An Illinois judge is facing an influx of backlash after reversing the conviction of an 18-year-old who was found guilty of raping a girl at her graduation party.
Adams County Judge Robert Adrian found Drew Clinton, 18, guilty of one count of criminal sexual assault at a bench trial in October 2021.
The charge in the state of Illinois carries a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison.
At Clinton’s sentencing hearing, Adrian said the 148 days the teenager had spent behind bars is “plenty of punishment.”
Cameron Vaughan, who waived her right to anonymity, has been bravely speaking out against her rapist and, in doing so, is acting as a voice for many women who have had their trauma exascerbated by failures in the justice system.
Who is Cameron Vaughan?
Vaughan is the 16-year-old accuser in the trial who says Clinton sexually assaulted her at her graduation party in May 2021 while she was unconscious.
Vaughan criticized the judge for this decision, telling the Daily Mail that Adrian “is not suited for his job.”
“It’s scary to come out and talk about this, especially when a judge [makes] this kind of decision. What happened to me isn’t something that happens, and we have to keep fighting for justice,” Vaughan added.
Judge Robert Adrian plans to find Drew Clinton ‘not guilty’ despite his conviction.
During Clinton’s hearing on January 3, Adrian pulled a surprising reversal, declaring that he would not send the 18-year-old to jail and would change the verdict, instead.
“Mr. Clinton has served almost five months in the county jail, 148 days. For what happened in this case, that is plenty of punishment,” Adrian said, according to a transcript of the proceedings.
The judge noted that Clinton had turned 18 two weeks prior to the incident and had no previous criminal record.
“By law, the court is supposed to sentence this young man to the Department of Corrections. This Court will not do that,” Judge Adrian continued.
He added that the court will find that “the People failed to prove their case” on the count he was already found guilty of commiting.
“The court is going to reconsider its verdict, [and] is going to find the Defendant not guilty on Count 3. And, therefore, the case — the Defendant will be released from custody,” Adrian said in the transcript.
Judge Adrian victim-blamed Vaughan throughout his statement.
Adrian suggested Vaughan’s parents, her outfit choice and her consumption of alcohol played a role in the assault.
“This is what happens when parents do not exercise their parental responsibilities, when we have people, adults, having parties for teenagers, and they allow coeds and female people to swim in their underwear in their swimming pool. And, no, underwear is not the same as swimming suits,” he claimed.
These horrificly common tropes are well-known to discredit victims and enable abusers.
“They allowed 16-year-olds to bring liquor to a party. They provided liquor to underage people, and you wonder how these things happen. Well, that’s how these things happen. The court is totally disgusted with that whole thing.”
Vaughan said she broke down into tears after hearing the judge’s decision to reverse the conviction.
“I immediately had to leave the courtroom and go to the bathroom. I was crying,” she said.
Vaughan’s father said his daughter, who was once a top student and had a promising record, is now facing setbacks in her academic and extracurricular life.
“She was a cross-country runner, she ran in track, she was an honor roll student,” he told WGEM.
“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.”
Cameron Vaughan says Drew Clinton assaulted her while she was asleep.
Vaughan had recounted the assault to WGEM, saying she had “woken up at my friend’s place with a pillow over my face so I couldn’t be heard and Drew Clinton inside of me.”
“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,” she continued.
The judge also criticized the parents in attendance at the party where the assault took place, shaming them for allowing minors to drink and swim in the pool in their underwear, according to the transcript.
The assistant State’s Attorney Anita Rodriguez said she was shocked by the decision and hasn’t seen anything like this in her 40-year career.
“My heart is bleeding for the victim,” Rodriguez told the Herald-Whig.
“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.”
The reversal of the conviction, along with Judge Adrian’s comments at the hearing sends the horrible message of blaming sexual assault survivors instead of the perpetrators, which is never okay.
A petition has been launched to seek justice for Cameron Vaughan.
The petition, which has already garnered over 11,000 signatures, seeks to hold Judge Adrian accountable for “abuse of judicial discretion and power.”
“Judge Adrian does not have the authority to change the law because he wants to. His job is to uphold and defend the law,” the petition reads.