Saturday, March 28, 2009

With a rape allegation, it's not a question of 'if' it will destroy a man's life but 'how'

The motivation was money, and they destroyed a small businessman.

Motorcycle dealer acquitted of rape

Thursday, March 26, 2009
By Daniel Malloy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Frank Terry Sanford let out a sigh of relief yesterday as the jury foreman read the words "not guilty."

Mr. Sanford, 65, is not going to prison, but the damage to his reputation and livelihood, he said, cannot be undone.

Mr. Sanford was the owner of the Spirit Harley-Davidson dealership in Shaler in 2006 when two employees leveled accusations of rape and sexual assault, and he was arrested.

A little more than a year later, the dealership was forced into bankruptcy after Harley-Davidson Co. announced it would cut ties with the dealership, in part because of the allegations against Mr. Sanford. (In a separate case, Mr. Sanford was convicted of simple assault in 2007.)

The shop was eventually sold to Gatto Cycle Shop at a significant discount.

Mr. Sanford said, in addition, the charges and resulting news media attention did untold damage to his family.

This week, before Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman, one of the accusers testified that Mr. Sanford groped her even though she told him no. The other said Mr. Sanford raped her.

Defense attorney John Elash tried to cast doubt on the case presented by Assistant District Attorney Ed Scheid by bringing up the checkered pasts of the accusers, who Mr. Elash said had worked as exotic dancers and used drugs.

The motivation, Mr. Elash said, was money. Both accusers, who are friends, filed civil claims seeking monetary damages.

After the verdict, Mr. Sanford, sporting a Harley-Davidson tie, gave a wistful smile and said he's not sure what his future holds.

"I have to start over," he said.