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Arrest and Conviction Rates for Athletes Accused of Sexual Assault (From Issues in Intimate Violence, P 169-175, 1998, Raquel Kennedy Bergen, ed. -- See NCJ-176608)

NCJ Number
J Benedict; A Klein
Date Published
7 pages
This research examines whether being a celebrity athlete provides a male athlete charged with sexual assault certain built-in advantages in the legal system.
Because no official reporting centers for sex crimes maintain data on whether an accused sex offender is an athlete, this study established a database of college and professional athletes formally reported for sex crimes. By using Nexus Lexis to scan daily newspapers from across the country going back to 1986, as well as daily monitoring of three major newspapers between 1992 and 1995, the researchers identified more than 175 cases involving accused sex offenders identified as college or professional athletes. Where possible, phone calls were placed to the respective county attorneys who had jurisdiction in these cases. These interviews often yielded information on additional cases. Ultimately, data were received on 217 felony complaints of sexual assault that involved college and professional athletes between 1986 and 1995. Of the 172 athletes who were arrested, 55 (32 percent) saw the charges against them dismissed. Prosecutors' reluctance to seek an indictment after an arrest is typically the result of the prosecutorial screening process that weeds out cases unlikely to result in conviction. Eight (7 percent) of the remaining 117 athletes who were indicted saw charges against them dismissed prior to trial, and 43 (37 percent) reached a plea agreement; 66 (56 percent) stood trial before a jury. Fifty (76 percent) of the 66 athletes who stood trial were acquitted. Only 10 of the 66 athletes who stood trial (15 percent) were found guilty. Of the 217 athletes who were initially formally reported to the police for the commission of a felony sex crime, just 24 percent were successfully prosecuted. Using Bureau of Justice Statistics from 300 counties nationwide, the study obtained reliable estimates of the prosecution rates of a national sample of defendants accused of sexual assault against women. Based on the difference between arrest and conviction rates and between the athlete data and the national sample, the study concludes that athletes are not treated more leniently; on the contrary, athletes are more likely to be arrested for the charge than men in the national sample. Athletes do, however, manage to avoid conviction more readily than the national sample of men charged with sexual assault. This discrepancy offers several possible avenues for exploration. 8 notes, 23 references, and discussion questions


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