March 17, 1996 in City

Bonehead Blunder Gives Student Lesson In Injustice

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:column

What’s the matter with people in this city? , Where’s the deluge of irate letters to the editor?

Why haven’t any placard-waving protesters stormed the courthouse demanding County Prosecutor Jim Sweetser’s political head on a platter?

Is Spokane so apathetic and lazy that the rape of a young college woman won’t provoke even a ripple of outrage?

You bet she was raped. If not by the jock she accuses, then most certainly by Sweetser’s office.

Thanks to a deputy prosecutor’s boneheaded blunder, justice will likely never come to an 18-year-old Eastern Washington University student who says she was savaged in a dorm last October.

To her horror and disbelief, second-degree rape charges were dropped against Tony Ledenko, a 19-year-old football player from Chelan, Wash.

Call her Amy. As long as her real name isn’t used, the freshman agreed to speak publicly for the first time about her ordeal and the soul-ripping experience of seeing her rape case bungled so badly.

The thought of facing her alleged attacker in court and being cross-examined, she says, brought her migraine headaches and sleepless nights. “I told myself, ‘I have to do this if I’m ever to feel that justice was done.”’

But as unnerving as a trial would be, seeing Ledenko skate on a technicality was far more devastating.

“It sickens me. I cried all night. I was just numb and angry. I felt like everything was out of control.”

Superior Court Judge James Murphy had no choice but to dismiss the case.

Ledenko’s legal right to a trial within 90 days was clearly violated. Deputy Prosecutor Carol Davis was off on a training junket in California on Jan. 22, the scheduled start of the trial.

Davis claims she made a verbal deal with Ledenko’s attorney, Mark Vovos, to waive the speedy trial rule.

Vovos vehemently denies this. Even if a loose arrangement existed, however, the burden was on Davis to file the necessary paperwork.

She didn’t. This is a Law School 101 mistake that would get a private attorney sued for malpractice.

“It boggles your mind that the legal system can be that stupid,” says Lee Swedberg, EWU’s director of Women’s Studies.

Judge Murphy refused the prosecutor’s request for a retroactive continuance, noting correctly that Davis’ trip was neither unavoidable nor unforeseen.

“The fact remains there was not a reassignment of this case, there was not a continuance, there was not a trial within 90 days and there was not a waiver signed,” says Murphy.

“I think maybe this one fell through the cracks.”

Cracks? More like the Grand Canyon.

Davis and Sweetser vow to appeal although court insiders say it’s a long shot. The pair didn’t bother to get back to me after I requested an interview.

Maybe they forgot. Or maybe they don’t want to answer any questions about all the wasted hours and tax money investigators spent building a strong case against Ledenko.

More likely they didn’t want to chat about how they let a young woman down. This was a felony rape case they botched, after all, not some stolen tape deck.

The alleged attack occurred Oct. 14 in Morrison Hall during an informal gathering. Alcohol was involved.

Two witnesses swore in affidavits that they heard and saw Amy trying to resist Ledenko’s sexual advances.

According to the documents, Ledenko at one point was seen dragging the woman by her ankles 80 feet back to his room after she ran down a hall to get to an elevator.

To her credit, Amy remains in college. She still lives in Morrison. The English major says she wants to teach high school literature classes.

Dropping out of school, she says, was out of the question. “I didn’t think running away would do any good. If I weren’t here, I’d just be stopping my life. I couldn’t turn my back. I had to face it.

“I told myself: ‘If this had to happen and if I can’t go back and change things, let it help me grow.”’

, DataTimes


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