The need to think clearly about the decision to hire Billups

Many fans are disappointed, hurt, angry, and even disgusted by the team's decision to hire Chauncey Billups. For the moment, I want to set aside the question of Billups the coach. I want to address the question of Billups the man who was accused 24 years ago of participating in a sexual assault.

I think a large number of members of the BE community are making assumptions, assumptions that are not supported by what we know. First off, we need to examine the source of the information we have all been reading. Mostly, we have been reading a lengthy excerpt taken from the book Out of Bounds, Inside the NBA's culture of Rape, Violence, and Criminality. If you look into the history of this book you realize that it was researched and written in under six months. The author was recruited by the publisher to get the book out just before Kobe Bryant was scheduled to go to trial. The book was intentionally provocative, it was marketed as an expose of criminality in the NBA. It focused on a handful of anecdotal cases to prove its larger claims.

I was shocked when I figured out that the section about Billups was taken almost word for word from the Complainant's Appellant brief in the Civil lawsuit. In other words, it is not based on police reports, or personal interviews. It makes zero effort to offer a balanced view between the accuser and the accused. It does not relay any information about the DNA evidence in the case. It is simply her lawyers carefully chosen side of the story.

What follows is taken from a comment I wrote this morning in the thread about the Blazers hiring of Billups:

If Billups really didn’t do anything wrong, other than using poor judgement about unzipping his pants and partying with the wrong people, what is he going to say?

"I’m sorry this woman got hurt, but I didn’t do anything non-consensual".
"I learned that if you hang out with the wrong people, you can get hung out to dry".
"I learned that if you have money, you can be targeted by a lawyer even if you did nothing wrong."

Would any of those statements have made victims feel better? Or would they have satisfied the legion of well intentioned fans who have concluded, based on a superficial reading of one-sided information, that something awful happened to this woman, so therefore, Billups must bear personal responsibility, even though the District Attorney felt the evidence didn’t even rise to the level of probable cause?

The real problem in this situation, in my view as someone who has been intimately involved in the victim’s rights movement for 40 years and has spent a lot of time with Prosecutors and DAs, this is a LOUSY case. The evidence is strong that the woman was victimized, but the evidence tying Billups to her victimization is extremely weak. She was likely very impaired. She admits she did not know where she was when she woke up. She likely passed out at some time during these events. Her memory of what had happened, and who had done what, was unclear. It is not even clear that Billups was at the residence.

I apologize for being quite graphic, but many people don’t seem to understand the evidence in this case. There was semen in her body, but it is highly unlikely that that semen belonged to Billups. In the 1997 time period, it is almost certain that any semen found would have been tested for DNA identification, especially in a situation with 5 different suspects. Billups would not have claimed to have only had consensual oral sex with her if there was any chance that his semen was in the woman’s body. It seems highly unlikely that he penetrated her. At worst, he had oral sex with a woman who was too impaired to offer real consent but conscious enough to perform the act.

The problem is that victim’s often feel that if any particular accusation is questioned, and if the evidence is found to be lacking in that particular case, somehow it calls into question the legitimacy or the trauma of their own experience. This is why the rallying cry of the "Me Too" movement, "Believe the women" is so strong. It a powerful slogan. It is also extremely dangerous, in my view.

Most women do tell the truth and should be believed. The problem is that their are some accusations that are not true or credible. DA friends of mine have told me that approximately 90% of all accusations appear to check out based on supporting evidence. That means that about 10% do not. In this case, the woman was assaulted, but it is unclear by whom, and it appears unlikely based on the undisclosed DNA evidence that it was Billups.

Most compassionate and caring people are genuinely, and rightfully, horrified by the level of violence against women in our society. The problem we have as a fan base is that this horror has predisposed many to assume Billups’ guilt when the evidence does not support that conclusion. If you think I am wrong, ask yourself why no charges were ever brought in this case? The standard for indictment in our system is probable cause. That standard was not met.

As a society, we must not allow accusation to equal conviction. The presumption of innocence is the very cornerstone of our legal system. We must have standards for evidence and standards for conviction. Those standards were not met in this case, not even the standard for indictment.

What about the Civil lawsuit, you say? Our civil legal system is about money. Anyone can file a suit regardless of merit. Most suits are resolved without trail because the cost of taking a suit to trail and hiring expert witnesses is simply enormous. Trial lawyers target deep pockets. It is usually far cheaper to settle a suit than it is to defend one. Furthermore, if you are the defendant in a Civil suit, you have to weigh the risks of losing the case even if you did not do what you are accused of doing. A sympathetic claimant with an emotional appeal may prevail even with a weak case. Defendants are often advised to settle in order to avoid the risk of going to trail.

As the younger brother of a sister who was the victim of a brutal rape murder, I know better than most the trauma of victimization. I understand and deeply appreciate empathy for survivors. But we must not allow our empathy to lead us to assume guilt. Guilt must not be guilt by association with unfortunate events. Guilt must be personal guilt, established beyond a reasonable doubt.