George Paul Anton had every reason to run when a 1st District judge let him skip closing arguments in his rape trial Friday.
Anton lives in Texas and, at age 68, was facing three rape counts that could land him in the Idaho state prison for the rest of his life. Besides, his trial wasn’t going very well - with his accuser, a state investigator, another alleged victim, a counselor and his own son testifying about his insatiable lust for teenage girls.
Anton, a former Coeur d’Alene resident, had nothing to lose.
But Judge Gary Haman gave Anton the benefit of the doubt and let him take two character witnesses to Spokane International Airport before the trial ended. Anton hasn’t been seen since. Now, several defense witnesses fear for their lives.
Cases such as Anton’s undercut public confidence in judicial decision-making and scare other women from bringing charges against sexual abusers. Concern for an adolescent living with Anton in Texas prompted his accuser to overcome her fears and testify against him.
Anton had threatened to kill her if she did.
The judicial snafu that provided Anton with his last chance of freedom amazed his courageous victim: “We finally got justice, but it doesn’t do any good if you don’t have anyone there to give it to.”
In Anton’s absence, a jury of five men and seven women unanimously convicted him of raping the woman regularly between December 1991 and August 1992, when she was 16 and 17 years old.
Anton also has been investigated on sex abuse allegations in Boise and McCall, Idaho. The verdicts Friday were his first convictions in a long, shady history.
In Haman’s defense, Anton wasn’t in custody and had had the opportunity to run any time during his trial. Also, Haman had personal experience on his side - no defendant ever had failed to appear for a verdict in his court.
Haman, however, diminished the seriousness of the offense and set an irresistible temptation in Anton’s way by allowing him to go to the airport.
Anton, who has wormed his way out of trouble several times during his predatory life, should have been required to attend closing arguments. There, he would have heard his crimes detailed and learned what society thinks of a monster who repeatedly pushes sex on an impressionable teen.
Instead, the only lesson Anton learned from his latest scrape with the law is that the courts treat rape about as seriously as a traffic ticket.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board