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Lawyer Played Sex-Attack Victim’s Taped Account as Entertainment

July 11, 1991

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A lawyer who entertained a Florida Bar meeting by playing a sexual-assault victim’s taped account of her attack has been reprimanded and has apologized. But not everyone is satisfied.

Scott Mitchell has been called insensitive by members of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, the National Organization for Women and the state Supreme Court’s Gender Bias Study Commission.

″It’s an unfortunate situation that involved a mistake in judgment and has offended a great number of lawyers,″ Florida Bar President Benjamin Hill said Wednesday. ″From the Bar’s standpoint, it is something that should not have been done.″

Mitchell played the tape after a board meeting of the Bar’s Young Lawyer Division at a convention in Orlando June 27. Mitchell is a member of the board.

After several people complained, he was reprimanded by the Bar but faces no other disciplinary action.

″Although I didn’t intend to offend anyone, obviously I did. I can only hope my apology has been accepted,″ said Mitchell, who said he has ″tremendous regrets.″

The tape is from the trial testimony of an elderly Mississippi woman who awoke one night to find a man standing next to her bed. The woman testified in detail about overcoming her assailant by grabbing his groin and leading him outside.

The tape is used by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in seminars with prosecutors who handle sexual assaults, said Assistant State Attorney Laura Havey-Baer, head of the sexual assault unit in Duval County.

″It’s a marvelous tape from a victim’s standpoint. That tape should be played before a whole roomful of rape victims. That woman took control,″ she said.

But attorneys at the meeting said Mitchell’s intent wasn’t educating his peers. Robert Palmer of Pensacola, president of the Young Lawyers Division, said Mitchell questioned whether the woman or her assailant was the victim.

Mitchell also told women in the room that the tape was graphic and that he didn’t want any complaints if they chose to stick around, Palmer said.

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