The Corner

Law & the Courts

Al Franken May Be Guilty of a Sex Crime

The picture of Al Franken apparently groping a sleeping Leann Tweeden isn’t just repugnant; if he committed this act in multiple American jurisdictions, he’d be guilty of a crime. For example, in my home state of Tennessee, the felony of “sexual battery” would clearly cover Franken’s behavior. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-13-505 defines sexual battery as follows:

(a) Sexual battery is unlawful sexual contact with a victim by the defendant or the defendant by a victim accompanied by any of the following circumstances:

(1) Force or coercion is used to accomplish the act;

(2) The sexual contact is accomplished without the consent of the victim and the defendant knows or has reason to know at the time of the contact that the victim did not consent;

(3) The defendant knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated or physically helpless; or

(4) The sexual contact is accomplished by fraud. [Emphasis added.]

A separate section of the Tennessee code defines “sexual contact” as “the intentional touching of the victim’s, the defendant’s, or any other person’s intimate parts, or the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victim’s, the defendant’s, or any other person’s intimate parts, if that intentional touching can be reasonably construed as being for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.” A person’s “intimate parts” include the “primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock or breast of a human being.”

I use Tennessee law as an example simply because I’m most familiar with it, and Franken would have a defense against similar claims brought in other jurisdictions — either that he didn’t actually touch Tweeden or that the purpose wasn’t “sexual arousal or gratification.” But this is just one law. New York prohibits “forcible touching.”

A person is guilty of forcible touching when such person intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose:

1. forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire;

Obviously, prosecution would be difficult — combining statutes of limitations questions with jurisdictional issues (where was the picture taken? what law applies?) — but I highlight these statutes simply to note the gravity of Franken’s actions. And I’m just analyzing here the incriminating picture. Don’t forget, Tweeden also accuses Franken of forcibly kissing her and putting his tongue in her mouth. Unless there is missing context or more to the story than Franken’s lame excuse of a joke gone awry, then Franken should step down. There’s no room in the Senate for a man who has likely committed a sex crime.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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