Former student Michael Zeher III was accused of rape September 2017, but was ultimately charged with false imprisonment Aug. 28 and sentenced to three years of probation under the First Offender Act 346.
This change in charge is mystifying at first and abhorrent when its ramifications sink in.
According to the Legal Information Institute, false imprisonment is the confining of another person in a bound area.
According to the United States Department of Justice, rape is defined as the penetration of the vagina or anus by any object or the sex organ of another person without consent.
According to the September 2017 probable cause affidavit, Zeher admitted to having sexual intercourse with the victim while she was “incoherent at times,” the victim said “yes” when asked by police if Zeher had forced himself inside her and the victim’s friends were questioned and their accounts corroborated this.
Based on the affidavit and Zeher’s interview with UCAPD, his crime matches the definition of rape and the case should be charged as such.
After the Log Cabin Democrat published their article, which spurred a surge of online shaming against Zeher, four of Zeher’s defense attorneys reached out to the LCD. In his interview, defense attorney Frank Shaw said Zeher and the victim were friends and that his actions went against the norms of his and the victim’s social group, which was the issue at hand. Shaw said Zeher did not commit a sex offense in any way.
“Once [Zeher and the victim] arrived [to Zeher’s room in Bear Hall], they became involved in a sexual encounter to which she was mutually receptive,” Shaw said.
However, the affidavit does not support the above claim. According to the affidavit, Zeher had asked the victim if what he was doing was OK and she nodded her head. However, “Mr. Zeher admitted to [the officer]that he did not think that the head nod was sufficient consent given by [her]to have sexual intercourse with her.”
In light of the evidence and information provided, calling what Zeher did “false imprisonment” is an extreme understatement of the severity of his crime.
The attorneys asked the public to be more open to Zeher’s point of view. But what about the victim’s point of view?
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 310 out of every 1,000 rapes are reported to police, 57 of those reports lead to arrest, 11 get referred to prosecutors, 7 lead to felony convictions and 6 of those reported are incarcerated. Zeher’s case seems to fit this nationwide trend that leads many victims to fear reporting because the crime won’t be punished or out of fear of not being believed.
Ultimately, Zeher will face no time in prison, three years of probation, pay a fine of $1,500 and, when all is said and done, will be ultimately found not guilty. Not only was his rape charge dropped, but his false imprisonment charge will be wiped clean as well.
And though he does not deserve life in jail for his offense, he deserves at least the minimum jail sentence for a crime of this caliber. At the very least his crime should be on his record.
What he did was wrong, and his words, according to the affidavit, imply that he knew this as well. The victim deserves closure, and the crime deserves appropriate consequences.