Thursday, February 5, 2009

Man jailed for two weeks for rape lie, can't even expunge his record

Comment: The following news story tells of a grave injustice: A vindictive ex-girlfriend concocted a brutal rape that left the man falsely accused. A four-year Army veteran from Oregon was jailed on $50,000 bail for nearly two weeks, his reputation shattered and his career on the rocks. He can't have his record expunged and he will always carry with him the taint of being a rape suspect. Police say they were initially suspicious -- but they were forced to lock up an innocent man because of state domestic violence laws. This is a travesty of justice. News stories like this are the reason we have this Web site.

Woman who claimed brutal rape lied, DA says

TURNAROUND: Former suspect released after nearly two weeks in jail.

Elisa LaCroix told police her ex-boyfriend held a knife to her throat earlier this month as he brutally raped her, repeatedly punched her in the stomach and threatened to kill her unborn child.

But none of it ever happened, police and prosecutors said Tuesday after LaCroix was herself hit with criminal charges.

Following the initial claim of an assault, 24-year-old Cole Rothacher, a military policeman at Fort Richardson, was jailed on four counts of rape in connection with the alleged attack Jan. 9 that LaCroix told investigators began when she denied him sex.

However, Rothacher wasn't anywhere near her that night, Assistant District Attorney Taylor Winston said. Instead, LaCroix, 20, created a crime scene and inflicted injuries to herself -- including swallowing a condom and stabbing her bed with a knife -- to make it appear she had been raped by her former fiance, according to the charges against her.

"Police and the DA's office were just working on this matter all last week to shore up some things that looked like inconsistencies in what was going on," Winston said. "Through phone records and an assortment of interviews, it became obvious to us that he couldn't have done this crime."

LaCroix, who also goes by Elisa Arts, was arrested Tuesday on charges of tampering with evidence and filing a false report -- a felony -- while already in custody for a felony burglary probation violation. Facing a maximum of six years in prison, LaCroix's bail was set at $2,500.

The charges against Rothacher, a four-year Army veteran from Oregon, left him jailed on $50,000 bail for nearly two weeks, his reputation shattered and his career on the rocks. The case against him was dismissed Friday.

"It hasn't been too pleasant," Rothacher said Tuesday. "Anybody that's known me knew right off the bat that it was false, because I'm not that type of guy.

"It's one thing to go to jail for something you did, but to sit there and just know that you did nothing and then all of a sudden you're in jail, and there's not really anything you can do about it" was frustrating, he said.

Special Victims Unit Detective Jade Baker said he initially had some suspicion about LaCroix's story, but evidence from the scene backed it up and police were required to take action under state domestic violence laws.

"The story that she gave us seemed to be too elaborate to actually make up," Baker said. "Usually a false sexual assault report that a woman makes, if they do make it for sympathy from a spouse, is with some generic suspect that I'm never going to find because he doesn't exist. But she clearly identified this guy."

Among the evidence LaCroix allegedly faked, Baker said, were two condoms, including one she apparently swallowed. Detectives also found injuries to her genitals and a knife stuck into LaCroix's bed that she told them Rothacher put to her neck during the attack, Baker said.

"There was probable cause to believe that a crime was committed," SVU supervisor Sgt. Ken McCoy said. "We were given a very disturbing set of case facts, there was evidence to support the initial arrest and we had a suspect that was identified. So at the time, we felt we needed to take immediate action for the victim's safety."

But as the investigation progressed, evidence was uncovered that revealed LaCroix's claims were "patently false," police Lt. Dave Parker said. Under questioning by police Monday night, LaCroix, who is married to another man, admitted lying and planting evidence, saying her relationship with Rothacher was complicating her marriage and that she wanted to get her lover out of the picture, Parker said. Although 34 weeks pregnant at the time of the alleged rape, she has not yet given birth, police said.

The whole experience rocked Rothacher, who as a military policeman and accused rapist wasn't exactly popular in jail, he said. He'll be able to stay in the military, he said, but his plans to start a career in law enforcement may have evaporated overnight.

"Unfortunately, in Alaska you can't expunge your record," Rothacher said. "So it's going to stay on my record permanently -- as a suspect in a rape case."