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Cry Rape

The True Story of One Woman's Harrowing Quest for Justice

Bill Lueders

Publication Year: 2006

Cry Rape dramatically exposes the criminal justice system’s capacity for error as it recounts one woman’s courageous battle in the face of adversity. In September 1997, a visually impaired woman named Patty was raped by an intruder in her home in Madison, Wisconsin. The rookie detective assigned to her case came to doubt Patty’s account and focused the investigation on her. Under pressure, he got her to recant, then had her charged with falsely reporting a crime. The charges were eventually dropped, but Patty continued to demand justice, filing complaints and a federal lawsuit against the police. All were rebuffed. But later, as the result of her perseverance, a startling discovery was made. Even then, Patty’s ordeal was far from over.
     Other books have dealt with how police and prosecutors bend and break the law in their zeal to prevail. This one focuses instead on how the gravest injustice can be committed with the best of intentions, and how one woman’s bravery and persistence finally triumphed.


Courage Award Winner, Wisconsin Coalition against Sexual Assault

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

Truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Each person’s perspective can, in ways subtle and profound, alter his or her perception. Different people making earnest attempts to describe the same events may give dramatically different, even incompatible, accounts. As a journalist who was involved in some of the events this book describes, ...

Part One. Perfect Victim

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pp. 1-2

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1. The Rape

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pp. 3-11

Patty awoke with a sudden jolt of fear. Someone was in her bed, beside her. In the same sickening instant she inhaled the stench of alcohol—overwhelming, just inches from her face—and felt the blade of a knife against her cheek. “Don’t look at me, don’t say anything, and no one will get hurt,” a ...

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2. Emergency Response

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pp. 12-18

Patty’s call came into the emergency dispatch center at 4:13 a.m. on Thursday, September 4, 1997. . . . "911, can I help you?" answered the dispatcher, a man. . . . "We were just robbed and I was raped," said Patty, Frantic. . . ."Okay, this just happened or what:"...

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3. Under Examination

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pp. 19-27

Jill Poarch was at home sleeping when the call came in. A woman had been sexually assaulted and Poarch needed to perform an examination. She was the nurse on call for Meriter Hospital’s SANE program, which stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. She also worked full time in the hospital’s emergency room. Like other SANE nurses, Poarch had ...

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4. Detective Woodmansee

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pp. 28-35

For Tom Woodmansee, being a cop was not just a job; it was a calling.“I can think of no other field of worth that I could be a member of than that of law enforcement,” he wrote on his application to the Madison Police Department in 1990, when he was twenty-seven. Already, he seemed persuaded of his own moral rectitude. “I believe I have done a ...

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5. One on One

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pp. 36-42

It’s common knowledge that visually impaired people tend to have more highly developed other senses. Because they can’t rely on sight, they’re often better at processing other input—sounds, smells, sensations. In Patty’s case it wasn’t so much that her other senses were sharper as that she was more attuned to nonvisual cues, like the inflection of a person’s ...

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6. Misty and Dominic

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pp. 43-49

Nobody ever accused Patty of being a perfect parent. Certainly her own past—getting pregnant at age thirteen, dropping out of high school—hardly put her on firm footing to impart life lessons to her daughter. And her instinct to back down when challenged, acquired over a life-time of hurt, made her a poor match for Misty, headstrong and insouciant. ...

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7. Another Suspect

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pp. 50-57

It didn’t take long for Patty to find out what Woodmansee had done. Misty heard from Dominic, who was livid, and confronted her mother.Patty promptly backed down, saying she didn’t think it was Dominic and hadn't meant to accuse him. A number of things, thought Patty, made Dominic the most likely ...

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8. The Confession

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pp. 58-63

Patty arrived at police headquarters in an upbeat mood. Misty had dropped her off, and she arrived carrying a wrapped birthday present for Brenda, whom she planned to see later. Woodmansee met Patty inside the building and led her down a hallway to a room with a small table and large windows. After a few minutes he took her to a tiny room ...

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9. Fighting Back [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 64-80

In some respects, the events of October 2, 1997, were more emotionally devastating to Patty than the rape itself. The man who came into her home and forced her to have sex caused terror and left lingering fear, but at least she knew that she was not to blame. The detectives who came into her life and forced her to deny this experience left deeper ...

