Saturday, June 10, 2006

Family Honor And Public Honor In Will County

I'm not sure what to make of this, but it sounds like a Will County judge deserves credit for backbone. An Ethiopian will be tried for felony rape in absentia despite his victim's request for the prosecutor to settle the case with a plea bargain to a misdemeanor.

In a ruling involving a politically charged case, a Will County judge said Thursday that former Naperville resident Benyam Bereket-Ab will be tried for felony rape charges.

Bereket-Ab, 19, was accused in 2004 of raping a young female relative. He was initially charged with predatory criminal sexual assault, a Class X felony.

At the request of the victim and her parents, state prosecutors worked out a deal last summer with Bereket-Ab's lawyer that would have reduced the felony to a misdemeanor charge of battery.

In November, Bereket-Ab was in court and began the process of pleading guilty to the less serious charge. Will County Judge Robert Livas interrupted the proceedings and said he would not accept the guilty plea, calling the deal a "travesty."

Bereket-Ab has since escaped to Ethiopia. The attorney who agreed to the deal in the first place has since been demoted, and the prosecutor's office in Will county will pursue the case.

This is encouraging because it appears to be a case when the demands of traditional honor have been subjugated to the demands of American justice. We have laws against rape as an expression of our values, and we should not let that expression be hijacked by a desire to appease foreign values.

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