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Fourth Circuit Protects Rape Victims' Privacy in Rape "Conclusively Established" Committed by Cenk Sidar, Enquire AI CEO

Fourth Circuit Issued Opinion Protecting Rape Victims' Privacy in Rape "Conclusively Established" to have been Committed by Cenk Sidar, Enquire AI CEO

Court protected rape victim privacy when liability established for refusal to provide DNA sample, holding it was “conclusively established that Cenk Sidar raped Jane Doe in London in September 2017."”
— U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, USA, February 23, 2024 / -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a published Opinion protecting the anonymity of a rape victim whose rapist had liability for the rape established because he refused to provide a DNA sample that would have established his culpability. Doe v. Sidar, No. 23-1177 (4th Cir. 2/21/2024). In doing so, the Fourth Circuit vacated an order issued by Senior Judge Claude Hilton, E.D.Va.

In its Opinion, the Fourth Circuit held that it was “conclusively established that Cenk Sidar raped Jane Doe [the anonymous rape victim] in London in September 2017. Sidar is the CEO of a Washington, D.C.-based Artificial Intelligence company, Enquire AI. [(27) Cenk Sidar | LinkedIn] As the Court explained, [t]he legal effect of a default judgment [issued by the district court for Sidar’s failure to provide the DNA sample] is that [Sidar] is deemed to have admitted the plaintiff ’s well-pleaded allegations of fact . . . and is barred from contesting . . . the facts thus established.” For that reason, we must assume that Sidar “admitted that he . . . raped” Doe and the truth of her allegations about how he did so.

The Fourth Circuit acknowledged that “[t]here is a ‘presumption’ that parties must sue and be sued in their own names and that “[f]or that reason, few cases warrant anonymity.” In this case, the Court held that the district court’s “decision to remove Doe’s anonymity on the eve of the damages-only trial strayed from the ‘legal constraints on’ its discretion in three ways.”

First, the district court failed to adequately take into account the nature and strength of Doe’s legitimate interest in anonymity by seriously understating Doe’s legitimate privacy interests. The Court held that the issues here were not merely sensitive—they involve intimate details of Doe’s sexual assault by Sidar and resulting psychological trauma.

Second, the Fourth Circuit found that the district court’s analysis was legally flawed in its suggestion that fairness considerations invariably cut against anonymity unless the opposing party is also proceeding anonymously. Noting that Sidar had never requested anonymity, the Fourth Circuit held that the fact that Sidar had been found liable for the rape through a default judgment cut in Doe’s favor to use a pseudonym.
Third, the Fourth Circuit found that the district court’s decision was based on a “flawed . . . legal premise[]” because it did not grapple with the fact that its entry of a default judgment tipped powerfully in Doe’s favor. The Court held that because Sidar has already been found liable for raping Doe and that further proceedings will be limited to determining only the damages significantly reduces any “risk of unfairness to” Sidar resulting from Doe’s continued anonymity.

The Fourth Circuit vacated Judge Hilton’s order and remanded it with directions to reconsider in light of this opinion.

Jane Doe was represented by Walter E. Steimel Jr and Thomas F. Urban II.
Walter E. Steimel, Jr. is a civil litigator, transactional and IP lawyer, and managing partner of Steimel Counselors Law Group PLLC in Washington, D.C. and Fort Worth, Texas. He is also a CPA, university adjunct professor of cybersecurity, privacy, and entrepreneurship, and counsel to a leading First Amendment foundation, internet security firm, and international internet news agency, among other companies.

Thomas F. Urban II is a civil litigator with the law firm of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC, in Arlington, Virginia and was recently named a Best LawyerTM for commercial litigation in Virginia. Urban was recently lead counsel for an amicus brief on behalf of several women’s groups such as the National Organization for Women and groups advocating for the protection of sexual assault victims filed in the appeal of the Amber Heard v. Johnny Depp case shortly before that case settled. CAV Record #1062-22-4 (Va. Ct. App.) Currently, Urban is counsel for Subspace omega, LLC in an antitrust lawsuit seeking over $500 million from Amazon Web Services, Inc. in Seattle. Case No. 2:23-cv-01772-TL (W.D.Wa.) Urban is also currently defending a favorable judgment for his clients Jeffrey Lohman and The Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman in a RICO case against an appeal by Navient Solutions, LLC in the U.S. Fourth Circuit. Case No. 23-2109 (4th Cir.).

Thomas F Urban II
Fletcher Heald & Hildreth
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