Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Woman in jail for lying to police

Story here

False report of assault results in 90-day sentence

REDWOOD CITY — A San Mateo woman who lied about being sexually assaulted at gunpoint after her car supposedly broke down in Foster City was sentenced Tuesday to 90 days in jail for filing a false police report.

Karen Galila, 24, was immediately ordered into custody by a San Mateo County commissioner and handcuffed, prompting the convicted woman to sob openly in court. Prosecutors were surprised by the severity of the verdict.

"Remanding someone into custody is pretty dramatic for a misdemeanor and conveys how bothered the commissioner was with this woman's conduct," Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Galila had told police she was assaulted on the night of June 12 by three men who saw her stranded in her Jeep Liberty after it broke down on northbound Foster City Boulevard over state Highway 92. She said that the men first offered to push her car, then threatened her at gunpoint, struck her on the head and raped her at a nearby office park.

One week after reporting the bogus attack, Galila admitted to police that she had lied about the whole thing, Foster City police Capt. Jon Froomin said.

Authorities concluded that Galila had invented the story after forensic evidence from the woman's car led to a 25-year-old San Mateo man already wanted on outstanding warrants.

Officers tracked the man down, questioned him about the night of the attack and learned that he had a solid alibi: a dinner date with Galila herself.

The pair had met recently in an online chat room and spentthe night at a restaurant, according to Galila's probation report. The time of their date coincided with the time frame of the alleged sexual assault, authorities said.

What led the woman to invent the sexual assault? Her marriage, authorities said.

"Our belief all along was that the motive for this lie is that she needed an explanation as to why she came home to her husband at midnight," Wagstaffe said.

Galila lied first to officers and then to a licensed sexual assault counselor about the crime, prompting prosecutors to charge her with two counts of filing a false police report. She pleaded no contest to one count in December in exchange for no more than 90 days in jail.

Galila was sentenced to serve the maximum penalty Tuesday and ordered to pay nearly
$5,000 in restitution to the Foster City Police Department to cover its bill for investigating the fake crime.

Defense attorney Earl Jiang asked the commissioner to show Galila leniency, arguing that his client could not tend to her 2-year-old child in jail. But prosecutors argued that Galila's lies — which almost landed an innocent man in jail — deserved a more severe punishment.

"The greatest fear in the criminal justice system is the conviction of an innocent person," Wagstaffe said. "We go to the greatest lengths to avoid that."

Galila will not necessarily spend all 90 days in the county jail. She has the option of applying to the Sheriff's Office to serve her sentence in a work-release program.

Staff writer Michael Manekin can be reached at 650-348-4331 or by e-mail at mmanekin@bayareanewsgroup.com.