Activists Campaign Against Philadelphia Judge Who Ruled Rape as Theft


Pennsylvania activists have launched a campaign urging against the retention of Judge Teresa Carr Deni in Philadelphia municipal court in next week’s general election. The campaign is in response to a controversial ruling Deni made six years ago, when she reduced charges of an alleged gang rape of a sex worker to theft of services. The story made national headlines at the time.

According to reports, a 20-year-old single mother agreed to sex with the defendant, Dominique Gindraw, in exchange for $150. After plans were made over Craigslist, the woman headed to a location that she thought was his home, but was actually an abandoned building. She agreed to have sex with his friend for another $100, but the friend brought a gun instead of money. Then two more men arrived, and “the four forced her to have sex at gunpoint,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

At a preliminary hearing, Judge Deni dismissed rape and sexual assault charges.

“She consented and she didn’t get paid,” she explained to the Daily News. “I thought it was a robbery.” She also said the case “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”

The ruling, remarks about the victim, and subsequent fallout took place right before Deni was up for retention in 2007. In response, activists launched a grassroots “Deny Deni” campaign at polling places. In an unusual move, then chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association Jane Leslie Dalton issued a harsh rebuke of the judge, calling it an “unforgivable miscarriage of justice.”

From the statement:

Judge Deni’s retention of an armed robbery charge for “theft of services” in the case of a defendant accused of forcing a prostitute at gunpoint to have sex with him and three other men—and the related dismissal of all sex and assault charges —belies a basic understanding of what constitutes rape in Pennsylvania.

I have personally reviewed the transcript from the defendant’s preliminary hearing in this case. Based on my reading, the transcript clearly reflects that the victim decided she was not going to engage in sex with any of the men present, and that she was forced to do so at gunpoint. No one has denied or contradicted this.

Judge Deni’s belief that because the victim had originally intended to have sex for money and decided not to because she didn’t get paid posits that a woman cannot change her mind about having sex, or withdraw her consent to do so, regardless of the circumstances. We cannot imagine any circumstances more violent or coercive than being forced to have sex with four men at gunpoint.

The situation erupted only 28 days after the Philadelphia Bar Association had already formally recommended Deni for retention in the election. Officials explained that the bar did not retract the recommendation because, essentially, it would have taken too long to go through the process before election.

Gindraw was reportedly arrested for an almost identical crime four days later, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Bar Association recently issued this year’s Judicial Selection and Retention ratings, which includes a recommendation to retain Deni in municipal court.

“The judge’s career is looked at in its entirety,” said attorney Teresa F. Sachs, speaking on behalf of the Philadelphia Bar Association. Sachs explains that when the association reviews judges, everything about his or her history, including media reports and social media postings, are taken into consideration.

On Tuesday night, Pussy Division, an anonymous collective of Philadelphia-based feminist activists, started tweeting logos and posted a meme urging voters to vote no on retention of Judge Deni. SlutWalk Philly also tweeted the message.

“We are really outraged that a judge in our city could preside over a case where a sex worker was raped at gunpoint and denied the rights of any other person,” a member of Pussy Division told RH Reality Check in an email. “This injustice has inspired us to work on a project around consent and the false idea that not everyone has the right to say no.”

Lindsay Roth is co-founder of the Philadelphia chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project and director of Project Safe, a collective of volunteers working to “promote human rights-based public health among women working in prostitution on the street in Philadelphia.

“We don’t really have the capacity to run a campaign, but what I can say about sex workers is that … for a long time, sex workers have mistrusted the criminal justice system,” said Roth. “So … [Deni’s] ruling and comments didn’t really come as a surprise to us. [But] I’m happy to see other women’s groups and advocacy groups are picking up the advocacy of sex workers.”

One of the ways sex workers in Philadelphia protect themselves is by circulating a “bad date” alert sheet that informally documents sex workers’ reports of violence.

How common is violence against sex workers? Because of the tendency not to report, there are no reliable local statistics. But Roth says she hears about a “bad date” to add to the list almost every time she works outreach.

“And that’s someone willing to talk to a stranger about a time they were raped recently,” she says. “I’m always amazed that someone is willing to do that.”

Roth points out that violence takes the form of both direct violence, such as assault, and structural violence. “Women have tried to report sexual assault and other types of assault to law enforcement,” she said. “They don’t listen.”

Judge Deni did not return a request for comment.

The general election takes place November 5. If Deni retains her seat, it will be her fourth six-year term.

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  • lady_black

    Someone needs to inform this idiot judge (and a female no less) that consent can be withdrawn at any point, and thereafter, the act is a rape. I’ve seldom seen such a case where a judge needs to be yanked off the bench, but this one needs to GO.

