While attempting to assess how serious the assault of a 15-year-old had been, Judge James Triplet from Spokane, Washington, invoked President Donald Trump's now famous (and infamous) line about grabbing women's genitals.
In the conversation between Trump and Billy Bush during a taping of “Access Hollywood,” the then-real estate mogul famously said that when “you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab ’em by the p****. You can do anything.”
After finding a 17-year-old boy guilty of an assault involving very similar circumstances, Triplet said that “[o]ur president openly brags that he can grab women by the p**** — his words — whenever he wants to, because that's what people who are powerful and rich get to do.”
But despite finding the boy guilty of touching a 15-year-old inappropriately, Triplet added that the lack of evidence showing that the incident had, indeed, any sexual motivation, compelled him to absolve the teenager.
“The bottom line is that there are so many things in our society and culture that are done that cross the line regarding appropriate behavior,” Triplet explained, adding that yet, “our society allows that risqué and sexually explicit behavior to be modeled to our children, who are developing physically, emotionally, and with respect to their maturity. They often watch these public figures to determine what's hip, what's okay, or what's acceptable."
Making references to pop culture and mentioning hip hop artists “grabbing their crotches during a 'Saturday Night Live' performance,” Triplet wasn't as tough as many may have expected.
Spokane judge: Trump said he grabs pussy, JT showed Janet’s nip, teen who grabbed girl’s crotch had bad role models https://t.co/dYWdQltetP— Samantha Wohlfeil (@SAWohlfeil) April 5, 2017
Washington state law indicates that an assault involving a person's genitals isn't always sexually motivated. In such cases, prosecutors must be able to prove that the accused obtained sexual gratification.
“The legislature could have determined that any touching of another person's vaginal, buttocks or breast area would automatically be designated as a crime with sexual motivation,” Triplet told the court, but instead “[t]hey have set up our legislative scheme to require an additional finding of sexual gratification before a finding of sexual motivation can occur."
In the security video that captured the late June incident, the teens appeared “nonchalant,” the judge concluded. And because the alleged attacker didn't attempt to satisfy himself, evidence of a sexual motivation wasn't found. Instead, Triplet added, the teenager may have simply stepped over his boundaries.
The video shows the two teenagers hanging out in a hallway of North Central High School on a Friday. Early in the tape, the 17-year-old is seen dancing in front of the girl as they wait for their rides. Later, he taps the side of her head prompting her to do the same. That's when he pokes her stomach and hips, and then proceeds to grab her genital area and butt several times, reports show.
She showed “no reaction,” Triplet told the court. "She's talking to him, and he's rolling his hands around each other in another dance-type move."
After explaining why he made his decision, the judge sentenced the 17-year-old to six months of community custody and 25 hours of community service. The boy was also suspended from school for the rest of the year. The sentence wouldn't have increased in this case if the judge had found enough evidence of sexual motivation, prosecutors said.
Raising questions regarding the importance of boundaries between adolescent boys and girls, this story also reminds us of how powerful the president's words are. Implying that powerful men are given a free pass to treat women as they please may be the dark reality we live in but not one we should strive to preserve — quite the contrary.