Maher Garada loves America. It was always his dream to come here from his native Egypt. When he finally made it, he did what many other hard-working immigrants do: he started a business.
Then, last week, Maher Garada's dream was shattered by a false claim of attempted rape.
His business, Gelato Cafe, is down 80%. Customers are afraid of him. His health has suffered.
Maher Garada's life has been destroyed by the malicious false accusation of a lone accuser.
Garada doesn't even know the woman who lied about him, Angela Poindexter, 22. Last week, Poindexter came to police headquarters distraught, her T-shirt torn and the zipper broken on her pants. She claimed Garada ripped her clothes and tried to attack her while they watched a movie at his house.
"This isn't your run-of-the-mill set-up," Insp. Steve Todd, head of Bartlett's investigative services division, said of the lengths Poindexter went to support her accusation.
But days later, Poindexter admitted she made up the story after Garada's family was able to prove he was set up by a man who has a grudge against him. Garada's family brought tape-recorded telephone calls to detectives indicating the whole case was part of a vendetta against Garada's family over money.
Poindexter has been charged with making a false report and is being held in a local jail.
But the damage to Maher Garada has been done. He was handcuffed, arrested and spent almost a week in the local jail. The claim, and Garada's photograph, were featured in the local newspaper. See here. The accusation was so shocking to Garada, it landed him in the hospital.
Even though Garada was cleared of the charges, his wife says he may never recover: "His mind is not ok. His health is not ok. Nothing is ok for him," said GuGu Garada. And that's not even to mention what's happened to his business.
Garada came to America from Egypt eleven years ago. It was always his dream to come here, and he says he still loves it.
"What do I do now? Everything is down," said Garada. "I don't know what is going on now in my life. What do I do? Everybody sees me. Somebody believe, some not believe," said Garada.
Even after she admitted the lie, a local newspaper continues to describe her as the "victim."
We will be following this case and fervently hope that if she's found guilty, Poindexter will spend many years behind bars.