Don’t Be Gullible (please!)

Much of the time that attorneys and law students read cases, they focus on gleaning the law. Sometimes the facts are so absurd—they stand on their own. When I first read this case

1) I couldn’t believe “Dr. Stevens” was so brazen;

2) I couldn’t believe the victim was so gullible;

3) I couldn’t believe there were previous victims;

4) I couldn’t believe there were subsequent victims of this same scheme;

5) I couldn’t believe this wasn’t rape (at the time).

The Facts (directly from the case):

Ms. R., the rape victim, was employed as a clerk at the Holiday Inn in South San Francisco when, on March 30, 1984, at about 8:45 a.m., she received a telephone call from a person who identified himself as “Dr. Stevens” and said that he worked at Peninsula Hospital.

“Dr. Stevens” told Ms. R. that he had the results of her blood test and that she had contracted a dangerous, highly infectious and perhaps fatal disease; that she could be sued as a result; that the disease came from using public toilets; and that she would have to tell him the identity of all her friends who would then have to be contacted in the interest of controlling the spread of the disease.

“Dr. Stevens” further explained that there were only two ways to treat the disease. The first was a painful surgical procedure—graphically described—costing $9,000, and requiring her uninsured hospitalization for six weeks. A second alternative, “Dr. Stevens” explained, was to have sexual intercourse with an anonymous donor who had been injected with a serum which would cure the disease. The latter, non-surgical procedure would only cost $4,500. When the victim replied that she lacked sufficient funds the “doctor” suggested that $1,000 would suffice as a down payment. The victim thereupon agreed to the non-surgical alternative and consented to intercourse with the mysterious donor, believing “it was the only choice I had.”

After discussing her intentions with her work supervisor, the victim proceeded to the Hyatt Hotel in Burlingame as instructed, and contacted “Dr. Stevens” by telephone. The latter became furious when he learned Ms. R. had informed her employer of the plan, and threatened to terminate his treatment, finally instructing her to inform her employer she had decided not to go through with the treatment. Ms. R. did so, then went to her bank, withdrew $1,000 and, as instructed, checked into another hotel and called “Dr. Stevens” to give him her room number.

About a half hour later the defendant “donor” arrived at her room. When Ms. R. had undressed, the “donor,” petitioner, after urging her to relax, had sexual intercourse with her.

Boro v. Superior Court, (1985) 163 Cal. App. 3d 1224

The Result

At the time “Dr. Stevens” committed these acts, it technically wasn’t rape under the California penal code at the time. Within months of this case, the state legislature amended the California rape statute to include “fraud in the inducement.” Sad for this victim. Sad for the previous and subsequent victims. Sad there are people like this out there.

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