Judge’s reversal in criminal sexual assault case draws ire

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 10:08 PM CST
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QUINCY (WGEM) - The decision by Adams County Judge Robert Adrian to reverse his own conviction of a man accused in the criminal sexual assault of a Quincy girl has ignited a firestorm of criticism.

Speaking out for the first time Tuesday, 16-year-old Cameron Vaughan said 18-year-old Drew Clinton sexually assaulted her at a graduation party on May 30.

“I woke up at my friend’s place with a pillow over my face so I couldn’t be heard and Drew Clinton inside of me,” she said. “I asked him to stop multiple times and he wouldn’t. I finally got off the couch and pushed him off of me and he jumped up and just started playing video games as if nothing had happened.”

During a bench trial in October, Adrian convicted Clinton of one count of criminal sexual assault.

At a sentencing last week, however, Adrian reversed himself following a pair of motions by Clinton’s attorney, saying that a mandatory minimum sentence imposed by state statute would be inappropriate.

According to transcripts from the hearing obtained by our news-gathering partners at the Herald-Whig, Adrian said that the time Clinton had served in the Adams County Jail was enough.

“For what happened in this case, that is plenty of punishment,” Adrian said.

During the hearing, Adrian also had harsh criticism for parents at the party where the alleged assault happened, lambasting them for letting minors drink and swim in the pool in only their underwear.

Assistant State’s Attorney Anita Rodriguez prosecutes sex crimes for the county. She told the Herald-Whig she has never seen anything like the decision in her 40-year career.

“My heart is bleeding for the victim,” Rodriguez told the newspaper. “It was a very difficult bench trial. It did a lot for her healing process, but now she’s back to where we were at.”

Vaughan said hearing Adrian’s decision was devastating.

“I immediately had to leave the courtroom and go to the bathroom. I was crying,” she said.

Her father, Scott, said the seven-month ordeal has been devastating for daughter.

“She was a cross-country runner, she ran in track, she was an honor roll student,” he said. “Now, she’s lucky to carry a C average and she’s dropped out of all sports. All of her learning is at home now. She can’t go to school.”

On Tuesday, the Quincy Area Network Against Domestic Abuse issued a statement blasting Adrian’s decision and his comments during the hearing.

“The verdict and Adrian’s comments send a chilling message to other rape victims that their behavior, not the rapists’, will be judged,” the statement read. “Shame the victims, free the rapists. This judgment reinforces the fact that standards for women have always been impossibly high while they are impossibly low for men.”

The statement says justice was not done.

“Women in Adams County should be angry and afraid,” the group said. “One message is clear: If you are raped, avoid Judge Adrian’s courtroom.”

Quanada executive director Megan Duesterhaus said she was shocked when she heard about the reversal and Adrian’s comments.

She said the court system is supposed to support survivors of sexual assault, not subject them to victim blaming.

Deusterhaus said she doesn’t want what happened to discourage those who have suffered.

“There are all the victims out there that are seeing these same messages. So anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault needs to know that there is a lot of us out there that absolutely understand victim blaming and shaming and we’re not okay with it,” she said.

WGEM left messages for Drew Schnack, who represented Clinton, and with the Circuit Court administrator for Adrian, but they were not returned.

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