In 1998 Oliver Jovanovic began serving a sentence of 15 years to life at a maximum security prison for what appears to have been an evening of consensual BDSM.
Mr. Jovanovic, at the time a 31-year-old doctoral candidate in microbiology, met then-22-year-old Jamie Rzucek in an AOL chatroom in June 1996 and they began an email correspondence. In November 1996 they arranged a meeting where Jovanovic is said to have tied Rzucek to a futon, bit her, burned her with hot wax and possibly struck or sodomized her with a baton or a stick over a period of 20 hours.
Rzucek later brought charges of kidnaping, assault, and sexual abuse against Jovanovic. After a highly publicized, sensational three-week trial where Jovanovic was branded the "cybersex fiend," he was convicted and given a sentence of 15 years to life.
So what makes this noteworthy and possibly relevant to you or someone you know?
Ok, so what does this have to do with you? Maybe nothing... maybe a lot. While I don't believe that rape, kidnaping, or assault charges should be taken lightly under any circumstances, it's pretty frightening to think that consent doesn't count enough to even be considered in some of our courtrooms, or at least in Mr. Wetzel's. Jamie Rzucek apparently got what she asked for and expected, and then decided she didn't like it after all.
- Email correspondence from Rzucek to Jovanovic included phrases such as these (the spelling is hers):
- "he was a sadomasochist and now i'm his slave and its painful, but the fun of telling my friends 'hey i'm a sadomasochist' more than outweighs the torment"
- "and yes, i'm what those happy pain fiends at the Vault call a 'pushy bottom'"
- "i read a bondage and dominence book that had a few pages about sexmagic,i could see flirting with that for a while"
- "so what if this girl was raped. she's they one who put her self into the situation" (referring to an acquaintance's experience)
- " 'oh wow' i perked up all the time thinking snuff film snuff film snuff film"
...but the emails were not allowed at the trial.
- Rzucek encouraged a friend to file a false rape claim a week before meeting Jovanovic (possibly the acquaintance mentioned in her emails). Hospital records and a police investigation determined the rape claim was false.
...but that was not allowed at the trial.
- A medical expert hired by the prosecution found a genital cut on Rzucek but it could not have been inflicted during the time spent with Jovanovic: it was too recent.
...but that was not allowed at the trial.
- Rzucek repeatedly contradicted her own testimony on the stand.
- Jovanovic was not allowed to testify in his own defense.
- Rzucek claimed she screamed for help during the incident, which took place in a small New York apartment building... not an isolated mountain cabin.
- Rzucek explained to the jury what a safeword was, and that she didn't have one.
- New York Supreme Court Judge William Wetzel included in instructions to the jury, " 'Consent' is no excuse for assault." (so much for professional boxing or football, let alone consensual BDSM eh?)
If bondage, biting and wax dripping can send an intelligent, well-educated man to prison for 15 years to life in a Manhattan courtroom, do you think you'd fare better in your community if accused of a sex crime? Local laws still consider consensual BDSM to be criminal activity in many places; but no matter where you live, if you're accused of a crime there's no guarantee whose courtroom you might land in or how that courtroom's judge or jury feel about alternative sexual practices.
In December 1999 the Appellate court reversed Jovanovic's conviction, saying he had not had a fair trial, and he was released from prison pending a retrial to be heard by -- you guessed it -- William Wetzel.
In August 2001 Justice Wetzel reversed his earlier insistence that he preside over Jovanovic's retrial by announcing that his fall calendar would be "too full" to hear the case. The new trial will be heard by Rena K. Uviller.
On November 1, 2001, at the unexpected request of Manhattan prosecutors "in the interest of justice," State Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller dropped the case against Oliver Jovanovic just as jury selection was to start for his retrial. "The trial court's rulings erroneously withheld from the jury a substantial amount of highly relevant, admissible evidence," the court said.
So take heed, dominants and submissives alike, tops, bottoms, masters, mistresses, slaves, switches, and curiosity seekers: you may think you know what you're getting into and who you're getting into it with, but then again you might not. I doubt if you'd like to find out the way Oliver Jovanovic did.
I wish Oliver Jovanovic and his family and friends the best, and I hope they're able to put all this behind them one day, in spite of the forever-lost 20 months behind bars, the five years of legal battling, and the huge sums of money it's cost them.
For further information about this case, visit the Justice for Oliver Jovanovic website, or Sam Sloan's comprehensive site, which includes the notorious withheld emails.
Thanks to Marinza Bruineman.
These files are presented for general information only and are not meant to be a "how-to" guide.
As with anything, what works for someone else may or may not work for you.
Use common sense when exploring new relationships of any type.
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