Did Levi Johnston steal Bristol Palin's virginity?
Johnston's attorney, Rex Butler, says absolutely not.
This week, Bristol, the oldest daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, this week released a HarperCollins memoir titled "Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far." Bristol claims she drank so many wine coolers on the night in question that she has no recollection of events, and that she woke the next morning with "something obviously askew'' only to be told by a girlfriend that "you definitely had sex with Levi."
Butler disagreed with the part of the story that has Bristol so drunk she didn't know what was happening.
"That's obviously not true," he said.
Several websites have already raised the question of whether Johnston raped Bristol.
Alaska laws says that "an offender commits the crime of sexual assault in the first degree if...the offender engages in sexual penetration with a person who the offender knows is unaware that a sexual act is being committed."
Sexual assault in the first degree is what is commonly known as rape.
Bristol's book clearly paints her as being "unaware that a sexual act" was being committed on the night she lost her virginity.
As she tells the story, the last thing she remembers is sitting by a campfire laughing with friends after consuming a lot of wine coolers. The next thing she remembers is waking up in a tent with Levi's empty sleeping bag next to hers and the sound of friends "outside the tent laughing,'' according to the book. She then texts a female friend, who comes to Bristol's tent to inform her she is no longer a virgin.
Butler, one of Alaska's better known criminal attorneys, admitted that if true the story sounds a lot like rape, but he said the story isn't true. And he seemed a little perplexed that Bristol, who had a child with Johnston, would be telling it.
"That's not a good thing for her son to digest on down the road," Butler said.
What Bristol's mother, Sarah, thinks of all this is unclear. So far she has only Tweeted, as is her style. Sarah's Twitter message said this:
"Bristol's Book: Shocking; Refreshing; Honest; INSPIRING! Perfect. Plus 'Not Afraid of Life' gives insight into how media can drive false narrative. Spot on! (& she's courageous to write what she wrote, warning about decisions/consequences in encouraging way, esp for teens!)"
It is unclear as what "shocking" references, or whether Sarah thinks Bristol's suggestion that losing ones virginity while being passed out drunk (or at least so drunk you've forgotten the evening) is part of a "warning about decisions/consequences in encouraging way, esp. for teens!"
Butler said that although Bristol lied about her sexual encounter with Levi, he doubts his client has much legal recourse. Johnston, who was injected into the Palin whirlwind after Sara decided to run for vice-president, is now a public figure, Butler said. As such, he couldn't win a defamation suit unless he could prove his ex-girlfriend's statements are malicious.
"I don't think anyone would buy that,'' Butler said. The legal bar there is a high one. To prove Bristol's statement malicious, Butler would have to demonstrate she is telling a story she knows to be false. All Bristol would need to demonstrate is that she is telling a story that is true to the best of her recollection.
On the other, if her story is documentable -- if there are witnesses who can support the story as her book indicates -- Johnston could find himself the subject of a rape investigation. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, Palin's successor, has been a staunch advocate of a state crackdown on men who take advantage of women who are incapacitated. He this year advocated, according to the governor's website, that sentences for sex offenses be increased when there were "'aggravating factors,” including the defendant's knowledge that the victim had consumed drugs or alcohol, or a previous dating relationship with the victim."
The story Bristol is now telling about the loss of her virginity has never been told before. In previous interviews, she has at least hinted that she might have been a willing sexual partner, saying that abstinence from sex is "not realistic at all" for teenagers.
Bristol's premarital, teenage sex first became news during Sarah's run for vice-president alongside Arizona's John McCain. The McCain-Palin campaign at the time disclosed Bristol's pregnancy and portrayed her and Levi as two teenagers in love who were making plans to get married. Levi told the Associated Press that he and Bristol had been planning on getting married for a long time.
There was even talk of a possible White House wedding, but things did not go so well and by 2009, Levi and Bristol had split.
A year later, however, they announced in US Magazine that they once again planned to get married. This time over the objections of Sarah and her husband, Todd.
But that second engagement went bust, too. Since then, they have been on unfriendly terms. Levi is now writing his own book.
Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com