The approach taken by the DA's office in this case is a four part one - requesting an
unreasonably high bail, mounting an attack in the media, cutting Mr. Jovanovic off from
friends and work, and mounting an unprecedented attack on Mr. Jovanovic's privacy in a
desperate attempt to find evidence where none existed.
Linda Fairstein, the lead prosecutor, demanded a bail of $500,000 when the initial
charges were brought against Jovanovic. The only evidence in the case was an series of
absurd and unsupported allegations made by Madam X, two weeks after she alleged the
incident occurred. Mr. Jovanovic has no criminal record and has never been accused of
sexual misconduct of any sort before. He had lived in the same apartment for eight years
while he worked on his doctorate at Columbia, which he was due to defend on December 20th,
1996. His parents live in the same neighborhood as well, and he grew up there. Given this
background, and his impeccable personal and academic credentials, he would have been a
perfect candidate to be released on his own recognizance. Instead, the lead prosecutor
demanded an utterly unreasonable figure for bail. The judge presiding over the case
reduced the bail to $350,000, still a vast sum of money. Given the utter lack of flight
risk, it seems clear that the intent of the prosecutor's demand for such high bail was to
imply that Mr. Jovanovic must be guilty, and to hinder his ability to defend himself from
the charges. While in jail, one's access to friends, family and resources is severely
limited, and it puts the accused at a tremendous disadvantage.
Authorities made a series of sensationalistic and fabricated claims to the media,
followed by an irresponsible and widely publicized call for other victims to come forward,
in spite of there being no evidence for other victims (see The DA
& The Media for details). This sort of attempt to destroy the accused's reputation
and have him judged guilty in the media is a gross misuse of power. Through their position
of public trust, the police and DA have easy and generally unquestioned access to the
media. When the authorities take advantage of their access to the media in this manner,
and use it to smear the accused by making false statements, it interferes with the
accused's right to a fair trial, since it biases potential jurors (see Commentary).
The police seized two computers, 3 hard drives, a CD-ROM drive, a Jaz drive, a Zip drive, 581 floppy disks and 47 CD-ROMs, explaining: "He's really into computers and we're hoping that there are some clues there," (NY Post,12/8/96). Among the data, files and backups seized were several years worth of research data, Jovanovic's doctoral thesis, manuscripts for six research papers, two book manuscripts, including one under contract with the Avalon Hill Publishing Company, business files, personal correspondence, and a number of design projects Jovanovic was working on.
One of the computers was the BBS system for the Columbia University and Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center Macintosh User Groups, the other was used to maintain a number of web sites, including web sites for the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and the eMedia Corporation.
Over three years later, not a single computer has been returned by the prosecution. What right do authorities have to indiscriminately confiscate and search through personal material, much less disrupt and destroy a tremendous amount of work in progress, causing severe financial and personal damage to Mr. Jovanovic, based on unsupported and absurd accusations? Is this reasonable search and seizure? It appears more malicious than anything else.
In addition to confiscating computers and data, the DA's office contacted AOL and Columbia, accessed Jovanovic's AOL and Columbia email accounts, destroying his AOL account in the process, and freezing his Columbia accounts. Not only does this represent an incredible invasion of privacy - these accounts were used for private personal, business and research purposes - but the destruction and freezing of the accounts cut off his communications with friends and associates. Jovanovic's AOL account was also used for business purposes, and its destruction actually had significant financial repercussions.
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