Friday, October 29, 2010

Sentenced for false rape report in Abbotsford

A woman who falsely reported to police that she had been sexually assaulted by a stranger in July 2009 said she did it because she didn't think anyone would believe the real story – that she had been date raped.

Tammi Zall, 24, who previously pleaded guilty to public mischief, was sentenced today (Tuesday) in Abbotsford provincial court to a four-month conditional sentence. Judge Richard Romano said her actions tied up an "enormous" amount of police manpower and left the public fearful that a rapist was on the loose.

"You said it best: This was a huge mistake," Romano said in addressing Zall, who apologized in court for her behaviour.

The court heard that Zall phoned 911 on July 29, 2009 at about 4 a.m., reporting that she had been raped by a man who forced his way into her first-floor apartment on Robertson Avenue through her balcony door.

Ten police units were called to the scene. Zall told investigators that the intruder, whom she did not know, pushed her down on the bed and raped her for about 15 minutes before leaving through the balcony door.

She provided a detailed description of the assailant, and was taken to Abbotsford Regional Hospital for a sex assault examination.

Abbotsford Police issued a press release, warning the public that a sexual offender – referred to in media reports as the "balcony rapist" – had struck.

Police then received numerous tips and phone calls from a concerned public. They detained two suspects who matched the description, but were able to rule them out as suspects.

Meanwhile, Zall told a different story to a family member, who then contacted police on Aug. 2 about the discrepancies in her story. Zall repeated the adapted story to police on Aug. 5.

This time, she said the sexual assault involved a man she knew and had reported to the police on July 22, 2009 for harassment. She said the man came to her home on July 29 and she allowed him in because she had been drinking earlier in the evening and her judgment was impaired.

A while later the two became intimate, but Zall said she changed her mind during the act and asked for him to stop. Instead, he continued for several minutes. He then left her apartment.

She told police that she had felt violated and used, but because she had put herself in the situation, didn't think she would be taken seriously. She said she wanted to be treated like a rape victim and not be overlooked.

The false story "just came out" and picked up momentum, she said.

Police charged her that day with public mischief. They also interviewed the man Zall had named as her assailant, but he said he had never had sexual relations with her and offered to take a polygraph test.

During Tuesday's sentencing, Crown counsel Elizabeth Rennie said there were some obvious concerns about pursuing a case based on Zall's second story.

"Sadly, because of the history of the actions of Miss Zall, her credibility is a signficiant issue."

Zall apologized to the court for her actions.

"I'm just very sorry. It was a very big mistake and I regret it to the end," she said, breaking down in tears.

The judge said Zall's remorse was "sincere and genuine" and he agreed with both the Crown and the defence that a jail sentence would not be necessary. He ruled that she be electronically monitored during her four-month sentence.

Zall is confined to her residence for the first 45 days, unless she has authorization for family, personal or employment reasons. For the remainder of her sentence, she must abide by a curfew of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.