Lawyer for sex assault accuser in criminal case detained after refusing to answer judge’s question

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Criminal Justice

A clash between a criminal defendant’s right to exculpatory information and attorney-client privilege rights of the victim erupted in a Chicago courtroom last Friday, leading a judge to order a lawyer for the victim into custody.

The lawyer, Danielle Johnson, was representing a sexual assault accuser under an Illinois law that guarantees that victims of crimes be given the right to a lawyer in criminal cases, the Chicago Tribune explains.

Judge Carol Howard found Johnson in contempt and ordered her detained after she refused to reveal what type of counseling her client received after the alleged assault. Johnson said she can’t reveal the information because of attorney-client privilege.

An assistant public defender representing defendant Fernando Benavides had sought the medical records because of alleged inconsistent statements about the alleged abuse by Johnson’s client. Benavides faces multiple charges of sexual assault and abuse against minors. Johnson’s client is an adult who says Benavides abused her when she was a child.

Illinois mental health records are generally protected from release, but the assistant public defender wanted Howard to review the documents to determine whether the information is relevant.

Howard asked Johnson for the information after the prosecutor said she was aware that the accuser had received some sort of treatment 10 years after the alleged assault, but she didn’t know the details.

Johnson was handcuffed and held for about two hours. She was released on her own recognizance with help from her employer, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.

Johnson was scheduled to appear before Howard again on Thursday.




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