Chicago

Court records expose names, addresses of women who accused serial groper, despite privacy laws

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s data the general public is not imagined to see. CBS 2 fought for months to maintain such data sealed. Laws have been handed to guard that data, however we discovered it anyway. Full names and addresses of alleged sexual assault victims in a high-profile case; accusers of a serial scooter groper.

More than two weeks in the past, we instructed you a few man accused of driving across the South Loop and West Loop on a scooter, groping women.

The suspect was arrested, and is now out on bond. We needed to search out out extra about his background, however uncovered one other difficulty that made his accusers offended and cringe.

The accusers on this case have been reluctant to come back ahead even to police, for concern of retaliation and public scrutiny; however once we went digging into this case, we discovered their identities and most delicate data was accessible with the stroke of a keyboard.

“I was walking down the street, this was the middle of the day. Someone came up behind me and groped me,” mentioned one lady who was sexually assaulted by the suspected serial groper.

“I was, at first, really shocked and confused,” she mentioned.

The sufferer does not need her identify or face revealed to guard her identification, proper she has below the regulation.

For months, 36-year-old Victor Manuel-Reyes was on the unfastened, and on the general public’s radar, after a number of women got here ahead with the identical story: a person on a motorized skateboard groping them.

“I was groped behind from this man under my shorts,” Paige Ruhnke.

Manuel-Reyes was charged earlier this week with one felony rely of legal sexual assault, one felony rely of aggravated battery in a public place, and one felony rely of aggravated legal sexual assault with bodily hurt.

Police say he was recognized as the person who was groping women whereas driving a motorized one-wheeled skateboard in at the very least two separate incidents.

The CBS 2 Investigators checked Manuel-Reyes’ courtroom records, and located one thing we weren’t imagined to see: the names and addresses of all of the women accusing him of assault.

The CBS 2 investigators have lengthy uncovered the damaging flaw that failed to hide the identities of little one intercourse assault victims.

In 2021, we sat down with Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez, who promised motion.

“These victims have been victims, they’ve been traumatized by this, and it’s important that we protect that identity,” she mentioned.

Because of our investigation, state lawmakers in 2021 handed a pair of new laws to strengthen privacy protections for intercourse crime survivors. Those laws went into impact this year.

So, think about the shock when, simply this week, we pulled up the personal data of alleged victims in Manuel-Reyes’ case. A visit to the Cook County courthouse, a fast search of Manuel-Reyes’ identify on the public kiosk, and we acquired the complete unredacted courtroom report.

Out of respect, we let Manuel-Reyes’ accusers know what we discovered.   

“It’s really scary to know,” one of these victims instructed us. 

“I don’t know who this person is. I don’t know how angry there going to be with me or us after this, what they’re going to do. And so having my name concealed was really important,” one other mentioned.

It’s particularly problematic since Manuel-Reyes is out on bond, in keeping with advocates for intercourse assault victims.

“To have them be in the public eye unnecessarily is another violation,” mentioned Jason Wynkoop, chief program officer at Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, once we introduced him our findings.

We additionally took our considerations as soon as once more to Clerk Martinez, to ask her the way it occurred.

“Probably a combination of many things that are going on,” she mentioned.

Martinez blamed human error, new hires, and hiccups in coaching.

“It was something that we have to continue to educate and work with our technology, making sure our technology is doing what’s it’s supposed to be doing, and making sure our clerks are also checking the information and double-checking to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she mentioned.

Her office sealed the Manuel-Reyes courtroom paperwork as quickly as we introduced it to their consideration, promising new safeguards.

“We are running, thanks to you, daily reports to make sure that if anything needs to be, it’s addressed in that report,” she mentioned.

Martinez mentioned, since January, her office has sealed greater than 2,500 different instances like this one, with hundreds left to go. She hopes this added layer of safety will assist display outdated and new instances that also have to be redacted. 

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