Monday, September 28, 2009

After 110 days in jail, man falsely accused of rape is released

While Mr. Doke certainly sounds like he is a contentious individual, no one deserves to be falsely accused of rape. The fact that the accusation was levelled by someone with a history of false accusations, and that law enforcement overstepped on this one, would tend to support the claim that if it hadn't been Mr. Doke, this wouldn't have gone as far as it did.

Dismal life after false rape accusation.

As people age, they tend to reflect.

They look back at their accomplishments. They scrutinize failures.

Jim Doke, a “reluctant Greeley resident,” he said, is doing just that. But he can only shake his head in disappointment, hanging onto a dwindling hope that his circumstances will soon become remnants of a bad dream.

He looks back and wonders how a lifetime of riches and success became failures, enough to land him in a dingy downtown Greeley motel for the last two months, with nowhere to go. Staring at four tobacco-stained walls every day, he is comforted only by the noise of CSPAN on the television and the whir of a computer counting his meager $2 stocks.

Doke turned 65 in that tiny room, amid his boxes of Swisher Sweets cigars, uneaten food from Meals on Wheels and memories of his homesteaded farm in Mead.

Several months ago, he still had that home, though he was facing some serious financial troubles. He still had four vehicles. He still had his farming equipment. He thought he had at least one good friend.But the blinding trust of friendship helped shatter Doke's world.

He was accused of rape and jailed for more than three months before officials realized they couldn't prove their case. The woman, a mental patient, apparently lied, prompting even the prosecutor to call her the most “out-of-touch-with-reality victim he'd ever seen.”

But the accusation did its damage — emotionally and financially. He has nothing left.“Even being cleared, there is a fog that's quite heavy that hangs over me,” Doke said. “You can't get rid of it.”

Fueling the fire

Doke's troubles began a few years back when officials in Weld County government ordered him to remove some trailers from his 120-acre property in Mead, a tiny town northeast of Longmont. There, he farmed sod and pocketed a few bucks for his efforts.

The retired airline pilot was admittedly a bit more independent than he should have been. He built a pile of dirt to hide the trailers, but he didn't remove them. Two years later, in 2006, the county had had enough and sent two Weld County Sheriff's Office deputies to serve him civil papers.

One knock on the door led to a 10-hour standoff. As far as Doke was concerned, these two strangers were trespassing, and he had every right not to answer his door. He ignored them until they grew serious enough to bring in the SWAT team. They pummeled his home with 18 canisters of gas. His dog later died.

“They didn't do anything right. They didn't do anything legal,” Doke said of the officers involved the standoff. “They didn't have a right to be there, and the judge told them that. I knew I was within my rights.

“There's plenty of people out here that liked the idea that I stood up for my rights. But there were also plenty of people who said I was some kind of a freakshow for challenging anything a policeman might say.”

Doke was jailed for that incident, but he was acquitted of all charges except one: obstructing a peace officer. While in jail, a female friend, Barbara, wrote to him every day. Then, later, he put a new engine in her truck, but he wouldn't return it to her until she paid him for it. She told police he stole it. He earned a misdemeanor theft by receiving charge, for which he remains on probation today.

“The car was sitting there waiting to be paid for. It was no different than any car dealer would do,” Doke said. “If you want to say I'm a really bad guy because of something like that, I guess you have an argument.”

But the woman's later troubles in a mental hospital invoked Doke's sense of duty to a friend. She had, after all, written to him in jail years before.

Then she accused him of rape in March.

“The rape charge, that should not have been brought,” said Bob Ray, Doke's former attorney who saw him through his other troubles with Weld County but not the rape case. “They should have looked at who was bringing the charges. Had it been anyone else but Jim Doke, they wouldn't have. He was wrongfully accused, wrongfully prosecuted, and that was the final nail in the coffin.”

The accusation

When Barbara needed help, Doke came to her aid. He got her out of a hospital on mental health issues and tried to help her get off her medications. She stayed with him off and on, and he tried to see her through her illness last winter. Then, out of nowhere, she claimed rape, calling police while they were at Walmart waiting on an oil change in her truck. When he went to look for her in the store, he was confronted by police. She had told police that he held her against her will at his home, raped her repeatedly and wouldn't allow her to leave for days. Yet they were at Walmart together, and he was paying for an oil change on her truck so she could go home.

In a flash, Doke was in jail on a $500,000 bond. He swears he never had any sexual relations with her. Their only contact was when she had a seizure and he was trying to help her through it.
During his incarceration, he lost his farm and everything on it, circumstances that were already in motion before then because of a lien he'd placed against the home from a previously bad housing development deal in the late ‘90s. It was just easier to lose the farm when he wasn't there to fight for it. After about 110 days in jail, Doke was released as a free man upon revelations the woman may have falsely accused him.

