Failed by the legal system, the victim of a violent sexual crime set about making flyers and letting others know about the man who attacked her.
Failed by the legal system, the victim of a violent sexual crime set about making flyers and letting others know about the man who attacked her.

Victim’s shocking revenge on attacker

A WOMAN who was violently groped while going for a jog was so disappointed with the lenient 10-day jail term the serial offender received she took matters into her own hands.

After attacking Ms Clark and another woman in 2013, the man was arrested and told of attacking four more women in the Columbia area of Washington D.C.

But as the case progressed he entered into a plea deal, with charges dropped and downgraded, Ms Clark felt desperate and abandoned by the legal system.

Years passed and despite her efforts to move on, she kept encountering her attacker near her apartment and at restaurants,

So Ms Clark delivered flyers to local businesses with photos of the man. She contacted his workplace and told them of his crimes. Soon he received attention online and was profiled by local media.

More and more women came forward alleging they had been victimised by the chef. Within a month had lost his job as a senior chef at a respected restaurant.

Lauren Clark was tackled and groped by a stranger while she jogged in Columbia, Washington. Picture: Carolyn Van Houten
Lauren Clark was tackled and groped by a stranger while she jogged in Columbia, Washington. Picture: Carolyn Van Houten

THE ATTACK

Ms Clark was jogging when she saw a figure approaching her, which made her consider crossing the street. She reassured herself she was being paranoid as she passed him. Then suddenly he grabbed her and shoved his hand between her legs and pushed her to the ground.

As he pushed her body to the footpath, she managed to flip herself over underneath him and claw at his face with her fingernails. He grabbed her phone and ran away.

Before attacking Ms Clark, the man had been near traffic lights and approached a 27-year-old woman stopped on her motor scooter, grabbing her. She screamed and he fled into bushes. When she got home she called emergency services.

Minutes later he was arrested by police and he confessed to attacking the women.

Ms Clark was keen to nail her attacker. She gathered court documents and police reports and spoke in court about what happened that night in April 2013.

Detectives did initially tell Ms Clark her case was open and shut; the man's crimes meant he would be charged with a felony. He had scratches on his face, he had confessed.

Ms Clark was a hairdresser and the day after her attack she had an appointment with a bride, which she kept, despite her arms being bruised and her face being swollen from the attack.

Later that day she went to a police station and requested police details of her assailant, something available to victims in the USA. She discovered he was 24-year-old Jayro A Cruz. Police had classified the crimes as third-degree sexual abuse by force, a felony, and robbery, also a felony.

But US Assistant Attorney Sharon Marcus-Kurn felt differently, chalking the violence and theft of her mobile up to a series of misdemeanours, releasing Cruz into the world until further hearings.

"It felt like a felony," Ms Clark told The Washington Post. "I feel like this case was handed to every department of the justice system on a silver platter," Ms Clark said. "And they f**ked it up. It blows my mind. This should have been an easy one."

Cruz then brokered a plea bargain with prosecutors, and they began dropping charges. They dropped the theft charge, and two charges of sexual abuse of the woman who he attacked on the motor scooter.

THE SENTENCING TRIAL

Over the four hearings in April 2013, the prosecution revealed a number of disturbing facts about Cruz. Early on it was revealed that the defendant had admitted to committing similar offences on four other women, for which he was never arrested or charged.

Cruz was a chef with a litany of problems which began with his father's alcoholism. His own criminality was attributed to boozing and his lawyers recommended "a plethora of services and programs" designed to "address the core issue" of Cruz's behaviour.

They said the chef had about 20 drinks before setting out and attacking Ms Clark and the other woman.

"Very, very, very few people get intoxicated and walk up to people they've never met, women on the streets, sexually assault them, throw them to the ground and beat them," the trial judge said to Cruz.

"There's no excuse for and there's not a day that goes by where I don't think about what I've done and feel disgusted with myself," Cruz said.

Cruz claimed during his trial that he was disgusted with himself. Picture: The Washington Post.
Cruz claimed during his trial that he was disgusted with himself. Picture: The Washington Post.

The prosecution argued that for the misdemeanour charges, the judge should hand down harsh penalties. They recommended six months for the attack on Ms Clark and three months for the attack on the woman on the motor scooter.

Judge Truman Morrison of the D.C. Superior Court said the crimes were as "serious a misdemeanour as a judge sees," but remarked on wanting to take more time to consider Cruz's genuine remorse.

At the next hearing the judge handed Cruz his 10 day sentence. But Cruz's lawyer piped up to say this could be ruinous for the chef.

"He not only works in the kitchen, he actually is the chef. He runs the kitchen. There's no one above him to run the kitchen," his lawyer explained.

So two weeks later the judge rejigged the sentencing. Cruz would serve his jail term on Mondays and Tuesdays, his days off. He was not placed on the sex offender registry.

