Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Death of two-time false rape accuser is given the tragic movie star treatment

Yesterday, April Rose Ibbotson, a troubled 20-year-old, was found dead in Ontario of unknown causes.  She is remembered in a 1,102 word obituary in the Ontario Sun Times that chronicles her fun loving nature, troubled past, and chronic heart condition.  She is called "a happy girl who, despite her troubled past, was always joking and laughing and would do anything for anyone." Someone who knew her said: "She was an awesome girl."  A friend on a social networking site said: "This is definitely one life that was cut too short!!"

The story, in its tone and length, is the kind usually reserved for troubled young celebrities whose excesses have led to tragic deaths. It is the kind of heartrending, humanizing story you would never read about a 20-year-old male who had pled guilty to rape, for instance, regardless of how troubled his past or how fun loving his nature.

To put the length of the story into perspective: today's New York Times contains the obituary of Albert J. Rosenthal, former dean of Columbia Law School: it was 298 words in length. 

Interestingly, you have to read 765 words into the story about Ibbotson before you read a single word about her two false rape accusations. 

Regular readers of this blog might remember Ms. Ibbotson because we've previously featured her here. Perhaps the most distinctive point about her cases is the following: the news accounts chronicling her false rape claims always made sure to mention the beating and stabbing of a black man that occurred in the same vicinity, shortly after Ibbotson's second accusation, after he was falsely accused of rape by persons at a restaurant. The news accounts, and the Crown prosecutor, insisted there was no connection between that innocent man's injuries and Ms. Ibbottson's rape lies.

Yes, dear readers, Ms. Ibbotson's story is tragic, but not for the reasons hinted at in today's obituary.  She made two despicable, racist false rape claims and received essentially no punishment for them. She should have been in prison at the time she died, and if she had been, it's possible she would have received the medical attention she needed to save her life.  Her story is tragic because it underscores both the news media's and the law enforcement system's insistence on treating false rape claims as something other than serious crimes, and in treating false rape accusers as something other than "real" criminals -- they are treated as victims of their own troubled pasts who need counseling, not punishment. One of the most startling lines in the entire false rape milieu was spoken by the Crown prosecutor, who said this about Ibbotson's false rape claims: "[P]erhaps it's understandable," given her background.

Read that last line again. Let it sink in. 

And now you see what we're up against.

Ibbotson's story is worth retelling for the sad lessons it teaches:

Back in 2008, Ibbotson pleaded guilty to mischief by misleading police to believe she had been sexually assaulted twice -- within weeks of each other -- on June 21 and again July 24: 

Ibbotson's June 21 false accusation: She contacted police at 11 p. m. and reported that she had been approached from behind and dragged near a fence at about 9:30 p. m. She alleged her underpants were taken down and she was sexually assaulted.  She was examined in hospital. Police established a crime scene in the area where she said she'd been raped by a black man 6'3" or 6'4" inches tall, with a moustache and goatee. Police canvassed people in the area.  Investigators grew suspicious due to "discrepancies" in her statements to police.  When challenged to explain these differences, Ibbotson admitted she'd lied about being raped.

Ibbotson's July 24 false accusation:  At 12:24 a. m., Ibbotson again reported to police she'd been raped by a man of similar description as the first false accusation. She said she'd been dragged from a catwalk and was sexually assaulted, and then escaped.  Police established another crime scene, searched for forensic evidence, and sent Ibbotson to the hospital for an examination. She declined to go, however, saying she was tired.  But police interviewed a white 16-year-old male who said he and Ibbotson had been together all evening and had sex just off the catwalk prior to her going home that night. 

You read that right. He was 16 years old.  (I am not aware of any statutory rape charges against Ibbotson for this act.)

Black man beaten and stabbed:  A 42-year-old black man in the vicinity was near-fatally beaten and stabbed after being wrongly accused of rape on July 29.  A Crown prosecutor took pains not to blame Ibbotson for the stabbing, which he alleged was fueled by mistaken accusations that the victim had raped someone. The Crown prosecutor blamed the local "rumour mill," and said there was no evidence that the rape allegations made against the victim of the stabbing referred to Ibbotson's rape claims.

It bears noting that the black man had been falsely accused of rape by an unknown female (the news accounts don't say it was Ibottson). Later that day late in July (which was five days after Ibbotson's second false rape claim), the man was approached by a 17-year-old girl who had been drinking. She hit him and used racial slurs against him while he called police on his cellphone.  This assault led to the man's beating and stabbing by four young men, three of whom were 19-years-old and one was 23.   The beaten man was rushed to hospital in a cab and underwent emergency surgery. He had been stabbed at least once in the chest.  The young men were all jailed (at least one was given a custodial sentence) while the young woman -- who had started the assault -- was released and given two years probation.  The police investigated whether the young men were motivated in part by racism. "Police say they believe the female’s actions were not racially motivated."

Sentencing: On July 29, Ibbotson was charged with two counts of mischief for misleading police. Justice Julia Morneau accepted her guilty plea. Ibbotson received a suspended sentence and 18 months probation after serving 58 days in jail.  Justice Morneau considered the young woman's difficult past as presented by defence lawyer Jill Gamble. Gamble said Ibbotson has endured sexual abuse and suffers from addiction and "significant physical ailments."

Assistant Crown attorney Peter Leger joined the defence in recommending the sentence.  Leger said of Ibbotson's false accusations of rape, "perhaps it's understandable" given her background.