Newsflash: Cheerleader Denied Justice (Again)

In a Texas case I wrote about on the Ms. Blog in October, Hillaire S. was 16-years-old in October 2008 when she was taken into a dark room at a house party by four high school athletes, one of whom raped her while another held her down. When three students in the hall heard Hillaire’s cries of “stop,” they broke through the locked door as the athletes fled through a window, breaking it in the process. The rapist, Rakheem Bolton, fled into the woods without his clothes, then returned to demand them and threatened to kill everyone at the house.

Three months after the rape, a grand jury chose not to indict Bolton or his accomplice, Christian Rountree. In private interviews I learned that Bolton’s family pastor was on the jury, and that his cousin, Thomas Tyler, is also a powerful member of the city council, under the employ of District Attorney David Sheffield, who presented the case.

Later in the year, another grand jury indicted the perpetrators, and Bolton pled guilty to simple assault in September 2010. Bolton was let back on the campus of Silsbee High School between the conflicting grand jury rulings, just in time for basketball playoffs. Hillaire refused to cheer for Bolton when he approached the free-throw line. The cheer she refused to say? “Two, four, six, eight, ten, come on Rakheem, put it in.”

Superintendent Richard Bain and other school administrators kicked her off the squad for refusing to cheer for her rapist, so Hillaire’s parents sued the school for violating her right to free speech. An appeals court dismissed her case, finding that, as a cheerleader, she was a “mouthpiece through which the school could disseminate speech–namely, support for its athletic teams.” They also found that Hillaire’s refusal to cheer for her rapist “constituted substantial interference with the work of the school,” even though her protest was silent. Hillaire’s attorney, Laurence Watts, filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on December 23, 2010, but Monday the court decided not to hear the case. On top of that, Hillaire’s family is now obligated to pay the school $35,000 for legal expenses incurred.

While it’s not surprising that the Supreme Court didn’t call the case up, considering that they hear only a small fraction of cases that are petitioned, the callousness and potential unconstitutionality of the lower court ruling should have caused the justices to at least consider it. Craig, Hillaire’s outspoken father, has said that his daughter was raped, then “raped again by the school district, and raped by the D.A., and raped by the appeals court.” Now he can add the Supreme Court to this list.

Caroline Heldman has spent the last seven months researching Hillaire’s case in Silsbee, Texas. A longer story on the case is available here.

Image from Wikimedia

 

Comments

  1. This is disgusting! Not only she was raped but she has to go through all this horrible situations! That is unacceptable! Those people should be protected by the law and rapist should go to prison. I’m completely disgusted by that. They should be ashamed!!

  2. This is absolutely infuriorating…but not surprising.

  3. I am not surprised the High Court did not hear the case. What happened no doubt – some law clerk decided the case was not worth the time of the Chosen Nine. Hence the case ended up in never never land – aka File 13. As a long time resident of Hardin County – I am well aware of the antics of the so called elected officials and their groupies who roam and rule the courthouse roost. A few old post menopausal women thumb their noses at any who would dare to stand up and demand justice. Their crass behavior is more in line with a surly despot hiding out in Pakistan than in the piney woods of Southeast Texas. Good for the family who stood tall on behalf of their daughter. Thank God for Larry Watts – a crusader more at home in Lonesome Dove than in front of some warped old judge. The fight continues.

    • quidfecisti says:

      Actually, it’s pretty obvious that the reason the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case is that the federal constitutional claims (the only ones the Supreme Court can hear) are patently frivolous.

  4. Wow. I am shocked by this story. I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised, everyday you find stories just like this one that tell of a justice system failing those victims that turn to them for help, but it never fails to disgust me no matter how many times I read about it.

    Naomi said it best “This IS absolutely infuriating… but not surprising” and THAT is sad! Awareness is the key to combating this issue, and I thank you for sharing this story… as I am going to do as well to as many people as I can.