He sat in the lobby of the Weld County Jail for 20 hours after his release, sitting in uncomfortable loneliness on hard, plastic chairs. Officials had lost his phone; he couldn't remember phone numbers stored in it. He had few longtime friends, many with whom he only corresponded through e-mail, and he didn't want to bother them. His wife, from whom he was separated, his kids, all did not come to help — a story Doke insists is still a bit of a mystery to him. He knows he neglected his family through the years. Maybe they were just embarrassed at the spectacle his charges created.

He had nowhere to go. A little more than a month later, the Weld District Attorney's Office dropped the charges. The woman had made several false accusations before in Jefferson County, and prosecutors realized she wasn't credible — though not so incredible that they'd charge her with false reporting.

“We don't think we can convict on sexual assault, and we don't think we can convict on false reporting,” said Weld District Attorney Ken Buck, stopping short of saying the woman's story was false.

An imperfect system

The door may as well have hit Doke on his backside on his way out of the Weld County Courthouse. While all sorts of measures are in place to help crime victims, there's nothing to help people wrongly charged.

“The system is imperfect,” Buck said. “ ... We don't want to charge innocent people. We don't want to let dangerous people prey on our community. So in between, there are situations where judgment calls are made on one side or the other.”

Greeley attorney Maria Liu knows something about wrongful accusations. Her firm is suing a college student who falsely accused a man of rape. He lost his scholarship at the University of Northern Colorado, housing and was banned from campus.Liu also has represented Timothy Masters, who was freed last year after serving almost 10 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit, and one in which DNA evidence cleared him as a suspect.

“In Colorado, we don't have financial mechanisms or social structures to help people who have been wrongly convicted and wrongly accused,” Liu said. “Whether it's three months in jail or nine years in jail. Still something failed ... and maybe police and prosecutors should be a bit more careful about reviewing evidence.”

Doke is angry. He has no money to retain a lawyer to sue his accuser, or the Weld Sheriff's office or Weld County, which he'd like to do. He can't find a lawyer willing to work on contingency, let alone take on the government.

He is stuck in a judicial system ready to slap him back in a jail cell upon the slightest infraction. His latest concern is that he's being brought up in court for probation violation for not paying fees.

“They not only took my dignity, my reputation and my money and my freedom away, but even cleared of those accusations and the previous ones also, I am ‘that guy,' ” he said. “And, you get the feeling — the distinct feeling — that you're guilty until proven innocent. And that attitude prevails. Even if you're proven innocent, there's still that fog.”

Life after jail

Doke called his former attorney, Bob Ray, from the jail lobby, who gave him money to get a hotel room for a few days. He later moved to another downtown hotel paying $170 a week for a bed, a bathroom and an air conditioner. A childhood friend from Mead, who now lives in Greeley, came to his aid, often helping with trips to Walmart for food and other provisions like rides to court or probation and the seemingly non-stop trips to the Social Security office.

Doke has spent the last two months fighting to keep his Social Security. It was taken from him when he was in jail, and he's had to fight a mountainous bureaucracy to get it back. To this day, he still isn't sure if it will be back for good.

“I don't want to live on the dole,” said Doke, who worked as a commercial airline pilot until he was 51. “I don't mind Social Security because I paid for that.”

He's severely depressed, and he may have diabetes. He can't walk long distances, and he has no health insurance. He lost another tooth recently, which makes chewing food difficult (hence the uneaten Meals on Wheels food). He has no pension because the airlines he worked for went bankrupt. He lost his fortune over a residential housing development in Severance years ago.

“I don't know what is in the future here,” Doke said. “My crystal ball is broke, and I used to be able to tell you and be pretty accurate. Now, I'm lucky to just make it from the bed to the bathroom.”


With few phone calls or visitors into his new home in a town he doesn't know, Doke spends a lot of time thinking on his bed, which takes up much of his living space.

He trades stocks on his computer — about $1,000 and the only insurance fund he has — to try to make another few bucks, as he's too old for work, and physical ailments would prevent it anyway. He built his first fortune on stocks, ending up with a vacation home in Palm Springs, Calif., driving a Mercedes and owning 10 companies at one time.

“I was an entrepreneurial guy. I worked seven days a week, 14 to 16 hours a day every day. I made a small fortune,” he said.

But much of that fortune came at the expense of relationships. Now he wants a second chance at family after years of neglect. He regrets not forming strong bonds with his children. He hopes the love of his life since he was 16 will see him again.

“My life has pretty much been mutilated, and without my family, I'm essentially a walking dead man,” he said.

Thanks to one of our readers for the tip.