In 2008, Robert Worden pleaded guilty to third-degree rape in Monroe County Court. His girlfriend had accused him of forcing himself on her while she was passed out from taking medications. She stated that she woke up twice and demanded that he stop but he kept going. Worden claimed the sex was consensual, but acknowledged that his girlfriend had taken too much medication to voice consent. As part of his plea deal, he received a sentence of 10 years probation.
Wikimedia Commons New York State Court of Appeals in Albany.
Less than three weeks after the plea, though, the woman recanted her accusation, filing a statement saying that she did not remember having sex with Worden on that night and if they did, it would have been consensual. She claimed that her friends and family "were pushing me to press charges" because they didn't like her boyfriend.
The case reached the state's highest court in October. And in late November, the Court of Appeals vacated Worden's ruling. Not because of the accuser changed her story, but because his conviction was invalid in the first place: Worden's guilty plea did not actually include an admission to any crime.
"The record of the defendant's plea allocation reveals that the prosecution, the defense counsel, and the trial court all misunderstood the definition of 'lack of consent' under" the penal code, the court wrote in a unanimous decision.More »