido allegedly made semi-confessions. He apparently questioned some of the prosecutions’ witnesses for days. He turned this into the longest trial anyone who works at the courthouse can remember, and has asked for a mistrial about 40,000 times.

There are no excuses for this guy. The last time I wrote about a morally devoid defense attorney, many people suggested that he was being a horrible human being on purpose to hurt his client. I still don’t buy that argument, and there’s no fucking way that it’s the case here. Parrinello has a history of acting like a piece of shit (pdf, page 7). He thinks that trials are all about him, and doesn’t care about the havoc he wrecks on the lives of others. The more times he gets threatened with contempt or says horrible and inexcusable things about other participants in the trial, the happier he seems to be. Everything I’ve found on him suggests that he’s absolute scum — that’s including the news articles’ comments, which are a notorious breeding ground for “the bitch is lying” chatter. And if Parrinello’s reading this, since he seems like to type to obsessively google his own name, he can take his rape apologist, theatric, misogynist, unethical bullshit and shove it up his ass.

The jury has been deliberating since Wednesday. Today is the fourth day of discussion. It looks like they may be hung on some of the charges, putting at least one of the women through this evil sadistic circus once again. I somehow doubt that Parrinello would be upset about reenacting the entire process.

As for the victims, there’s no way in hell that I don’t believe them. Most rape victims wouldn’t go through a trial at all, let alone one with this jackass. And Parrinello claims that a woman who is lying because she’s jealous of an accused serial rapist’s girlfriend is going to deal with this shit? Ladies, you’re brave women. I commend you, my thoughts are with you, and I hope the new week brings the verdict that will make your ordeal not in vain.


1 konstanze June 9, 2008 at 6:59 pm

god, how sickening.

2 Scotty June 9, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Great post, Cara, it’s mind-boggling isn’t it? And on the subject of Defence/Prosecution/Judge language and/or remarks, have you seen these yet?

We’ll Tell You if You Were Raped (courtesy of Melissa over at Shakesville)


The Need For More Explicit Sex Talk In Court (courtesy of Elizabeth over at Sex in the Public Square)

3 Cara June 9, 2008 at 7:52 pm

I’ve definitely read about the phenomenon, and it has happened before. Those are two really great posts. Thanks.

4 SunlessNick June 9, 2008 at 8:36 pm

If the victim actually can answer these questions accurately, that’s some damn good memory retention and should probably be used by the prosecution to argue that wow, her version of the events must be the correct one! Really, the logic is no more flawed and is perhaps less so.

If she could, he’d probably have pointed out the rarity of remembering such details and tried to spin it as evidence that it’s rehearsed story by a conniving slutbitchwhore.

Filthbag. (Him, not you)

5 Ryan Rapaport June 9, 2008 at 9:00 pm

I don’t mean to ruin your guys parade, and I understand how Parrinello’s comments are out of line, but he is fighting claw and tooth for his client who is in a county with a 93% conviction rate. The papers and media smeared this kid everyday before the real stories came out. Anybody who went to Hobart and William Smith Colleges and knew these people for real (not going on secondary news sources) are staying lonnngggg out of it. Everyone’s character could be called in to question, Preston was not a saint. But a good person none the less. And you can disagree with my opinion, but he is entitled to a trial where his lawyer can fight for him in a place where no one else would. And if you knew any of these people personally (which you don’t) you may have a different take. Luckily our judgements of Preston Wido doesn’t matter, the jury (who may be deadlocked on atleast 2 of the crimes and had forced deliberations for the last 5 days in a room with a broken air conditioner and constant pressure from a judge to come to a decision). I hope that you do not judge preston on his lawyer (the man fighting who’s job it is to fight for him)and on the story you get from bias new sources.

6 Cara June 9, 2008 at 11:11 pm

No Ryan, I judge him on the basis of having four separate women accuse him of sexual assault, when false reports of rape are very, very rare. Again, everyone has the right to an attorney as I said in the post. But he also picked his lawyer — this dude isn’t a public defender. And in any case, there are ethical and unethical defenses. Making the argument that the women consented is an ethical defense. Saying that he never touched them is an ethical defense. Calling them lying whores who asked for it and using words that are intended to denigrate and discredit all rape survivors is not.

