Local attorney John Hawkins wants his old seat back. The former two-term District 12 State Senator is challenging incumbent Sen. Lee Bright in this year’s GOP primary for the position he vacated in 2008. The road back though, will be a rocky one in part because of questions surrounding a rape charge against Hawkins back in 1989.
According to the alleged victim’s statement (view the complete statement below) Hawkins called her at her home around 1:15 a.m. Hawkins, who worked with the victim at Belk’s in Westgate Mall, had attended a company Christmas party earlier that evening with the victim and her boyfriend. Hawkins then allegedly showed up at the victim’s home and convinced her to get into his car, after which he proceeded to his father’s office.
Once inside, Hawkins allegedly threw the victim on the floor beside his father’s desk, stepping on her stomach to prevent her from getting up. The victim’s statement says that Hawkins then raped her, driving her home afterwards and threatening to tell everyone at their work that she was a slut.
The story surfaced again in 2002, when Hawkins ran for State Attorney General, eventually forcing him to drop out of the race. Speaking about the case in an article in The State newspaper, Lt. Mark Barry, the Spartanburg County officer who worked the case, said, “It was one of the strongest rape cases I’ve ever seen…There was no doubt force was used. This was not a consensual act.”
So why was Hawkins never prosecuted? After his arrest, Hawkins’ father, David Hawkins, hired two prominent local lawyers, Ben Harrison and Noel Turner, but neither had to worry about mounting a defense. According to the victim’s ex-husband (who was her boyfriend at the time), she was threatened and intimidated into not testifying against Hawkins. From The State:
…she was set to testify at a preliminary hearing on Jan. 25, 1990 – six weeks after the incident, the ex-husband said. “She wanted to testify,” recalled Lt. Barry, the lead investigator on the case. The ex-husband said he went to the courthouse with the woman that day. When they arrived, the woman’s ex-husband heard two law officers tell her that Hawkins’ lawyers would “make her look like a tramp” if she testified. “She was very scared, almost to tears, just afraid to go in,” the ex-husband said. Shaken, the woman left the courthouse. The ex-husband said he could not remember who the law officers were who talked to the woman. The day the woman failed to appear, deputy prosecutor Slade moved to dismiss the case. Barry said he was “shocked” at Slade’s action.
After the case was dismissed, Hawkins moved on, operating a successful law practice and winning terms in both the South Carolina State House and State Senate.
Is a nearly 23-year-old rape charge “old news” when the reasons for dismissal have nothing to do with lack of evidence in the case? Is it not worth bringing up when the lead investigator on the case called it “one of the strongest rape cases I’ve ever seen”? I certainly think it’s worth bringing up. If power and influence were used to silence this woman, allowing her attacker to go free, then (much like the rape charge itself) there is no statute of limitation.
Of course, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal feels differently. They haven’t mentioned the charge at all, and one reporter went so far as to Tweet that a blog which posted about this story earlier had “dredged up” the rape case, as though there’s something dirty about airing a dismissed rape charge that everyone involved (apart from Hawkins’ lawyers) thought was credible. Is a story about power, influence, and corruption not news at the H-J, or are they just too “in the bag” for Hawkins in his Senate race to care?
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