Did Trump’s Border Patrol Chief Make a Rape Threat? A Judge Says Yes.

“Maybe you were the one person in the world that’s never heard of ‘lie back and take it’ as referring to rape,” the judge said.

Dec 2 2021, 3:06pm

The chief of the U.S. Border Patrol during the Trump administration testified that he didn’t believe he was making a threat “in any way, shape, or form” when he told a well-known rape survivor that she should “lean back, close your eyes, and just enjoy the show.” 

Rodney Scott was hauled into court in November after former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd, an outspoken critic of sexual assault within the agency, sought a restraining order against him over his September Twitter post. In court, Scott declared that he was referring to Budd’s “active imagination” when he wrote those 10 words.

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That assertion met with disbelief from San Diego Superior Court Judge Robert Longstreth, who described Scott’s comment as a “classic” rape threat. 

“Maybe you were the one person in the world that’s never heard of ‘lie back and take it’ as referring to rape,” Longstreth said, according to the court transcript reviewed by VICE World News, adding that Scott’s remarks were particularly troubling given the Border Patrol’s reputation for sexism and misogyny.

Scott was head of the Border Patrol until August, when he was pushed out by the Biden administration. He joined a conservative think tank in Texas.

The exchange shed light on what critics have said is a toxic culture within the agency, underscored by the 2019 revelation of a secret Facebook group where Border Patrol agents posted racist and sexist comments. They joked about migrants dying and shared an illustration depicting Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez having oral sex with a detained migrant. 

Scott, a member of the group who was the section chief in San Diego at the time, said then that the group allowed him to communicate with other agents and “know what the workforce is talking about.” He later told investigators that he saw questionable content on two occasions but “did not think those instances rose to the level of reportable misconduct.”

The argument over Scott’s message to Budd started with a tweet he wrote urging voters to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom. “If U believe in transparency & truth U need to vote YES on the recall,” he wrote. Newsom survived the Sept. 14 recall vote.

Budd responded, writing: “You are a traitor to the oath you took,” and linked to an article from the Intercept about Border Patrol agents beating a migrant to death.

Scott replied to Budd’s comment: “So what was for breakfast? I investigated all your allegations. Not a crumb of evidence could be found to support any of them. But I did find out a lot about you. Lean back, close your eyes and just enjoy the show.” His comment generated outrage on social media.

Scott testified in court that he was referring to Budd’s allegations about high-level corruption and a culture of rape within the Border Patrol — claims, he said, that are unfounded. “Lean back, close your eyes,” he said, was a “specific reference to me believing that she has a very active imagination.”

“I never in a million years envisioned it being read any differently,” added Scott, who represented himself at the Nov. 18 hearing.

Scott said he asked “a lot of people” about the tweet after he was condemned for posting it, including 10 to 20 female Border Patrol agents, and they didn’t perceive it as referring to rape.

“You need to get out more, sir,” the judge responded. “You need to get a broader group of people than who you are referring to. You need to, you know, be a little bit more aware, especially in a context where you knew this was an issue with the Border Patrol.”

The judge said the fact that so many people in the Border Patrol don’t realize the comment is inappropriate or know the connotation “shows us there is a cultural problem” within the agency.

At least three current and former Border Patrol agents are facing rape allegations in Arizona. In 2019, Senior Border Patrol agent Gus Zamora was charged with sexually assaulting a lower-ranking female agent. He’s pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in June 2022. Arizona police also arrested Border Patrol agent Steven Holmes in 2019 and accused him of raping multiple women over seven years. He’s pleaded not guilty and his trial is set for next March. Retired Arizona Border Patrol agent John Daly was arrested this year for a series of sexual assaults extending back to 1999. A trial date hasn’t been set in his case.

Former President Donald Trump appointed Scott to lead the U.S. Border Patrol in January 2020, despite concerns about his involvement in the Facebook group. 

An ardent defender of Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, Scott was a polarizing figure. Among other things, he was in charge when agents fired tear gas into Mexico at migrants trying to cross into the U.S. in November 2018. As chief, he actively campaigned for Trump’s reelection. After President Joe Biden won, he refused to follow a directive to stop using the phrase “illegal alien” to refer to undocumented immigrants.

Budd joined the Border Patrol in 1995. During her training in Georgia, she said she was raped by a classmate, an allegation she first made publicly in 2017. Scott said he was aware of her accusation. She said she wanted to go to the police but her instructors told her not to. She stayed with the Border Patrol for another six years.
 
“If [Scott] can get away and thinks it’s funny with making what is a well-known rape threat to a former agent who is vocal about her past and what happened to her in the Border Patrol, then perhaps any one of these agents might seem to think it’s OK to make a threat too, or to take action,” Budd testified.

In addition to seeking a restraining order, Budd asked the judge to order Scott to remove the tweet and issue a written apology to her. 

The judge said he found Scott’s account of his Twitter message “hard to believe,” but that his comments don’t rise to the level of a “credible threat of violence.”

“Do we just live in a world where people are in so much of their universe that it just never crosses their mind that this would be a bad thing? I don’t know,” the judge said. “Can I say by clear and convincing evidence that he deliberately used that choice of words to invoke trauma in somebody that he knew was a rape victim…. I just don’t know if I’m there yet.”

The judge declined to force Scott to issue an apology or delete his tweet. Scott said he would be “taking it down no matter what.” As of Thursday, it remains up. 

Budd told VICE World News that she believed the judge acted fairly. “I accept his decision. I appreciated the opportunity to tell my story and show how the Border Patrol continues to promote and protect their rape culture at the highest levels.”

VICE World News reached out to Scott on Twitter and through the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he is a senior fellow, but he didn’t respond.

Tagged:

world politics, worldnews, 2020 2020 election politics worldnews worldnews-politics trump biden

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