  • ziggyboo

    I am so disgusted and enraged right now. This judge needs to be removed immediately, she is unfit and incompetent.

  • cvxxx

    Then the prosecuting atty needs to be looked at too. However the theft charge is accurate in the context. We are not given enough of the court record a link to the case would be helpful.

    • L-dan

      In context? no.

      Stealing a watch that was advertised on Craigslist at gunpoint is theft. Holding a gun on your plumber while forcing him to fix your pipes is going to get you charges on things like kidnapping (or whatever ‘holding against your will’ law exists in that area) at the least. Raping someone, even if sex is a service they normally sell, is still rape, not theft.

      • cvxxx

        Where is the link to applicable laws and the court record cited? If we do not have complete information it is not possible to have informed opinion.
        And according to court cases around the country theft of services is a valid charge. The article did state she had agreed to prostitution which is illegal in that jurisdiction. But the article does not give enough evidence nor links. There is a possibility of charging all involved too. Something everyone has lost sight of.

        • L-dan

          Certainly all involved might be charged with engaging in an illegal act (in most places). However, when the theft of services involves using someone’s body against their will, the charges should move to the more severe one of rape. Theft of services does not allow you to advertise for a sparring partner, hold a gun on them while you instead beat them to a pulp, and expect to be charged with theft instead of assault. How many details do we need to see that forcing sexual acts from someone = rape regardless of the circumstances?

          • cvxxx

            Nope. Without the complete documents we are hamstrung. There is too much we do not know.

          • L-dan

            “In an unusual move, then chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association
            Jane Leslie Dalton issued a harsh rebuke of the judge, calling it an “unforgivable miscarriage of justice.””

            Who says

            “I have personally reviewed the transcript from the defendant’s
            preliminary hearing in this case. Based on my reading, the transcript
            clearly reflects that the victim decided she was not going to engage in
            sex with any of the men present, and that she was forced to do so at
            gunpoint. No one has denied or contradicted this.”

            This, from someone with a legal education and full access to the materials.

            Nope, I’m not hamstrung. If you are, it’s because you lack some basic reading comprehension.

          • cvxxx

            Then is there a link?

          • L-dan

            My comment with link is in moderation…on account of the link, which is located in the article. The quote listed is from that link.

            Are they the actual court documents? No. However, society kind of screeches to a halt when we require everything to be hyperskeptically backed up by seeing the exact documents ourselves. News providers of all sorts become sort of useless if we are not able to allow some level of trust of credible sources.

            When a credible source says that they have reviewed those documents, the stated facts are not in dispute, and they (with a law background in the state in question) find it to be a miscarriage of justice, I’m fine jumping to the conclusion that they’re representing the record accurately.

            What scenario could you see where the stated actions were not rape?

          • cvxxx

            Spammers need to be fined. It keeps th conversation down when what is needed is that link. I do understand the frustration as moderation can take time.

          • L-dan

            If you get emailed notifications you can follow pretty easily. However, given that you continue to focus on extraneous details, never bothered to follow the link in the article apparently, and don’t answer questions, I’m done dealing with the trollish behaviour.

          • Arekushieru

            How can everyone else follow that link BUT you?

          • cvxxx

            One the links say nothing but the same. They are not links to the court record. There is not “rape culture’ that is a myth. Sexual freedoms rest on very thin ice as there are many who are offended by the very idea. Even some who profess support are half hearted. For example look at the anger about birth control.

            The real danger is the schisms in American society. Middle class against the poor, pseudo conservative against progressive and the most dangerous the mob. I am a sworn enemy against Political Correctness seeing real dangers in it’s absolutism.
            I see very great danger in the mob. people losing their jobs over nothing or using free speech. Yet many of these people do not see that they have become their own enemy. The same who decry kids who suicide over Internet bulling are the very ones who are guilty of bullying with the whole hearted approval of the mob.
            IMO getting angry is not good. Getting smart is. My background is History. These things have been seen before and the outcome usually is not pretty. I look at a much bigger picture.

          • cjvg

            However you see no danger in forcing a woman at gun point to have sex with men she never consented to have sex with?!
            NO one, least of all the men involved are denying that this took place, but all you are worried about is if the men that are committing this clearly violent and abhorrent act are not being “bullied” when the slap on the wrist this judge gave them is widely condemned by people who believe that sex workers DO have human rights!
            You are in no way standing up for those that are being railroaded by the justice system, in fact you are backing up and driving over the actual victim again!
            Apparently for you any rights a woman might have should be null and void if a man is involved!
            You are just another rape apologist trying to wrap their disgusting rhetoric in the mantle of human rights!