Part Two. The Need To Be Believed

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pp. 81-82

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10. A Story to Tell

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pp. 83-88

At first, Connie Kilmark wouldn’t even tell me the woman’s name, only that she was a client. “She’s had a hard life,” Kilmark related in a phone call on January 8, 1998. “Lots of family trauma, very low self-esteem. She’s legally blind. Works for a state blind industries program.” The day before, this client had told Kilmark that she had been raped by a knife-...

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11. Checking It Out

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pp. 89-95

As I began looking into Patty’s story, my first and most crucial interview was with her therapist, Linda Moston. I believed that if Patty were delusional, or prone to making false accusations, or had a tendency to exaggerate, these things would have likely been noticed by a trained Psychologist who had known her for years. ...

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12. Up against the System

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pp. 96-101

There persists, in some quarters, a belief that the criminal justice system is fundamentally about justice. But most people with real-world familiarity with how courts and law enforcement work harbor no such illusion. Sooner or later, they come to see that the key word in the phrase “criminal justice system” is not “justice” or even “criminal” but “system.”...

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13. The People’s Lawyer

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pp. 102-109

Hal Harlowe understood as well as anyone that while the criminal justice system could be, in a word, “ugly,” it could also be ennobling. He had seen the system at its best and worst, from both sides. Early in his career, he had prosecuted criminal cases as an assistant district attorney in Wisconsin’s Rock County and for the state Justice Department. He ...

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14. Discovery

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pp. 110-115

On April 24, 1998, a candlelight vigil was held for Patty outside Madison Police Department headquarters. Organized by a campus antiviolence group, it drew about two dozen people and one television news crew. Patty attended but at Harlowe’s urging did not speak or call attention to herself. Several women shared stories of unsympathetic treat-...

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15. “The Enemy”

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pp. 116-121

It might seem reasonable to assume that the belated discovery of semen at the scene of a reported rape would cause police and prosecutors to waver in their insistence that the alleged victim was lying. Instead, this development was viewed as an obstacle to overcome. Deputy District Attorney Karofsky, on learning about the crime lab’s finding, contacted ...

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16. In Search of the Truth

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pp. 122-128

The hearing on Harlowe’s motion to suppress Patty’s confession began at 8:30 a.m. on July 9, 1998. The state was represented by Karofsky, fresh from her Independence Day nuptials, and Brian Brophy, a very tall, brash, and ambitious young prosecutor. Patty, looking frightened, sat beside Harlowe at the defendant’s table. Lieutenant Cheri Maples, De-...

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17. Honest Mistakes

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pp. 129-134

Cheri Maples had had enough. After fifteen years on the job, the Madison police lieutenant felt her commitment to the enlightened treatment of crime victims had been clearly established. A lesbian, vegetarian, and practicing Buddhist, she had previously worked with a local battered women’s group and served as director of the Wisconsin Coalition ...

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18. A Question of Standing

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pp. 135-138

Detective Woodmansee and Lieutenant Maples arrived at Isthmus at 1 p.m. on the last day of August 1998. Eisen, who was present at their insistence, led the pair into a basement conference room. No one shook hands. The purpose of the meeting, Maples explained, was to tell me the many reasons police had for concluding that Patty was lying. ...

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19. Losing Battles

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pp. 139-146

“Like it or not, we are a society of rules. We set expectations for behavior, and prescribe consequences when these are violated. This is why we have police departments, to enforce the rules we have established. To this end, police have tremendous power—the power to arrest, to detain, to use deadly force. Because the police have so much power, it makes ...

Part Three. Against All Odds

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pp. 147-148

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20. Healthy Outrage

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pp. 149-156

Patty was in over her head, and she knew it. The Madison Police and Fire Commission, contrary to its statutory charter, had evolved into a forum that only a lawyer could love. Patty and Bobby were ill equipped to conduct discovery, defend against motions, prepare legal briefs, and lawyers, paid for by the city and police union, respectively, authorized to ...

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21. Filing Suit

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pp. 157-164

For more than a decade, Axley Brynelson had been the city of Madison’s law firm of choice. Axley attorneys handled most of the municipality’s outside legal work and represented its insurer on disputed liability claims. During a five-year period in the early 1990s, this generated more than $1.5 million in fees. There was no competitive bidding, no ...

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22. Patty’s Depositions

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pp. 165-173

Brad Armstrong got right down to it. Less than four minutes into his deposition of Patty on March 15, 2000, having ascertained only her name and that of her biological father, the Axley attorney sized up the frightened woman across the conference table and asked, “Did [your father] ever physically or sexually abuse you?” It was the kind of ...

