Shawn Vestal: Idaho Rep. Mark Patterson’s factual fluidity won’t do him any favors
There must be a special circle in hell reserved for rapists who later claim: She made it up.
And then, beyond that circle, there must be a deeper one – deeper and more imaginatively punitive – for rapists and accused rapists and would-be rapists who, when their history is dredged up years later, drape themselves in a victim’s robes, whine about their oppression, and claim that everyone else is lying.
This has been the strategy of Idaho state Rep. Mark Patterson, who – in addition to claiming that the woman he admitted trying to rape had just made it up – has now donned the mantle of the righteous soldier. As a gun-loving conservative, apparently, Patterson is the victim of the usual suspects.
“I will not be silenced,” Patterson wrote in a recent statement, because everyone knows how difficult it is to be pro-gun in Idaho, “so long as God gives me the strength.”
God has given Patterson the strength to be silent in one important arena: his applications for a concealed weapons license. Because Patterson omitted his criminal record on his applications, the Ada County sheriff revoked his license. Following that, Patterson has told a couple of different stories – both of which differ from the stories he told police back in 1974 – and the Idaho Statesman has been keeping track of Patterson’s shifting statements.
The key point Patterson would have you know is this: She made it up. You know – the way they do.
Some recap: Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney revoked Patterson’s concealed weapons license over the weekend because Patterson failed to disclose his criminal history. Patterson was charged with rape in 1974 in Tampa, Fla.; a woman told police that Patterson had forced her to have sex twice, threatening to have his Doberman pinscher attack her if she refused. Patterson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of assault with intent to commit rape and received a withheld judgment.
When the news first emerged at the end of October, Patterson told a Statesman reporter, “I don’t remember the details but I’ve always remembered the police lied.”
Offered a chance to look at the police report, to help jog his recollection, he said, “No, this isn’t going to refresh my memory.”
He traced part of his memory trouble to chemotherapy treatments for hepatitis C in 2003.
Here is what the police report said: Twenty-one-year-old Patterson said he and the 46-year-old accuser had been “balling” consensually. When they were done, Patterson told police, the woman turned “cocky and bitchy.” She demanded $10. He refused. He fell asleep and she went to the police.
A few days after his interview with the Statesman, Patterson’s memory freshened up. He issued a statement to Boise TV stations, claiming that a private investigator – whose name he could not remember and whose supposed evidence he did not substantiate – had gotten a taped confession from the woman “which established that she had fabricated the incident.”
There was no balling. She made it up.
When he was first interviewed by the Statesman – when all he could remember was that the police had lied – he had not remembered to claim that the woman had lied.
After he was arrested, he said in the statement, he was held in one of Florida’s most violent jails, where he was beaten twice. “In literal fear for my life,” he says, he agreed to take a plea deal.
He hadn’t remembered to mention that part to the Statesman, either.
His statement went on to take a few pages straight from the disgraced scoundrel playbook: Ennoble yourself. Demonize the messengers. Invoke the Almighty. Promise to fight the good, valiant fight on behalf of “the people,” no matter what the rotten liars try to do to you.
Patterson is, obviously, grasping. But his defense also represents an odious element that hangs around his very conservative ilk – the socially retrograde sons of John Birch – that struggles to understand, or even to believe in, rape. This all-male corner of the world tries to keep a lid on its dumbest ideas, but the idiocy comes squeaking out regularly: Women’s bodies shut down rape pregnancies, you know. Men are just sort of hormonally suited to rape, you know. It is crucial to distinguish between legitimate rape and the other kind, you know.
In this context, the false rape accusation is an article of faith. It is simply believed in: A certain amount of rape, this thinking goes – and probably a lot of it, between you and me, wink wink – isn’t really rape. Not legitimately.
She made it up.
Patterson’s factual fluidity extends beyond this instance. His website once claimed that he had graduated from the well-known and prestigious University of Southern California, a claim that was picked up and repeated in voters guides. Much later, when confronted, he acknowledged that was very incorrect. What really happened was Patterson started – and did not finish – one business course by mail through the unaccredited Southern California University for Professional Studies. A staffer, he said, got confused and made that mistake.
Patterson also once described himself as a former professional bike racer, when it turns out he was actually licensed once as a low-level amateur.
He glances at the stars and calls himself an astronomer, this guy. But we know what he does not call himself: a liar. No, no. That’s everyone else.
Because she made it up.