          • cvxxx

            If you do not understand what a person is writing ask what they mean. Ask questions.

          • Arekushieru

            Nope, cjvg understands what you’re saying very well. It is you who is confused.

          • Arekushieru

            And I find your suggestion to cjvg, below, laughable when you can’t even deign to read what L-dan is saying. Otherwise, you would understand that, if you aren’t going to make any qualification on the matter, your VERY WORDS exemplify rape culture. Asking for court documentations on this issue only, in order for you to make a determination on whether a case is true or not, while rendering your own judgment (again, only on this issue) without reading those VERY SAME DOCUMENTATIONS, IS an example of rape culture. So fucking sorry.

            Nope, the people who support rape culture oppose birth control. Even more evidence for OUR side. Oops.

            I am a sworn enemy against those with privilege who browbeat the less privileged into submission on certain issues, simply because they have never experienced the same systemic discrimination, then turn around and claim there is no such thing as privilege (or rape culture). After all, that you CAN browbeat these others, and with little to no comparable backlash to what one of THEM would experience from pushing back against YOUR ilk, IS fucking evidence of privilege.

            The conflict between the middle class and the poor is one engineered by the wealthy and your ilk. That you then fail to recognize how one group is privileged over another says more about YOU than it does about us. So sorry.

            Sorry, but how is someone, who has been a victim of bullying for years, finally pushing back against his/her bullies after repeated requests for help that have never been granted, being a bully? How can a GROUP of those people be considered a mob? Seriously, HOW can someone be so DENSE as to not recognize that support for a group of people who constantly mob and bully others for no reason, but opposition to a group that pushes back against them (WITH GOOD CAUSE) is evidence of fucking privilege?

            Even labeling something as ‘political correctness’ IS evidence of privilege. If it’s politically correct to ask that two different groups of people be treated the SAME WAY (for example, the n word. White, wealthy, young, married, hypersexual, heterosexual, cissexual, able-bodied, fundamental Christian males with a society-approved physical appearance never have had – or ever had to worry about having – such a negative descriptor systematically applied to them from a group that is economically, politically and/or socially advantaged over them. Removing the n word from the lexicon would simply mean that people who are black would experience the same thing that the original group has experienced for HUNDREDS OF YEARS), then you ARE saying that it is equitable to treat one group differently, while not being part of that particular group. That is part of fucking PRIVILEGE.

            Finally, freedom OF speech. Meaning, not only freedom TO, but freedom FROM, speech. Meaning freedom of speech for those that *speak* out against others using THEIR freedom of speech (who are ACTUALLY the ones who DON’T typically experience job loss for exercising their freedoms, but the OTHERS that do. Derp!) Also, not meaning freedom to harass others, not freedom to access spaces that others cannot typically use, not freedom to promote hate NOR freedom to be granted forums to do so. JUST SPEECH. (Sorry, but the ones who see the bigger picture, here, are NOT you and your ilk.)

          • cvxxx

            Circular. Actually you have no idea of how I think. To you this is great cause to me a sentence in a very big book. There is no rape culture. That is nothing more than to get emotional space.

            While there is debate over freedom of and from religion there are established limits to free speech. Bringing slavery into it is very laughable when there is a whole race of people that are called in slaves. Or have you not heard or the Slavic peoples?

            All of this is off topic anyway. But it is you that stoops to name calling not I.

          • Jennifer Starr

            Yes, there is a rape culture. And every time you make excuses for and defend men like this, you’re feeding into it and you’re a part of it.

          • CJ99

            Whats absolutely clear is you don’t think.

          • cvxxx

            It is you that have not answered with links. Of course they were convicted of theft of services anyway. But I have nor read any of the documents have you?

          • L-dan

            Did you even read the part about my post with a link…the link that is in the article above, being in moderation. Thanks to spam, comments with links in them go to moderation.

            Again, what part of the article led you to feel that theft of services was the correct call without documentation.

          • colleen2

            You are hamstrung. There is no ‘we’ .

          • cvxxx

            If the complete information is not before one then the conclusion becomes nothing more than hearsay. No one has links so we cannot examine the reports.

          • colleen

            Like I said. You’re hamstrung. We aren’t. Why not go be hamstrung somewhere else?

          • L-dan

            And yet, without complete information, you were able to say that within the context given, theft of services was appropriate? I’m not sure how that follows. What elements allow for that conclusion within the context of the information we *do* have above?

          • fiona64

            What part of “the link is in the article” are you too damned stupid to understand?

          • cvxxx

            It does not exist.

          • fiona64

            See all of those blue letters? Those are links.

            Idiot.

          • colleen

            The fact that you are unable to find a link does not mean the court documents are unavailable. Please find another blog.