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23. The Police Defendants

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pp. 174-179

Parties to a civil action who are being deposed should remember, first and foremost, to abandon hope. They cannot possibly help themselves or their side; they can only minimize the hurt. Depositions are fishing expeditions in which opposing lawyers cast about for incriminating admissions. Statements that serve the interests of the person being de-...

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24. A Strong Case

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pp. 180-188

Patty’s agreement with Mike Short required her to pay all expenses as the lawsuit progressed. These included filing fees, copying costs, and, most onerous, depositions. While the court reporter was hired by the party doing the deposition, both sides ordered transcripts, and the tab soon ran into thousands of dollars. Patty, having nowhere else to turn, ...

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25. “Shocked and Hurt”

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pp. 189-192

In deposing Patty’s therapists, attorney Armstrong had shown keen interest in two areas related to Patty’s lawsuit. The first concerned his suspicion that someone else had put her up to it. “Do you know who told her to bring [this] lawsuit?” he asked Bartell, as though this could not possibly be her own decision. He also questioned Bartell and Moston ...

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26. Vindicated?

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pp. 193-200

Most human DNA is the same from one person to the next. The science of using DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) for identification purposes is based on finding genetic markers that show variation. In the early years of DNA testing, making matches was difficult and time consuming, although the results were highly accurate. A newer method, known ...

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27. Wishing It Were Over [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 201-210

In journalism, as in quantum mechanics, the process of observation alters what occurs. People and institutions behave differently when they’re being watched. As Patty’s ordeal played out to growing media interest, a key question arose: were they behaving better, or worse, than if no one was paying attention? ...

Part Four. Final Judgment

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pp. 211-212

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28. For the Defense

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pp. 213-221

Mark Eisenberg’s career as a lawyer began just as his father’s was falling apart. Self-confident to the point of arrogance and flamboyant to the verge of caricature, Don Eisenberg was once Wisconsin’s best-known criminal defense attorney. In the early 1980s he represented the state’s two most notorious accused murderers: Barbara Hoffman, a Madison ...

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29. “Expect the Worst”

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pp. 222-227

Every family has its secrets, some darker and buried deeper than others.The secrets kept by Patty’s family were very dark and very deep. “We don’t talk about it,” Patty’s sister Brenda said matter-of-factly during her deposition in the civil case. Yes, she knew Patty alleged being sexually molested by her stepfather (Brenda’s father) when Patty was young. ...

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30. Patty Takes the Stand

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pp. 229-234

In an early episode of the television crime drama NYPD Blue, a defense attorney prepping a police witness declares, “The truth and a trial have about as much to do [with each other] as a hot dog and a warm puppy.”Trials are about strategy. They are about marshaling evidence and arguments. They are about who can present the stronger case or make the ...

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31. Burden of Proof

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pp. 235-241

Schwaemle was not sure what to think. As well as Patty did on the stand, and as credible as she seemed, Eisenberg had done some damage. It still was possible for someone—maybe just a single juror—to doubt her account. Or the jury might consider her truthful but not be sure Joseph Bong was to blame. Patty, after all, was never able to identify him. ...

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32. Star Witness

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pp. 242-247

Of all of the strange and arguably objectionable things that happened during Patty’s long ordeal, perhaps the strangest and most objectionable happened that Thursday, March 11, when Detective Tom Woodmansee came to testify. Suddenly, about a dozen Madison police officers showed up in court, badges visible, and sat on the benches behind Bong ...

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33. Closing Arguments

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pp. 248-255

Judy Schwaemle kept it as simple as she could. The jury, she said, had just two issues to decide: were the crimes in this case committed, and did Joseph Bong commit them? The evidence, she assured, led to only one answer. As to the first issue, Schwaemle staked her case on the credibility of ...

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34. The Verdict

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pp. 256-264

Thomas Jefferson praised the wisdom of letting juries decide questions of fact, rather than referring these “to a judge whose mind is warped by any motive whatsoever.” He felt “the common sense of twelve honest [citizens] gives a better chance of just decision." The jurors in the trial of Joseph Bong were faced with a massive ...

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pp. 265-270

Response to the publication of Cry Rape in the fall of 2006 was, in Madison, immediate and overwhelming. It was the kind of reaction I naively thought my original reporting on Patty’s case would prompt, but didn’t. One reason for this difference is that the book, for the first time, laid out Patty’s ordeal in its totality, after events made the enor-...


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pp. 271-274

Recurring Characters

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pp. 275-277

About the Author

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p. 278-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780299219635
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299219642

Publication Year: 2006