    My heart goes out to this girl and her family, if it was my daughter I would be on trial for murder.. I hope they can get some peace knowing that no matter what Justice will some how prevail in the end.. because no matter what happens “What goes around, comes around!”

  5. Rhonda Tuman says:

    So disgusting and unbelievable. One court after the other hail to a wonderful dad how do you fight thevSupreme Court? Disapointed in the women justices, what good are they to us if they can’t stop their colleagues from abusing their power? Whatvcan we do?

  6. Justice in this country. You want it forget it. Not going to happen. It’s so bad that someone breaks into your house you better kill him and not injure him or he’ll come back and sue you ass for assault. Sad to think the only way justice will happen is by taking it into your own hands.

  7. Another disheartening manifestation of rape culture — the perpetrator’s aren’t responsible for what they did, the school isn’t accountable for obligating the victim to cheer for her attacker (and advising her to avoid him by not going to the lunchroom). However, the victim and her parents are fiscally held to task for causing all of these undue issues for the school district, simply because the victim refused to quietly go away and act as if nothing occurred. Basically a punishment for not playing by the rules.

    As others have stated, not surprising in an environment where an athlete accused of rape in three incidents gets to play in a Super Bowl or another stays on his basketball team, while a boxer convicted and imprisoned for rape gets lauded by the media a**kissers more recently. Athletic noblesse privilege.

    • quidfecisti says:

      The $45,000 is “punishment” for wasting the defendant’s money on complaints that had no basis in the law: although unusual, it is indeed authorized by law. The girl’s attorney also didn’t oppose the request for attorney’s fees, and failed to brief the issue on appeal — if you want to blame someone, blame him.

  8. This is outrageous. The principal of that school, Richard Bain Jr., should lose his job. The Board of Trustees, John Griffith, should be investigated as to his role in the $45,000 case against the victim of rape.

    The entire community of Silsbee ought be branded and shamed nationally and internationally for tolerating sexual assault in their athletic department. Neither of those boys ought to play sports again.

    Anybody know of any national/international campaigns that we can join?

  9. Can she file a civil suit against the 3-4 boys? Though not the outcome she wants, civil court burden of proof is much less than regular court. This verdict sucks, plain and simple.

    • quidfecisti says:

      This case is a civil suit. The court held that she didn’t have any federal claims, and that it therefore lacked jurisdiction over her unrelated state law claims. She would then have leave to file within the statute of limitations or (if that had run) 30 days from the dismissal. I have no idea if she did, although given the apparent incompetence of her attorney, I’d be surprised.

  10. I guess I should have called myself Cheryl#2.

    Can someone mount a Facebook Cause Campaign page and post that link here? We need to raise money for cheerleader defense, and get serious PR going about the Silsbee school community that promotes athlete rapists over victim cheerleader.

    I think the school district should be named in the civil case in addition to the boys and their families.

    How dare Facebook still allow Rahkeem Bolton to host a page there.

    • Her lawyer has activated a State Bar IOLTA Trust Account at Bank of Texas to receive donations to Hillaire and her parents for court assessed costs, her legal fees and expenses.

      Contributions should be sent to Watts Associates IOLTA Routing Number 111014325, Account No. 2902216304. Please pass the information along to any who may be interested in helping out.

      • Thank you so much for covering this and providing the account number. This is a complete outrage. I have goosebumps from just thinking about the sheer ignorant audacity of some of these people.

    • I think a Facebook campaign/petition would be great! I hope someone will step up. I would if I could, but I am bedridden with a spinal injury, and that would be too much on me. Something just needs to be done about this! This is one of the worst case of injustice that I have ever seen! I also think that letters need to be sent to the supreme justices and inform them of this case and ask them to reconsider hearing this case!

  11. Rachel W says:

    There is a change.org petition, though I think a more comprehensive one should be started and linked to in a Ms. Magazine article. The link to the change.org petition is here: http://www.change.org/petitions/force-federal-appeals-court-for-fair-appeal-in-16-year-old-girls-rape-case

  12. Justsayin says:

    Yeah Cheryl, “someone” can mount a Facebook campaign. You can.

