Letter: Politics behind attack on DA's Williams College probe
To the editor:
This letter is in response to a letter to the editor of The Berkshire Eagle in August of this year. The letter, authored by John Pucci, a donor to my opponent, claimed that the Berkshire district attorney failed to investigate or prosecute over 40 cases of sexual assault reported by Williams College between 2014 and 2016.
The allegations in this letter were extremely disturbing as they are completely contrary to the mission of the office and goal of protecting victims. I contacted both Williams College and the Williamstown Police Department to begin an inquiry into the matter and found that Mr. Pucci's claims were not only without merit, but misleading, ill-informed, and insensitive to victims.
What I discovered was that the majority of the information provided by Williams College to the Williamstown Police Department did not contain sufficient data to permit a thorough investigation by law enforcement. It found that although Mr. Pucci claimed that "all the data about this sexual violence was reported [by the college] to the Williamstown Police Department," in fact, two-thirds of the incidents reported to the police failed to identify either the victim or the alleged perpetrator of the crime.
Williamstown Police Chief Kyle Johnson discovered an additional 18 cases of sexual assault were never even reported to his department and, therefore, could not be referred to the district attorney's office for further investigation or prosecution. Mr. Pucci's claim that "all the data" about these crimes was shared with the local
police and the Berkshire district attorney's office is simply not true.
When the police department timely requested the names of the parties involved in these cases to further their own investigation, Williams College did not provide the names and protected the confidentiality of the victims and alleged perpetrators. The college was well within its discretion not to reveal the names of the parties to these incidents. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 does not require colleges and universities to report allegations of sexual violence to law enforcement, it only requires schools to investigate and address sexual violence on campus.
Title IX also permits, and even encourages, schools to maintain students' confidentiality. The college is not required to provide to the public or to the district attorney any additional information about these incidents.
In fact, the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report informs students that "all reported crimes will be investigated by the college and may become a matter of public record only if subpoenaed by law enforcement."
We in the DA's office fully respect the rights of victims who chose to remain anonymous and not move forward with an investigation and we understand that the college also has an obligation to provide a safe atmosphere for its students to speak freely. What is disappointing, and irresponsible, is that Mr. Pucci chose to blame the Berkshire district attorney's office for the nature of Williams College's public disclosures of sexual violence. Politicizing this issue was not " just politics" — it is just wrong.
It is important to continue to work with Williams College and Williamstown Police Department to assist in investigations and support all victims of sexual assault. This is an issue that colleges across the country are facing and we are committed to providing all of the necessary resources to not just Williams College but all college campuses in Berkshire County to address the problem.
The writer is Berkshire district attorney and is running as a write-in candidate for election on Nov. 6.
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