And seriously, I’m so fucking sick of the “if you knew him” crap. Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, BULLSHIT. If my own brother had four separate women accusing him of rape as described here, I’d want his ass in jail. He’s a good person, too. People who otherwise seem and act like “good people” do horrible, inexcusable things all the time. Don’t tell me what I’d think if I knew the guy — I don’t judge whether or not it’s okay to rape someone based on my relationship with the rapist.

Also, get over yourself. You think that you know what happened better than the newspaper with access to the courtroom where the trial is taking place because you went to the same school as these people? Unless you were in the room while the alleged attacks took place, you don’t.

7 Cara June 9, 2008 at 11:14 pm

Oh, and assholes like you certainly don’t help with my “judgments” of the accused here, either. This is something I never understand. The friends and lawyers of accused rapists always try to defend their buddy with rape apologist crap — like saying that this behavior is acceptable — and then expect people to have a more favorable judgment of him. If you want to help your friend, you’d be better off keeping your damn mouth shut.

8 lindabeth June 10, 2008 at 12:00 am

from a fellow Rochestarian…Parinello is a sexist racist in most cases he tries. I can’t believe he got as many votes as he did running for Mayor.

9 Aerik June 10, 2008 at 12:28 am

Believe it, lindabeth. The only thing missing from his resume is a sexual affair with one of the Phelps gang. It’s not like people who vote for mayors aren’t aware of shit like this. This is the kind of thing that drives mayoral elections. This kind of victim blaming is the norm for Americans.

Good point, sunlessNick. For this kind of victim-blamer, everything points to the woman lying. In his mind, that’s just what they do, after all.

Blow it out your ass, Ryan Rapaport. The conviction rate for rape specifically is what applies here, and it’s appallingly low. Now get this straight: Arguing that the defendant is not guilty and arguing that the plaintiff is lying are two different things. The former is his job, the second is a counter-allegation. When he does this, he tries to reverse the burden of proof upon the plaintiff to defend against the guilt of lying. That kind of shit should get a lawyer disbarred, really.

And also, fuck your elitist “I went to the same school” shit. You admitted that good people will do horrible shit, so why should a school with good rep be an exception?

10 Sara June 10, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Unfortunately, I suspect this asshole is going to get off. 4 day deliberations, no DNA evidence, previous consensual sex, etc is bad news for the prosecution.

Yes I know thats not the way it should be, I’m just looking at reality from the vantage point of a rape survivor myself.

11 Mortality June 10, 2008 at 4:30 pm

This is one of the reasons I could never report my rapist (even if I do remember what I wore on the night I was raped)

12 GallingGalla June 11, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Shit like this is reason #23,456 why I will not report if I am raped.

I really do think that there should be a crime of revictimization, with the penalty the same as the original crime, b/c Parrinello’s ass should be in prison for a very long time (maybe he can commiserate with “Judge” Deni, who also belongs in prison for the same reason.)

I’m having very violent thoughts now about both Parrinello and Wido.

13 Beth Fehlbaum June 25, 2008 at 7:44 pm

The consolation I get out of stuff like this is that Karma is a BITCH. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when that defense attorney’s card comes up for karma…

Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Chapter 1 is online!

14 friday August 1, 2008 at 2:09 am

yep the legal system is royally fucked.

i was on trial last month. i say on trial because although i had no charges brought against me, i was the one being accused, not the rapist. it was suggested i enjoyed being raped, had an orgasm, set out with the intention of having sex (when i was a virgin and this was a man i had only spoken to once before). i also supposedly was “feeling horny”, novel language for a courtroom i thought and certainly not a phrase i would ever use. my mental health history was dragged up and paraded as evidence that i was delusional despite the fact it was after the incident i became very unwell and i have never suffered delusions. the list of courtroom malpractices could go on but there is no necessity to bore you with details…point being the defence barristers must be like the tin man: missing a heart.

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