  13. UGH! This is INFURIATING!! The rapist gets to play basketball again, and have lunch in the lunchroom, as usual, but the victim gets kicked off the cheerleading squad and is told to avoid the lunchroom???? HOW does that make any SENSE???? What is WRONG with people?

  14. Mr Wood says:

    Welcome to the current state of justice in America. If the races were reversed this would be national news.

    • My Perspective says:

      Stop trying to make this about race…take your agenda somewhere else. A young woman says that she was raped. It is a terrible situation. But don’t make it about race.

      Furthermore, if you knew the history of this country, you would know that many white women have falsely accused Black men of rape…which often resulted in lynching. Feel free to look up Emmett Till.

      Only two Black women have ever accused white men of rape and these men did not serve time.

  15. The Hardin Co. DA David Sheffield has a daughter as does his neighbor Judge Plunk. How would they have felt if their daughters had been assaulted? Would the perps be slapped on the wrist with a wet noodle?

  16. Jennifer Parks says:

    Do you think that part of the problem may be that the perpetrator is black? A different view in the culture that “boys will be boys” is what often perpetuates the idea that this is just a girl tattletaling on young boys just doing what comes naturally.

    Whenever a female or male has been pressed/forced to have sex, whether it be finger, oral, anal or whatever, people still question whether that person has not brought it on her/himself; they don’t use that idea in murder, burglery…why is it true in the case of rape?

    • Jennifer Parks says:

      This young woman was so BRAVE AND COURAGEOUS to stand up-actually, sit down and not cheer for her rapist, as he was playing basketball! We should promote her tenacity to other young women who have had similar situations! Bravo, Hillaire!!

    • My Perspective says:

      What does his race have to do with anything? A rapist is a rapist. I’m a bit confused by your comment.

  17. Is there a fund to which we can donate to help this young woman and her family defray the cost of these fines? I think her whole experience is horrifying and I am appalled at the outcome of this suit.

    • Yes, there is a legal fund. Contributions should be sent to Watts Associates IOLTA Routing Number 111014325, Account No. 2902216304.

  18. quidfecisti says:

    By the way, when the case was renewed in 2009, the NAACP got involved in the case, and suggested that the defendants were the victims of a racially-motivated prosecution. Any thoughts?

    • While the school’s actions were legally upheld, the way they ethically handled the situation between H.S. and Rakheem Bolton was highly questionable. There likely wasn’t an easy solution until the school expelled Bolton, but both should have been kept away from each other, and it was absurd to take issue with the victim for not wanting to cheer “Put it in!” for Bolton — I can easily imagine a defense lawyer claiming that, had she cheered for Bolton, it was an indication that no crime had occurred.

      It seems that you are questioning the merits of the actual case, but I don’t feel that Bolton’s plea bargain was some great racial injustice to him.

      I haven’t seen any evidence of racism in this case — witnesses at the party heard H.S.’s screams, and broke into a room to see Bolton and another guy run, without their clothing, out of a window. H.S. accused three guys of holding her down and assaulting her, and her testimony didn’t change. So where is the credible evidence that Bolton was prosecuted simply due to his race, and not based on his actions that evening?

  19. This is nothing short of revolting. I would have thought that we, as both a nation and a people, would have evolved past this sort of barbaric behavior. Bad enough this girl was raped. Now she’s being punished for it by the courts?

  20. Its a disgrace…this girl needs all the support we can give her…really i think its sickenig. Please give het my love and support from Holland.

  21. Lauren says:

    How can we help? Who do we write? What petition to sign? This is awful!

    • I will help-anywhere to go or post something???????????? Do people know about this–?????????? I am sickened at our society!!!!!

      • There have been several petitions you may sign. You can also contact the DA in Hardin County, TX. He needs to know how you feel.

