A Webworm PSA About Writing Reference Letters for Rapists
Is your friend in front of a judge about to be sentenced? Have they asked for a glowing reference letter?
A quick note — today’s newsletter contains talk of sexual assault and rape, so please read with care.
Today is a quick PSA edition of Webworm.
In short — I think people writing glowing reference letters for a judge on behalf of a friend need to assume their letters of praise are not going to remain private. In fact, they could be made very, very public.
I think this very obvious thing needs to be said because I genuinely don’t think people realise this could happen.
It might be due to a general lack of knowledge about the courts, or it could just be that you’re being lied to. Sometimes the person up for sentencing will tell you there’s no risk your glowing letter of praise will be seen by anyone besides the judge.
“There is no breach of Name Suppression nor any media risk to you of association with me as long as these letters are sent only to my lawyer, and he can send the select few to the Judge and no one else will need to see them.”
James Wallace was not telling the truth, and the names of the 89 New Zealanders who did write Wallace glowing reference letters are now all publicly available. I was not on the list as I would never in a million years write James Wallace a character reference.
As for the 89 kiwis who did? Most of them aren’t saying a word about it. I imagine they just want everyone to forget.
A few days ago Scientologist Danny Masterson was sentenced to 30 years in prison for two rapes. Before this, most people from my generation probably knew him from That ‘70s Show:
“Prosecutors argued Masterson, 47, had relied on his status as a prominent Scientologist to avoid accountability.
The actor was convicted after three women testified that he had sexually assaulted them at his Hollywood home from 2001-03 - during the height of his television fame.
The jury heard testimony that he had given them drugs before he assaulted them.”
That didn’t stop actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis writing their old co-star reference letters.
Their letters were mostly about how anti-drugs Danny Masterson was, which makes sense when you consider how much Scientologists hate drugs. Of course Danny ended up allegedly drugging a bunch of women, so I think it’s also fair to say that Scientologists also lie.
Like many who chose to write reference letters, I imagine the Hollywood pair got a nasty shock when their friend went to prison for 30 years — and those letters became public.
I’ve uploaded a PDF of the judge’s sentencing report, which also contains all the glowing reference letters written on behalf of Danny Masterson. The letters extend far beyond a couple of actors.
There’s the retired Deputy Sheriff:
There’s the head of real estate development for a multi-billion dollar investment company (ooh-la-la, colour me impressed!)
There’s the creator of Netflix show The Ranch:
And there are actors like Giovanni Ribisi, and firefighters and Air Force medics and 9/11 first responders and businessmen and family and friends. People who have achieved amazing things. People who are looked up to by their community of peers, and in many cases the world at large.
And they chose to write reference letters for a rapist.
Yes, I understand that character references are part of the process. The courts want them. The judge wants them.
But while character references are part of the process — I just genuinely think people don’t realise that shit’s gonna end up public.
I wonder if they realised their letters are going to be read by the public, they’d second guess writing them. Because make no mistake, they’re writing them with the sole purpose of getting a lesser sentence for the perpetrator. The sexual assaulter. The rapist.
And I’m not sure people want the world to know they’re doing that.
PS — as usual, see you in the comments for your thoughts on this. I want to know where you sit on this.