Philadelphia Police Consider Charges Against Bystanders During Rape

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Philadelphia. The city of brotherly love, founded by William Penn as a city dedicated to Quaker ideals, including peace and, of course, brotherly love.

Most of that seems to have gone in the crapper since Penn’s time.

Now, the city is as violent as just about any major city in the nation. The idea of brotherly love is, at best, lip service the city pays to its origins but has no meaning otherwise inside the city, much less the surrounding areas.

I mean, someone can be raped on a train and no one do anything about it. That’s not a hypothetical, either. It actually happened. Now, as Ed Morrissey points out at our sister site Hot Air, Philly-area police are considering charges against the bystanders.

The people who stood by and watched a woman get raped on a Philadelphia-area train should certainly face moral judgement for their apathy. Police now warn that they could face criminal prosecution as well. After reviewing surveillance video, investigators not only are sure that the bystanders saw the attack, some of them appeared to have been actively recording it on their cell phones:

The passengers who did nothing while a homeless man raped a woman on a commuter train outside Philadelphia may have also recorded the vile attack on their cellphones instead of calling for help, authorities said.

Surveillance footage showed Fiston Ngoy, 35, who has been charged with rape in Wednesday’s sickening attack aboard a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority train, spent nearly 45 minutes harassing the woman and touched her breast at one point, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Police said the rape then lasted about six minutes as other passengers looked on while holding their cellphones, but didn’t use the devices to call 911, SEPTA’s police chief said Monday.

This reminds me so much of the story of Kitty Genovese. As the story went, Genovese was brutally raped and murdered outside of a New York City apartment building. Windows were open and no one did a thing, including calling the police.

Of course, we’ve since learned that it may not have been quite that bad, but Genovese’s story made its significant mark on me growing up. This feels no different.

And yet, when it comes to charges, I agree with Morrissey:

Prosecuting bystanders, even those who filmed the attack, would likely be a heavy lift. There’s no law against filming in public spaces, a point that police officers sometimes forget when people film them on the job. At least for now, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a Good Samaritan law that mandates reporting when violent crimes are witnessed. Even if they did, it would still be tough to prosecute; every defendant could say that they thought someone else had called 911, for instance.

He goes on to note that there is a sort of precedent for such a prosecution–go read his piece over at Hot Air–but that it’s a stretch.

Personally, my take is that if law enforcement has no duty to protect private citizens, how can we decide other private citizens have such a duty?

On the same token, though, how many of those who floated the idea of prosecuting the bystanders for not intervening in a violent attack also oppose concealed carry? I mean, if you expect people to intervene in this instance–and I agree, someone should have done something–then you should also expect them to intervene in other instances as well. Intervention can lead to the one intervening becoming a victim themselves, which is part of why so many opt not to intervene. Being armed during such an intervene would seem wise.

And yet, concealed carry isn’t popular with many government officials, including high-ranking police, in the Philadelphia area.

Honestly, someone needs to make up their minds. If they’re going to expect intervention from private citizens, they damn well need to get out of folks’ way when it comes to concealed carry. Otherwise, the deaths of well-meaning but unarmed people will be on their heads.