  22. FYI – Judge Plunk died last week. FB comments on his former asst. page Rita Peterson have been gushy and down right ridiculous. I made a comment and have been bitterly criticized. Alot of lies and very little sense of reasonable commerce. I dont know about you but I am allergic to wool and DONT want it pulled over my eyes.

  23. My heart goes out to her because I find it very disturbing that our culture blames and humiliates rape victims. It is no wonder that we place athletes in a higher status simply because we cheer them on and believe they are not capable of committing a crime. Our society allows, perpetuates and condones this type of brutality against women and girls. I applaud her bravery to speak out! I pray oneday our patriarchal society will no longer tolerate or condone the oppression of women in any form. Rape has to stop now! Every American should be outraged by this because it shows how the popularity of sports has caused our society to accept rape as a consequence of living in a male centered and male dominated society. What a shame.

  24. This. Made. Me. So. Angry.

    How can they be allowed to get away with this? Its INSANE!

  25. So, there were previous counts of similar activities from the boy, he in front of witnesses threatened to kill other kids right after it happened, the kid had family on the jury and court system….it’s unbelieveable that this resulted in the girl’s family having to pay that money…… The entire community should slap a lawsuit on the district, the judge, the prosecuting attorney’s office….the boy’s family….EVERYONE involved. and thru a change of venue…they could nail these disgusting pigs to the wall. But it will need a change of venue, and it will need an attorney experienced in whistle blowing.

    Remember, there is no reason your kids won’t be the next victim in a rape, or a corrupt municipal government.

  26. suzi clark says:

    This is beyond disgusting. What is being learned by the rapist? Apparently, it pays to take what you want, if it is not freely given. This attitude goes back to the 50′s and 60′s, where it was the woman’s fault, she was raped. Hideous, repugnant, and should be ILLEGAL!

    What kind of throw back to cave men are we teaching our lawmakers of tomorrow? Currently, I did not believe this kind of thinking would exist in this, our America.

    What are you thinking people, what are you thinking with while making this decision? I would think you are making decision with the head on your shoulders, it appears, and this is not the case.

    Most girls, and women, are too scared to come forward when they have been raped. Here is a high school girl, who braved the school, town, and state, not to mention the law, and had the courage of her convictions. What is the result? This young girl is put in a position of weakness, and when she does not succumb, she is banished. Where is Dr. Phil, when you need him?

    Good Grief. Rape is not something you get over. It is a life-changing event, which can be partnered with posttraumatic stress disorder. This young woman is in need of counseling, and warm healing from her family, friends, school, and entire community. Have they all lost their minds in that school district? A crime was committed; the guilty party should have been taken off the team. Does Texas value winning a game, more than a young woman’s life, and emotional state? Because you can’t see the wounds, does not mean there are none.

    I am curious to know how things would have played out if “Rakheem” had been raped by a fellow student on his team. Would he have to pat him on the back, saying good job, when his rapist makes a basket? I believe his rapist would have been arrested, not allowed to plead to a lesser crime, and would have been shunned by the rest of the school, at the very least, and would have been jailed, foregoing his opportunity to college, and a life. What is more, Rakheem would have been touted as a “brave young man.” It would have been publicized for all to know, what a brave boy he was, and how this may ruin his life, and any chances for a “normal” one.

    Wake up Silsbee, your colors should be black and blue. Black is for the dark side of your persona, and blue for the sadness, and ice, which runs through your veins.

    What parent, or just plain human being, could do to this girl what is happening, and gift this boy, for his unlawful behavior? Apparently, he has a good start for becoming professional athlete, and famous, like O.J. Simpson, who too was found not guilty. Mr. Simpson is a good hero to emulate, if this is what he aspires to in life.

  27. Is Change.org still planning a protest at the Silsbee School Board meeting? The victim and her family have been victimized not once but twice. We need to support them and make our voices heard.

  28. bsbagwell says:

    Somebody please call Nancy Grace! She will get justice for this girl, she will plaster him all over her show!

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