In February 2009, A.A. member and hotline volunteer, Russel C. Mentzer Sr., was acquitted on rape charges. Here’s the story:

Russell C. Mentzer Sr. this afternoon denied raping a woman who claimed he assaulted her after she called an Alcoholics Anonymous hot line for help in November 2007.

Mentzer, 45, of Middlesex Township, who was manning the hot line, told a Cumberland County jury that the woman asked to come to his house and willingly had sex with him. She seemed to be only slightly intoxicated, he said.

He admitted to lying about having sex with her when police first questioned him, but said he did so because he thought the rape accusation would go away. Mentzer said he admitted to having sex with the woman after DNA showed he had intercourse with her.

The woman testified Monday that Mentzer prompted her to drink several glasses of wine until she became incoherent. She said she didn’t remember having sex with him, but awoke naked in his bed with Mentzer beside her.

And here’s the outcome:

 After deliberating for six hours, a Cumberland County jury this afternoon acquitted Alcoholics Anonymous hot line volunteer Russell C. Mentzer Sr. of charges that he had raped a female caller.

The woman claimed during Mentzer’s three-day trial that he had her come to his home in November 2007, prodded her to drink wine and had sex with her when she blacked out. She said she couldn’t recall the sex, however.

Mentzer, 45, of Middlesex Twp., said he and the woman had a consensual sexual encounter.

The woman declined comment on the verdict. Mentzer applauded it and said he will pray for his accuser.

Legally – in this case – this is not rape. Ethically, however, Mr. Mentzer was entirely in the wrong. Any conscientious, responsible AA member would say that his first course of action should have been to counsel her over the phone, and failing that, to help her find a meeting ASAP, and failing that, to direct her to an available female AA member for support. What he, of all people, should never have done is to invite a vulnerable, intoxicated woman to his home. He violated the “norms” of AA, but he didn’t violate AA, because AA doesn’t exist as an accountable, responsible entity. “Norms” are not policy or standards. There is no policy, no standards. Until there is accountability, what happens in AA is AA, and no one can argue otherwise.

No matter what a reasonable and responsible AA member would say about what he should have done, what Mentzer did does not fall outside the bounds of AA, because there are no bounds. There is nothing in the steps or the traditions, nothing about qualifications for manning the hotline, that prohibits him from offering alcohol to an alcoholic. But, as an AA member, what he believes is that once an alcoholic has had a drink, she is powerless to resist another one. And, so his defense that she was willing and only “slightly intoxicated” completely undermines the program. He also believes that she is unable to consent while drunk. And he gave her another one and another…. And then he had sex with her.

 And now he prays for her. And he is just sicker than others. And he does not represent AA (no one does; not even AAWS, Inc.). And this is an exception. And the victim has to “look at her part” and not be resentful or angry. Hey, which one of these people do you think is going to be shunned and gossiped about at AA meetings from now on? Which one of these people is a sponsor? Which one is on the pity pot?

Maybe she should try a different group?