Lorraine Cook knew right away she'd be in trouble. When she made it back home, crying, after being brutally raped, she told her girlfriend, "I'm probably going to jail." She was right.
Cook, a smart, articulate 52-year-old Madison woman, has a history of mostly minor run-ins with the law, for things like battery and disorderly conduct, related to her abuse of alcohol. Last year she was convicted of substantial battery, a felony, after an altercation with her girlfriend, Cynthia Lewis. ("She cracked me over the head with a frying pan," says Lewis, adding immediately, "I love her.") Cook was sentenced to two and a half years on probation, including 120 days at a local halfway house.
She broke the rules, leaving the house after six weeks and moving back in with Lewis. A warrant was issued for her arrest, but police apparently didn't try to find her.
On Jan. 3 of this year, Cook was clubbed from behind by a homeless man whom she and Lewis had invited into their downtown Madison apartment. Her shoulder was fractured in several places. Afraid of being found out, Cook hid in the bedroom after Lewis called police (they hauled the man off to detox and cited him for disorderly conduct), then used a fake name when she sought emergency-room treatment.
Five days later, on the evening of Jan. 8, another male acquaintance showed up to give her a ride home from the store. Cook says he lured her into the back of his van, then attacked her, pinning down her right arm - her left one was useless due to her broken shoulder - to rape her vaginally and anally.
Afterward, when the man lit a cigarette, Cook bolted from the van, eventually making her way home. She and Lewis decided to call the cops. "He needs to be stopped, no matter what the price," says Cook. "He needs to be off the streets." (Lewis says this man had "bragged" to her about raping a 15-year-old girl.)
Police took Cook to Meriter for a sexual-assault exam. She says the nurse who examined her said she'd "never seen someone so bruised before, inside." Capt. Carl Gloede of the Madison Police Department, who reviewed the incident reports, agrees: "It was a very brutal case."
Police arrested the man Cook named, and he was booked for substantial battery and second-degree sexual assault. But he was soon released, and remains free while evidence is processed and the Dane County District Attorney's Office weighs whether to bring charges.
What's to stop this man from fleeing the state, or country? "Not a whole lot," admits Gloede. "That's one of the kinks in our criminal justice system."
Cook had an appointment to see a specialist for her shoulder the morning after the rape. She says she begged police to wait before jailing her on the warrant, but their supervisor refused. Cook was booked before 8 a.m. "I was in such pain," she recalls. "No one cared at all."
Lewis - the victim Cook is being locked up to protect - is also aggrieved: "This is very inhumane. She just got raped. Her shoulder is severely broken. And they didn't give a shit. They just threw her in jail."
Gloede says the police department "typically, at all costs, would avoid taking victims to jail." So to what great lengths did it go to avoid jailing Cook? None at all.
"Our hands were tied," says Gloede, explaining that the warrant for Cook's arrest was "body only," meaning she had to be taken into custody. Besides, "Her injuries didn't prevent her from going to jail."
Gloede adds that, given the nature of the matter, "I would be shocked if she were still in jail."
Be shocked, then. Cook has been incarcerated since Jan. 9. In three interviews with Isthmus over the past two weeks, she's described her ordeal through jailhouse glass, in obvious pain from her shoulder. She says the only relief she gets is two Tylenol, twice a day.
Last week, Cook finally got a hearing on her probation violations. The state Department of Corrections recommended that her probation be revoked. Her public defender, Diana Van Rybroek, says she "laid out as sympathetic a case as I could about what she's been through," recommending her release. She calls what's happening to Cook "a tragedy."
On Monday, the administrative law judge denied the revocation request. The DOC has until March 17 to decide whether to appeal. In the meantime, Lorraine Cook remains in jail.
Putting up barriers
Kelly Anderson, executive director of the local Rape Crisis Center, is troubled by Lorraine Cook's case, as described to her by Isthmus. While she agrees that being raped ought not be a "get out of jail free card," she thinks people who do the right thing and report being assaulted are "brave," especially if they have less-than-perfect backgrounds.
"Not every rape victim is a virgin living at home with her parents," she says. "If we put up barriers to reporting, it makes the whole community less safe."
Anderson, who thinks the issue of victims who are also offenders merits community-wide concern, says police will generally overlook minor transgressions like underage drinking, so as not to discourage reporting. Victims can call her group's crisis line - 251-RAPE - for advice on this score.
A similar case in Tampa, Florida, drew national outrage in January 2007. A 21-year-old woman who reported being raped was jailed - for two days and two nights - on a grand theft charge from when she was 17.
"Can you believe this?" exclaimed CNN's Nancy Grace. "Here in America, a rape victim in jail!" Even the Tampa police agreed the situation was mishandled: "Obviously, any policy that allows a sexual battery victim to spend a night in jail is a flawed policy," said a department spokeswoman.
But in Dane County, it's just the way things are done. The only question is: Will people here have the decency to get angry about it?
ICE is relatively nice
Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney told a packed committee hearing last week that his office's policy of notifying federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of inmates who cannot document their legal status has been in place for 30 years.
But importantly, the office's policy changed in 2003, as then-Sheriff Gary Hamblin told Isthmus at the time. Jail authorities once contacted the U.S. Border Patrol, which tended to deport even minor offenders. It switched to ICE (formerly INS), which focuses on serious offenders.
Mahoney told the committee that of 286 people reported to ICE last year, only 61 were held for questioning. The Border Patrol, he says diplomatically, is "more proactive."
County Board Chair Scott McDonell, author of a 2004 resolution to minimize inquiries into immigration status, thinks the Sheriff's Office is in compliance "in the vast majority of cases," but has asked the county's lawyers for their analysis. Ultimately, he says, the issue highlights the need for "comprehensive immigration reform of the sort the government hasn't gotten around to."
All the world's an ashtray...
Think: When was the last time you saw someone smoke indoors in a public place? For many Madisonians, it was likely during a stage show - for instance, Mercury Players Theatre's excellent recent production of The Pillowman.
Madison's strict anti-smoking ordinance exempts theatrical performances, as does a statewide ban in Minnesota. Now a growing number of bar owners in the Gopher State are defying the law - by declaring themselves smoking performance venues.
"The entire bar is a stage," explains Brian Walker, co-owner of the Old Bank Bar in Lake City, Minn., near the Wisconsin border, which began these "performances" last Friday. "We're a continuous play. We have a matinee from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and an evening show from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m."
Walker, sounding much like some bar owners in Madison, reports a "dramatic decline" in business since last fall, when the state law took effect. He calls the smoking shows, which Minnesota lawmakers may pass a new bill to ban, "an exception to the law we have taken advantage of."
City attorney Michael May hasn't heard of anyone in Madison who's tried "to drive a truck through this loophole" in the city's ordinance. Neither has Tommye Schneider of the city-county health department, adding this caveat: "I don't think theatrical performances would be allowed in bars without a big city permit."