          • BJ Survivor

            It has been explained to you over and over again, troll. That you lack reading comprehension and basic understanding of consent, at least as it applies to women, makes you a complete moron.

            Kindly fuck off.

          • cvxxx

            Paean of losers, swearing,ad hominen attacks.

          • fiona64

            So, you don’t understand what’s being presented to you.

            I thought not.

            I see only one loser, sweetie … and it’s you.

            PS: it’s ad hominem. Do try to at least spell correctly, okay?

          • CJ99

            You call others losers when your attempting to justify rape. Your heads so far up your butt if you ate beans you’d blow your mind an hour later.

        • L-dan

          Oh…additionally, while theft of services could be an *additional* charge, as it could be with my plumbing example, there will also be stronger charges for the kidnapping, forceable detainment, what have you. So a charge of rape plus theft of services seems appropriate. Not instead of.

        • cjvg

          No money had exchanged hands so no contract was in force at the time of withdrawing of consent, also the “clients” substantially altered the parameters of the service she was initially hired for and she declined to provide the service at that point.

          She withdrew consent to provide the service (one man, at a house) she initially agreed to provide and NEVER consented to provide the additional (multiple men, at an abandoned building) services that were demanded instead. at that time it becomes a rape case and a kidnapping case since she did not want to stay there!

          If I put a service contract out for bid, a contractor will ask me the specifics and quote a price based upon those specifics.
          Once I accept his bid and he comes to the job site and it is 4 times as big he is within his rights to decline to do that job.
          If I then force him at gun point to remain and complete that job this is NOT considered a simple charge of theft of services.
          This is kidnapping, assault and battery!

          Theft of services is when a contractor does the job and I refuse to pay him regardless of the fact that he performed it!
          It could be theft of services if this guy would have sex with her as agreed upon (no gun point, no force, at a house as stated, no additional men), and then afterwards refuses to pay her.

          • cvxxx

            Moot but comparing apples and coconuts does not work. As to the charges ask the prosecuting atty. Since we have none of the documents there can be no understanding. Unless you have a link to said documents there is noting more.

          • L-dan

            “I have personally reviewed the transcript from the defendant’s
            preliminary hearing in this case. Based on my reading, the transcript
            clearly reflects that the victim decided she was not going to engage in
            sex with any of the men present, and that she was forced to do so at
            gunpoint. No one has denied or contradicted this.”

            That last sentence is sort of key, along with the fact that no…one does not have to see the exact papers to be able to take the word of a reputable source. Huge amounts of our society would grind to a screeching halt if we operated on the principle you’re adhering to here.

            The judge dismissed counts of rape and sexual assault. Dismissed means that those were the charges brought. So the prosecuting atty. seems to have done his or her job.

          • cvxxx

            What is the link to those documents?

          • L-dan

            I have told you twice now that the link to the report I quoted is in the article. Links in comments go to moderation. You can take two seconds of your own time, find the quote I noted and spot the link nearby.

            You also have not answered my question as to how, in context, you consider ‘theft of services’ to be appropriate given the information above; since you did make that judgement without the court reports.

          • cjvg

            Moot, you are the one who feels it is a simple theft of services charge!
            It that is the case it should absolutely be comparable to any other theft of service charge should it not?!
            So explain to me why her theft of service charge is not comparable to any other theft of service charge?!

        • Trollface McGee

          You cannot charge someone with theft of services when the service is sex because you cannot contract for sex. Even in parts of Nevada where prostitution is legal, a sex worker can withdraw consent at any time.

          • cvxxx

            But not in Texas

          • Trollface McGee

            Prostitution is illegal in Texas, you cannot contract for an illegal service, therefore yes, Texas too.

          • cvxxx

            Google: Ezekiel Gilbert trail.
            Sorry but links are discouraged.

          • Trollface McGee

            Yes, so another example of a judge being wrong on the law.

    • lady_black

      There’s something wrong with you. This isn’t a case of theft. Theft is when I hold a gun on you and demand your wallet. Rape is when you hold a gun on someone and demand sex.

  • Trollface McGee

    I imagine the judge was trying to be “clever” or trying to get media attention. It is well established law that you cannot contract for sex in advance and that consent can be withdrawn at any time – any judge, hell, any law student knows that.
    On a completely unrelated note, that shutterstock image is just terrible.

  • SoapboxLovesong

    I’m so glad you guys brought this to my attention with the meme. We’re voting on Tuesday and I didn’t know anything about most of the candidates, but now I’m galvanized not to vote for her and to convince my friends not to vote for her either. Thank you!

  • CJ99

    There’s still plenty on this planet who don’t think of women as real people, or other nationalities as real people.