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Diane Dimond: Stop Serial Rapists by Promptly Testing Evidence

He was convicted of sodomizing an 8-year-old girl in 1984 and served four years in prison. He has now pleaded guilty to raping a 12-year-old girl in 2016.

For some reason, the prosecutor agreed to plea-bargain with William Dixon this time around, agreeing he would go back to prison for only three years. That’s unconscionable in my book.

But this is the way justice is often meted out these days: Hammer out a plea with the lawyer and spare taxpayers the cost of a trial, even if the punishment doesn’t match the crime.

When he pleaded guilty to the 2016 rape, Dixon was required to give a DNA sample under a New York law that requires all convicts to submit to a swab test. Their DNA is then stored in the FBI’s national database called the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.

Authorities ran Dixon’s DNA sample through CODIS last year not knowing what they might find, and guess what: His DNA matched evidence from a rape kit gathered from an 11-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted at knifepoint back in February 1993!

Suddenly, Dixon was tied to not one or two but three sexual attacks on young girls.

It makes one wonder what other sex crimes Dixon might have committed over the years. Are we to believe he completely behaved himself otherwise? That no other children were made victims by his hand?

To my mind, it is great news that this man has finally been taken off the streets.

But here’s the infuriating part. That poor little 11-year-old submitted to an evasive hospital rape exam right after her 1993 assault. Then, her rape kit sat on a shelf unprocessed for nine years. Nine years.

Finally, in 2002, this survivor’s rape kit found its way to a forensic lab. Her attacker’s DNA was extracted, and that forensic profile was registered in the national database to see whether there was a match. There was not.

Dixon was out of prison and walking the streets in 2002. His DNA wasn’t on file anywhere. It would take another 14 years before science caught up with him.

It’s not like law enforcement didn’t want to find the person responsible for the 11-year-old’s attack.

The New York County District Attorney’s Office for Manhattan had been trying for years. In 2003, as prosecutors were racing against the 10-year statute of limitations on the case, they got a grand jury to issue a rape indictment against her “John Doe” attacker’s DNA profile. The limitations clock stopped, and all they could do was wait.

Fast forward to 2016. Dixon pleaded guilty and had to submit to that swab test. Finally, the system had both his name and his DNA! A routine pass through the CODIS system spit out a match to the evidence gathered from the 11-year-old in 1993. Bingo.

Today, that survivor is in her mid-30s. She will likely never forget having her hat pulled down over her eyes, being dragged to the rooftop of her apartment building with a knife to her throat, and having unspeakable things done to her. But I hope she now has hope that justice is on the way.

Maybe.

It depends on what the system does now with Dixon. He has been arraigned by the New York Supreme Court on sodomy charges. When I contacted his lawyer asking what Dixon’s plea might be, his attorney said, “No comment,” and hung up.

Will the same district attorney’s office that handled the 1989 case, the 1993 case and the 2016 case offer another plea agreement to this man? If it does, there is something very, very wrong with our justice system.

This case is yet another clarion call to every state to figure out a way to test their backlogged DNA rape kits, like, today.

Find the money. Do this. Victims deserve it. Justice depends on it.

Diane Dimond is the author of Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box. Contact her at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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