He was ordered to live in a halfway house for 80 days and placed on probation for the maximum period of five years. He was additionally prevented from contacting his victims.

 

THE MAN WHO ATTACKED HER IS EVERYWHERE

Ms Clark kept a close eye on her attacker in the years following the attack and he in no way kept a low profile, with restaurants spruiking his cooking skills on their websites.

The downtown Hilton Garden Inn recently wrote a lengthy post about his use of "30 ingredients most have never heard of, plated every so delicately with tweezers."

In 2014, after he was convicted for attacking two women, he was promoted to executive chef at flush restaurant Vidalia. His boss, awarded chef Jeff Bubin said Cruz was "the next generation that's going to push us forward."

She discovered he worked there by googling his name. Vidalia was a block from her new apartment.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm right around the corner from him,'" she said.

Clark discovered by Googling that she was living close by where her attacker worked. Picture: Carolyn Van Houten
Clark discovered by Googling that she was living close by where her attacker worked. Picture: Carolyn Van Houten

She sought a civil protection order, in September 2014, similar to a court ordered apprehended violence order in Australia, that meant for a year Cruz would have to stay a certain distance from her.

The court granted her the order, but a month later she saw him pull into a parking space near her home. That night she cried herself to sleep.

Suffering from panic attacks, Ms Clark began therapy to cope. In 2017, she passed by the Vidalia restaurant with her sister and noticed it had closed down. Realising she wasn't clear on Cruz's whereabouts, she checked his Instagram page and realised he had last year began working at Le Diplomate where she regularly dined.

Thinking that someone who attacked and groped her may have made food she had eaten, she felt sick.

Fed up she looked up the case on her phone and noticed her attacker had been moved from supervised to unsupervised probation with no explanation given.

 

WHAT NOW?

Abandoned by the system, Ms Clark felt compelled to contact Le Diplomate, telling them what their chef had done to her.

Her friend, a bar manager, counselled her to write a letter but not direct her anger towards the business itself, who were completely unaware of Cruz's crimes.

After distributing these flyers word soon spread online and in the local media about Cruz and more victims started to come forward Picture: The Washington Post
After distributing these flyers word soon spread online and in the local media about Cruz and more victims started to come forward Picture: The Washington Post

Ms Clark also distributed flyers across the D.C. area with pictures of Cruz and screen shots from the court documents, headlined, "This man has assaulted six women in D.C."

It didn't take long for social media and press to catch on to the story.

Local press profiled the chef and Facebook threads detailed personal accounts of his alleged bad behaviour.

More victims took accounts to The Washington Post, including one woman who alleged she met him on OkCupid before he molested her while she was asleep after being intoxicated. She claims she woke to find herself unclothed, with no recollection of what had happened.

Two months after Ms Clark had sent the letter and posted flyers about her attacker, he was no longer employed by Le Diplomate.

 

WORKING WITH CRUZ

Co-owner of three bars that had employed Cruz said: "I vaguely remember hearing that Cruz had a run-in with the law, but it was characterised as a bar fight … We would never knowingly hire or work with someone who had been convicted of sexual assault."

 

Julianna Clarke says she experienced inappropriate touching and forced sexual contact in the workplace by Cruz. Picture: Katherine Frey
Julianna Clarke says she experienced inappropriate touching and forced sexual contact in the workplace by Cruz. Picture: Katherine Frey

Another employee had a different story. Julianna Clarke had worked under him at Vidalia, said she had slept with him and claimed he "manipulated me into this relationship and I could never ever say 'no'."

She described how he would pick on her at work and grope her in the restaurant when no one could see. Julianna claimed Cruz pressured her into having sex and would touch her inappropriately in the storage room.

He later wrote her an email apologising for making work "a living hell for her".

"I hurt you in both professional and private ways and I'm sorry for that," he wrote.

Ms Clark had her case re-heard in front of the same judge after her lawyer argued that failure to notify the victim about Cruz's last hearing was a violation.

She explained to the judge that she now understands why survivors of sexual assault don't report their cases.

"It's like signing up to be re- traumatised."

The judge apologised to Ms Clark and reinstated the supervised probation for her attacker. But of course, the five year period which Ms Clark had survived being haunted by her attacker was almost over.

He received mandated assessments and was monitored but only for about a year, according to The Washington Post.

Cruz provided the following statement when contacted for comment by The Washington Post:

"In this day and age I believe it is important that women have space to talk about sexual assault and their recovery from trauma.

"Those stories are important and deserving of respect. I do not believe the addition of my story at this time will help move the conversation forward.

"For the people I have hurt I can only hope that they are able to find peace. There is no excusing my actions. I cannot take them back but will continue to try and learn from my mistakes in hopes that I make up for the harm I have caused."

 

 

He was a chef of some fame in the D.C. area. Picture: The Washington Post
He was a chef of some fame in the D.C. area. Picture: The Washington Post

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