In New York Dailies, Three Very Different Rape Trials

Three New York daily newspapers carrying three different accounts of the rape trial of a Saudi prince's friend on Monday posted stories so varied you'd be forgiven if you didn't realize they were all about the same thing.

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Three New York daily newspapers carrying three different accounts of the rape trial of a Saudi prince's friend on Monday posted stories so varied you'd be forgiven if you didn't realize they were all about the same thing. The New York Post, the New York Daily News, and The New York Times all covered the testimony of a woman who says 60-year-old Mustapha Ouanes, a member of the traveling entourage of an unnamed Saudi prince, raped her in the Plaza Hotel in January 2010. The student says Ouanes had sex with her while she was unconscious in his hotel room, having passed out after a night of drinking. Ouanes says the sex was consensual, and that he's the victim of a shakedown because of his ties to Saudi royalty.

  • At 736 words, The Times' account is by far the longest and most detailed, outlining, as its headline promises, "two accounts of acts by a man with royal ties." Oddly, though it details the two sides' accounts of the night in question, it lacks any description of the atmosphere in the courtroom or the disposition of the accuser and accused. The two sides' accounts are roughly the same length, but the prosecution's is slightly longer and includes the exciting detail that the victim "fought to free herself, eventually breaking a glass that she had intended to use as a possible weapon to slice Mr. Ouanes’s throat." It mentions the prosecutor's claim that police found the victim and her friend "huddled in the bathroom of Mr. Ouanes’s room, 'so frantic, so devastated' that they could barely explain what had happened." Ouanes's attorney is quoted characterizing that distress as "theatrics" after Ouanes refused the woman's offer to have sex for money. All in all, it's a balanced, salacious look at what is at best a very regrettable drunken night and at worst a case of premeditated rape by a rich and powerful man.
  • The Daily News's 180-word account reads much more like a straight-ahead brief, and it hurts for details. The headline, "Ex-Seton Hall student says she was raped at Plaza Hotel," mentions the victim's former school, but not Ouanes's royal connection. After the intro and nut graf, there are two paragraphs quoting the prosecution's opening statement and one summarizing the defense, but no quotes from the defense lawyer. In describing the accuser's testimony, there's no mention of tears. Only that she "became emotional as she identified Ouanes and had to leave the witness stand for several minutes."
  • The Post, in its 179-word account, focused on the tears the accuser shed as she identified Ouanes: " 'He’s wearing a red tie,' the 28-year-old Brooklyn bartender said, dissolving into tears as she pointed at Moustapha Ouanes and brought a temporary halt to the trial." It also leads with the woman's school affiliation, describing her as a Seton Hall student (not former). Probably the two biggest things that set off the Post's coverage are the fact that it puts the word "rape" in quotes in the headline (it described her in a previous story as a "victim," in quotes), and that it doesn't mention Ouanes is a member of the prince's entourage. It just describes him as a "married 60-year-old engineer, whose clients include the Saudi royal family."

Overall, if you want the quickest summary possible of the testimony, grab the Daily News. If you want to indulge in a little victim-scorning, pick up the Post, and if you want to revel in the scandalous details of both sides' versions of the night in question, go with The Times.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.