On April 18, 1987, at a local bar, 23-year-old waitress Sarah Tobias (Jodie Foster) is brutally gang raped by three men who are cheered and encouraged by onlookers. Based upon a lack of strong evidence, including Sarah's own checkered past and her demeanor before the rape, Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis) offers the three men a plea bargain to a lesser offense which, although having a similar sentencing range, would make them eligible for parole sooner.
Enraged, Sarah feels betrayed by Murphy. Against advice of the District Attorney, Murphy prosecutes three onlookers for their solicitation in encouraging the other men to rape Sarah. At trial, Sarah is finally able to tell her story, but is unable to identify the onlookers. A conviction seems unlikely until the fraternity brother of one of the attackers testifies in a flashback as to what he recalls. With all three onlookers convicted, Sarah's attackers will likely not be paroled.
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