Sometimes you have to look at the justice system and just wonder. In this case, a millionaire basically got away with barely a tap on the wrist after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a black maid at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
According to the Washington Post, the incident started Jan. 19 as the nation prepared for the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The millionaire, identified as John Joseph Boswell, the chief executive office of Independent Stave Co., a barrel-manufacturing company, and the maid were in his room on the 10th floor of the hotel.
As the hotel employee made his bed, he approached her from behind and began rubbing her buttocks, a police report noted.
According to the report, the maid froze in shock and then apologized, exclaiming, “Sorry, sir. Sorry, sir!”
When another maid came out from the bathroom, Boswell “immediately moved,” according to the report. The first maid ran out of the room, shaking, telling her co-worker that she would have to clean it by herself.
When the second maid tried to make the bed, Boswell approached her, too, and “placed his hand on the top of her shoulder” until she ordered him to sit down.
Fast-forward to last month, when Boswell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual abuse in D.C. Superior Court and was sentenced to a mere 10 days in jail and six months of probation. Jail time, however, was ultimately suspended, because of course it was.
Despite pleading guilty, Boswell, who is married and has three young children, maintains his innocence, according to the Post.
“I patted her on the lower back,” Boswell, 70, told the Post. “It was just a friendly gesture.”
“He took advantage of [her] while she was working, vulnerable, and alone,” Vivian Kim, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote in an email to Boswell’s attorney.
The contrast in power between the two could not be more pronounced. The woman was identified as an African immigrant who cleans rooms for $20 an hour. Boswell, meanwhile, is at the head of the world’s largest wine-and-whiskey-barrel manufacturer and lives in a 14,000-square-foot, $7 million mansion in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
He has contributed more than $120,000 to Republican candidates and other conservative groups over the past 25 years, according to the Post. Not always a Trump fan, he initially backed Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida before eventually embracing Trump and booking a room at the Mayflower to celebrate the inauguration.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about Boswell’s case, then, is the fact that he actually got caught (although his “punishment” leaves questions as to whether it’s even a punishment).
The Post notes that such incidents plague the hotel industry, where half of employees say they have been sexually assaulted or harassed by a guest. Many decline to report these incidents because the housekeepers, who are often immigrants or women of color, fear losing their jobs.
In Boswell’s case, neither women reported the incident, but the next day another co-worker told a manager what happened and the police were called in. Boswell was arrested and jailed alongside some 200 inauguration protesters, including those accused of smashing store windows and torching a limousine.
He was released the following afternoon. According to the Post, his attorney, Bernard Grimm, pushed for prosecutors to allow him a deferred sentencing agreement, under which Boswell would have admitted to guilt but then, after a short time span of good behavior, could have withdrawn his guilty plea, the Post notes.
In the end, on April 11, Boswell pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a scant $50 into the crime victims’ compensation fund, which is about one-fifth of the maximum penalty for the crime and not even considered pocket change, considering his $600,000 monthly take-home pay.
Although Boswell is technically on probation, the judge and prosecutor have allowed him to travel overseas, including a trip to the Bahamas last month. Toward the end of May, he is scheduled to spend two weeks in the Dominican Republic for a family reunion.
As for the woman he assaulted? She is reportedly so terrified by a visit from Boswell’s defense team to her apartment that she moved, according to a co-worker.
“Whenever she would talk about it,” a co-worker said, “she would cry.”