A University of Iowa professor was arrested Friday afternoon for allegedly asking female students to let him fondle their breasts in return for an "A" grade for the class.
Arthur Herbert Miller, 66, of 1700 N. Dubuque Road, faces four counts of bribery, a class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He was admitted to the Johnson County Jail at 3:56 p.m. Friday and released early Saturday.
Under Iowa law (as is the law in most states), a public employee who agrees to perform a discretionary act in exchange a thing of value is guilty of bribery. A sexual favor is a thing of value. See McDonald v. Alabama, 329 So. 2d 583, 587-88 (1975) (affirming conviction of judge who gave lenient sentence in exchange for sex); (more sources).
If Professor Miller did indeed agree to a grades-for-sex scheme, then he's likely guilty of bribery.
Why did he get charged with bribery? Simple. Prosecutors wanted to charge him with something.
They couldn't charge him with sexual battery, since the female students either rebuffed his offer or agreed to expose themselves. He didn't force himself on any of them.
Consent is a tricky issue in these cases. If Professor Miller had said that he would lower a student's grade unless she let him fondle her breast, he would be guilty of sexual battery. The contact in that situation would not be consensual. Threatening to withhold something from someone that she is legally entitled to is different from promising to give someone something that she is not entitled to.
In this case, Professor Miller did not say, "I'm going to flunk you unless you show me your breasts." Rather, he allegedly said, "I'll make it worth your while to show me the goods." He did not threaten to take something away. He promised to give something extra.
While a bribery case can be made against Professor Miller, should he really be prosecuted in the criminal justice system for engaging in what would otherwise be sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is indeed a serious affront to human dignity. Should it be criminal conduct, though? Or should we leave it to the civil justice system to deal with Professor Miller's alleged misconduct?