I often write about the double standard that benefits female rapists. When women are charged and tried for sexual violence, they often receive a fraction of the sentence that a man would. In many cases, prosecutors offer women plea deals that greatly reduce the charges, sometimes taking what would have resulted in a decades-long sentence down to a few years or even probation. A recent case perfectly demonstrates this.
In 2010, Misty Talley Smith locked two boys who were friends of her son in her son’s room. When the boys’ parents came looking for them, Smith told them the boys were not there. The boys managed to escape and were found by the police. According to a report:
It was alleged that on various occasions for about a month or two, Smith had supplied the boys with marijuana and pills. Court papers explained that she bound their hands with duct tape and had sexual contact, short of intercourse with them. It was also alleged that she had taken inappropriate photos of herself with one of the boy’s camera, and had touched the boys inappropriately beneath a blanket.
As a result, the prosecutors charged Smith with thirteen criminal charges, including two counts of delivery of drugs to minors, one of furnishing alcohol to a minor, two of lewd and lascivious conduct, one of simple assault, aggravated sexual assault, and unlawful restraint. However, the prosecutors accepted a plea deal that reduced Smith’s charges down to two counts of sexual assault without consent.
So despite that this woman tied the boys up, sexually assaulted them (presumably physical and/or oral contact), and lied about the boys’ whereabouts, the state dropped all the serious charges against her. Smith received three years to life, but with time served, she will actually only spend about two years in jail before being placed on furlough.
Defense lawyer Elizabeth Hibbitts argued that her client suffered from mental deficiencies stemming from fetal alcohol syndrome:
Testimony during Tuesday’s sentencing showed that Smith had been a victim herself, and that she was found to have severe mental deficiencies. More specifically it was reported that she had been involved in abusive relationships, suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and is borderline mentally retarded.
Psychiatrist Nash took the stand as a witness for the defense.
He said that Smith’s symptoms – problems in school, issues with the law, inappropriate sexual behavior, and employment problems – are consistent with fetal alcohol syndrome, which often causes sufferers to be confused and lack understanding of social norms.
Nash said Smith is a woman who never had a chance; her brain damage occurred in the first trimester of her development.
Judge Robert Mello agreed with this:
The court thinks that the two victims came closest to articulating what is needed here. What Ms. Smith needs is a structure that she’s never had in her life. They don’t want to see her spend her life in jail, but they realize in order for her to succeed, which they want her to do, she’s going to need very strict supervision; as much supervision as possible.
Keep in mind that Cathy St. John, who wrote the pre-sentence investigation report on Smith stated that Smith has a 78% chance of reoffending. Even though a furlough carries greater supervision than parole, the person is not necessarily monitored 24 hours a day. If this woman’s behavior is so impulsive that she needs constant supervision (she previously assaulted her son, resulting in a domestic violence charge), the better decision would be to place her in prison until she completed the necessary therapy and could be trusted not to hurt anyone else.
The irony of this is that if the boys had assaulted Smith, they would spend the next nine years in jail until they turned 21. Even if they plead out, they would not have gotten all the serious charges dropped, would not have had their time served counted, and certainly would not have been granted a furlough. And it would not matter how horribly they had been abused. They would spend their childhood in prison, assuming they were not charged as adults.
Yet when a woman kidnaps and sexually assaults two boys, and does so over several months, she walks with about two years and a furlough in which she will have to check in to her supervising officer every few hours. I do not think she needs to be locked away for life, but she certainly deserved more time than a handful of years.