Friday, April 25, 2008

Mall 'rape' turns out to be a lie

A woman who set off a public alarm by alleging she was raped Sunday at The Avenues mall but then recanted has been charged with filing a false police report. Toshanda Nicole Mann, 25, was issued a notice to appear in court on the misdemeanor charge. Police initially said they wouldn't file charges after she recanted Tuesday, but the citation was issued after further investigation, said Lt. Annie Smith, head of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office sex crimes unit. Smith said Thursday police are unsure why Mann made up the story. She said Mann, who has no criminal record, was embarrassed and apologetic but must be held accountable. "It started off as a little lie that snowballed and ended up into something that ultimately she could not get out of," Smith said.

Mann told police she was attacked Sunday in a second-floor bathroom by a man who had stalked her. She said the attack occurred about 4 p.m., but there were no witnesses. She told friends and went to the hospital, where police were called. Police and mall representatives issued statements about the attack and offered safety tips. Smith said she noted people were blogging about their concern over the woman's allegation. Those comments turned to bewilderment after police initially indicated that they would not file charges after she recanted. But Smith said that had nothing to do with the decision to charge Mann.

Police said this is the first local case in recent memory in which a woman has been charged with filing a false report after recanting a rape claim. Smith emphasized that victims of sex crimes should not be afraid to call police and that all claims will be thoroughly investigated. "We are not looking to put people in jail who want to report crimes that actually occur," Smith said. jim.schoettler@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4385

Comment: Another story that strangely mentions an interest in the false accuser's motive. Would anyone give a whit about a rapist's motive? I would think not. And how, pray tell, Officer Smith, is a lie about a rape a "little white lie"? A lie that will cause public fear and cause women to look at men as potential rapists. Branding it a "little white lie" seems to lie at the heart of the problem of why false accusations are not afforded the seriousness they deserve.