A Powerful Conversation About Victims’ Rights with Attorney Angela Povilaitis

This episode is incredibly special as Danielle McGuire and I speak with attorney Angela Povilaitis, who is a nationally recognized voice for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.

Currently, Angela is an attorney with the State of Michigan whose work focuses on sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crime victim rights issues.

Prior to that, she was a senior attorney in the State Attorney General’s Criminal Division, and lead prosecutor on multi-victim domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault cases. 

And for 12 years, she served as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Wayne County, working on cases of child abuse, child and adult sexual assault, child homicide, and other felony cases.

Povilaitis gained worldwide attention in 2018 as lead prosecutor in the case against former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar, who was convicted in January 2018 of sexually assaulting numerous young girls. 

Attorney Povilaitis was instrumental in arranging for more than 200 of Nassar’s victims to give impact statements to the court during his sentencing hearing, while the world watched live on television. This was perhaps one of the defining moments of the #MeToo movement. 

In this episode of Conversations, Povilatis talks about her journey to becoming a prosecutor, what led her to focus on sexual and domestic violence cases, and what it means to be victim centered, offender focused, and trauma informed. 

She also talks about three distinct cases that I’d like to provide some background about to give you context. 

The first case: The People vs. Father James Rapp 

Rapp was a Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting young boys at Lumen Christian High School in Jackson, MI, in the 1980s. In 2015, Povilaitis filed 19 sexual assault charges against Rapp, who eventually pleaded no contest. The night before Rapp’s sentencing in April 2016, Povilaitis organized a dinner and meeting for about 10 victims. The next morning, several gave impact statements during the sentencing.

The second case: The People vs. Calvin Kelly  

The defendant was an interstate truck driver serial rapist who preyed upon vulnerable women, including those struggling with drug addiction and poverty. Led by Povilaitis and her cold case sexual assault team, the Michigan Attorney General’s office linked Kelly to 11 reported rapes in 4 states spanning over 20 years. Povilaitis issued charges in 2014 and after many adjournments, delays, and appeals, a two-week jury trial began in September 2017 where 3 victims testified. Kelly was acquitted despite overwhelming evidence. Shortly after his acquittal, Kelly was charged with three rapes in Tennessee. At the time of this podcast, he remains in jail awaiting trial.   

The third case and most widely known: The People vs. Larry Nassar 

Nassar is one of the most prolific sexual abusers in US history, having abused well over 500 victims. His criminal case began with a report from one victim in August 2016 and quickly grew to hundreds of athletes from over a dozen different sports, ranging from gold-medal-winning Olympians and National Team members to club-level gymnasts.  

But before the world knew his name, a case was built and led by Povilaitis and her team from the MSU Police department and Attorney General’s office.  

As the lead prosecutor on his state sexual abuse charges, Povilaitis issued charges, presented evidence, questioned witnesses, and drafted a historic plea agreement where more than 200 victims gave impact statements while the world watched and learned the horrors of sexual abuse and trauma.  

If this wasn’t enough exceptionalism for this episode, there’s more.

I took the backseat and welcomed Danielle McGuire to host this episode. 

Danielle is an award-winning author and historian of racial and sexual violence. Her first book, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance–a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (published by Knopf) won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award and the Lillian Smith Award and is used widely in colleges around the country.

Danielle is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and has appeared on National Public Radio, BookTV (CSPAN), CNN, MSNBC.com, and dozens of local radio stations throughout the United States and around the world. 

This is truly a dynamic duo.

So without further ado, here is the far-reaching conversation between Angela Povilaitis and Danielle McGuire.

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