Kansas prosecutor says no to rape charge, so college student calls her own grand jury
A Kansas college student convened her own grand jury after a prosecutor refused to bring charges against a man she accused of raping her.
Madison Smith is a recent graduate of Bethany College in Lindsborg. The 22-year-old has spent the last three years seeking to hold her alleged rapist accountable the the attack she claims occurred in her dorm in February of 2018.
The Washington Post reports Smith said she and a classmate were having consensual sex when he began slapping and strangling her, leaving her unable to say "stop."
Smith told her parents about the rape the next day. They called the police and took her to a hospital for an exam, which noted injuries to her neck and bruising inside her mouth.
When Smith she met with McPherson County Attorney Gregory Benefiel a few weeks later, he wasn't convinced that rape charges were warranted because Smith had not verbally withdrawn her consent, according to The Post.
"He told me that the rape I experienced wasn't rape, it was immature sex because I didn't verbally say no when I was being strangled,' Smith claimed during a court hearing. "He then told me he was not filing charges."
That's when Smith took matters into her own hands.
The family went on to consult with Julie Germann, a former Minnesota prosecutor who specialized in sexual assault cases. He concluded that the encounter justified a rape charge.
Smith's mother also sought advice from Justin Boardman, a retired detective who runs a business training police and prosecutors to investigate sex crimes without re-traumatizing victims. He came up with the idea to invoke the 1887 frontier law to convene a grand jury.
According to The Post, the more than 200-year-old law was implemented when Kansas was under alcohol prohibition and was originally used to go after saloonkeepers when authorities ignored violations.
Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada and Oklahoma are the only states with such a law, DailyMail reports. It required her to get signatures from 2% of the county's vote total in the last gubernatorial election, plus another 100 signatures.
Smith collected the 329 needed in McPherson County, but the petition was rejected on a technicality. So she did it again.
"It was very hard to keep retelling my story to stranger after stranger, but at the same time I knew that what I was doing was going to make a difference one way or another," she told The Post.
During the process, the McPherson County attorney decided to charge the accused attacker, Jared Stolzenburg, with aggravated battery. He pleaded guilty and received two years' probation last August.
Smith said she would not settle for anything less than a rape charge. On September 29, the case will go to the grand jury Smith fought to convene.
"Win or lose, we swung the bat, and we swung it hard. We tried everything we could, and we exhausted all our resources. I've got to know I tried."