Actress Rose McGowan—one of the first women to come forward when Harvey Weinstein was accused of decades of sexual abuse—will plead “no contest” to a reduced drug charge next week to avoid a criminal trial, according to a statement her lawyer James Hundley gave to USA Today.
A grand jury in Loudoun County, Virginia, indicted McGowan in June on one felony count of cocaine possession after authorities allegedly found traces of the drug in a wallet she left on a plane in 2017. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department issued a warrant for her arrest in February 2017 and McGowan turned herself in that November.
She could have faced up to a decade in prison if she went to trial, but instead, state prosecutors agreed that they will, on her trial date of January 15, accept a “no contest” plea to a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance. The prosecutors will recommend that McGowan be sentenced to pay a fine, according to Hundley.
“Ms. McGowan has accepted this agreement in order to spare her family, her friends, and her supporters the emotional strain of a criminal trial,” he said. “The agreement brings this ordeal to an end and allows her to focus all of her energy on what matters most to her—creating a better world. Ms. McGowan will comment on the day of the plea.”
As a wealthy actress, McGowan will suffer no consequences from paying a fine, and it’s great that she’ll be free to focus on “creating a better world.” But her experience illustrates our horrifically broken criminal justice system.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a speedy and public trial. Yet a shocking 97 percent of federal cases—and 94 percent of state ones—end in plea deals.
Prosecutors routinely engage in coercive plea bargaining, in which they threaten defendants with charges carrying sentences so severe that going to trial is simply too risky. The lesser charges that defendants are pressured into accepting can result in fines, criminal records, and jail time.
“Innocent until proven guilty” is a nice idea. Unfortunately—and at a time when Virginia marijuana arrests have hit their highest level in a decade—it has nothing to do with how our system works.
Image via Hollywood Reporter.