Grand jury declines new charges in groundbreaking Kansas rape case

Madison Smith during an interview in Lindsborg, Kan. (AP Photo/Heather Hollingsworth)
Madison Smith during an interview in Lindsborg, Kan. (AP Photo/Heather Hollingsworth)((AP Photo/Heather Hollingsworth))
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 8:51 AM CDT
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McPHERSON COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) - Madison Smith, whose case made international news after being featured in the Washington Post last May, convened her own grand jury after a county prosecutor refused to file sexual assault charges against her alleged rapist.

According to a release from Justin Boardman, a retired detective who advocates for sexual assault victims, attorneys informed Smith on Tuesday that the grand jury had concluded and declined to file charges.

Smith told the Washington Post on Tuesday that while she felt numb and angry at the outcome, she had no regrets about pursuing the case. “I definitely feel we brought a lot of awareness to the fact that a lot of sexual assaults get pushed under the rug and ignored,” she said. “From the very beginning, I have said I want my day in court, and I got it. Even though it didn’t go the way I hoped, I know I tried as much as I could.”

Smith reported that she had been raped on Feb. 11, 2018. Smith alleged that what began as consensual first-time sex between Smith and college classmate Jared Stolzenberg escalated to violence when he began to strangle her.

County Attorney Greg Benefiel, who initially prosecuted the case, called what happened to Smith “immature sex.” Eventually, the county attorney filed a charge of aggravated battery for the strangulation, but declined to file rape and other sexual assault charges because Ms. Smith did not verbally revoke consent while being strangled.

Stolzenberg pleaded guilty to a single count of battery and was sentenced to only 24 months of probation.

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