- Albert Haynesworth (Photo: Associated Press)
The Albert Haynesworth sex abuse case thickens: The government has now detailed its full account of what went down the morning of Feb. 13 on the W Hotel's rooftop lounge. And there are plenty of issues of consent to unpack in the filing.
According to court documents, a 23-year-old waitress working Haynesworth's table claims that the Redskins defensive tackle inserted a debit card into her bra and then groped her before paying his bill. Haynesworth has been indicted on a charge of misdemeanor sexual abuse in the incident; his attorney has called the charge "disappointing, regretful and a difficult case for the government to prove."
Below, teasing out consent in a high-profile groping case:
[The waitress] busied herself clearing plates. A few minutes later, when [she] already had both hands filled with plates, the contact person motioned to her, pointed to defendant, and told [the waitress] that defendant was going to pay the bill. Defendant already had his wallet out, and was removing his debit card. When [the waitress] saw defendant pulling out his debit card, and her hands were filled with dirty dishes, she told defendant that she would "drop these off real quick," referring to the plates, and come back to the defendant's card. Defendant was insistent that he wanted to pay immediately, pushing his debit card toward her and tapping her on the arm and shoulder with his card. CW looked up and down at herself as if wondering where defendant expected her to put it.
According to the government's account of the incident, the waitress did not explicitly consent to Haynesworth placing the credit card in her blouse, as was suggested on the report taken by police. That new information doesn't change the case too much: A person can certainly consent to a credit card swipe but not to a grope. But the account as told here may help make the waitress's story seem more consistent to onlookers who have rushed to question her character over the credit card incident — and potentially to members of a jury, too.
The insertion of the credit card:
A witness who was standing within arm's reach of defendant saw [the waitress] approach defendant with dirty dishes. [The witness] saw [the waitress] look around for a place to put the plates, then heard defendant say, "I'm just going to put my card right here," while gesturing with his card toward [the waitress's] chest. [The witness] has disclosed that he saw [the waitress] smile and move her head up and down, which he took to mean that [the waitress] agreed to let defendant put the debit card into her bra.
. . . Defendant then proceeded to put the debit card down the center of [the waitress]'s bra, in the space between her bra and her skin.
The waitress claims that her up-and-down nod was an incredulous one; a witness says he interpreted it as a come-hither. In order to convict Haynesworth of misdemeanor sexual abuse in the District, prosecutors would need to prove that he had "knowledge or reason to know that the act was committed" without the waitress's "permission." If Haynesworth's defense chooses to argue the case on issues of consent, it could argue that Haynesworth's positive interpretation of the waitress's nod was a reasonable one.
Defendant then began moving his hand toward her breast, while still holding the debit card. As he moved his hand toward her breast, [Haynesworth] smiled and said words to the effect of, "Can I do that?" or "It that okay?" [The waitress] told defendant to stop. Despite [her] requests for him to stop, defendant continued to move his hand over, ultimately moving his fingers in circles around [the waitress]'s left nipple.
. . . While [the witness] could not see what was happening inside [the waitress]'s bra, he listened as [the waitress] spoke several times, and noted that the tone of her voice changes to stern, as she was instructing defendant to remove his hand from her bra. When defendant finally removed his hand from [the waitress]'s bra, he left his debit card behind, buried deeply enough in [the waitress]'s bra that [the witness] still could not see it. As [the waitress] walked away, [the witness] confronted defendant by telling him that he was wrong for touching [the waitress] in that manner.
Ambiguous nodding aside: The government's case crystallizes when it alleges that Haynesworth asked for consent to grope the waitress, received several negative responses, and then allegedly continued the assault. The government need only prove that Haynesworth knew he didn't have permission for the act; this version of events goes beyond the lack of affirmative consent to a clear "no means no" moment. There's a witness, to boot.
When [a W Hotel] security agent asked defendant whether he remembered having any contact with a female server, defendant responded by saying, "I didn't touch her." Defendant continued, telling the security agent that his server had been "a little black girl, and that he "do[es]n't even like black girls."
. . . [when] detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department approached to interview [Hayneworth], defendant spontaneously told them, "I know what this is about, she is just upset I have a white girlfriend. I couldn't tell you the last time I dated a black girl. She was trying to get with me."
The defense that MPD detectives attribute to Haynesworth touches on a typical misconception about sexual violence: That it's more about sex than it is violence. In fact, sexual interest is only one possible motivation for assault. As the indictment notes, a touch can become criminal when it's made with the intent to "abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, arouse, or gratify the sexual desire of" the perpetrator. Not liking black women isn't exactly an airtight defense to the allegation that you sought to abuse, humiliate, harass, or degrade one of them.