David E. Sullivan: The criminal justice system worked in the trial of a physical therapist

Published: 05/10/2022 18:09:23

Modified: 05/10/2022 18:05:06

A recent letter to the editor of the Daily Hampshire Gazette railed against the conviction and sentencing of former physiotherapist Edward Kostek, who a jury found guilty of sexually assaulting a patient he was caring for.

Unfortunately, the writer resorted to old-fashioned victim blaming when he criticized her for returning to Kostek’s office two more times after the first assault. Research has repeatedly shown that victims often experience a confusing mix of emotions including shock, disbelief and self-doubt following a sexual assault, which sometimes delays reporting to authorities.

Victims also often fear being blamed or not being believed. This is especially true when the abuser is someone in a position of authority or someone you trust, such as someone providing medical care.

The author also sought to undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system as a whole, claiming that charges brought by women almost invariably lead to improper guilty verdicts. In fact, women who come forward with sexual assault allegations face an uphill battle for justice in the courts. On average, less than 3% of sexual assaults nationally result in felony convictions.

In that case, after a two-day trial in which the judge repeatedly reminded the jurors that Kostek was presumed innocent, a Hampshire County jury deliberated carefully and earnestly. No doubt they heeded the judge’s instructions, which included reminding them that the Commonwealth bore the burden of proving Kostek’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest standard of proof available.

The trial included a vigorous defense mounted by Kostek’s constitutionally guaranteed defense attorney, who extensively cross-examined the victim before the jury. The jury deliberated for hours before reaching a unanimous verdict finding Kostek guilty of committing indecent assault and assault on three occasions.

Our criminal justice system will now ensure that Kostek’s convictions are reviewed on appeal for any errors or potential shortcomings. But this review will not challenge the jury’s decision that the victim/survivor in this case was credible and that her testimony rang true.

Ultimately, criminal trials aren’t decided by which side submits more letters of support or packs more supporters into the courtroom; they are decided by common-sense jurors applying the law to the facts proven at trial. It is the foundation of our criminal justice system and in this case, as in most cases, it worked.

David E.Sullivan

Northwestern District Attorney