Friday, June 29, 2012

The wildest, most sordid 'false' rape case ever

Chances are, you've never heard of Beverly Aadland or William Stanciu.  They were Hollywood fringe players, wannabes who never gained admittance to the Dream Factory. Aadland appeared in a few films but never had a film career, and you won't find Stanciu's name in any film credits at all.   

But for a brief moment in the waning days of the Eisenhower administration, Aadland and Stanciu took center stage in a bizarre Tinsel Town tragedy that radio icon Paul Harvey described this way: "Few chapters in the sometimes lurid history of the movie colony have been more sordid than this one."

Beverly Aadland's claim to fame was that at the tender age of 15, dashing film legend Errol Flynn picked her out of the chorus of a Hollywood musical to be his paramour. Beverly later described their first tryst: "He knew so many women who would say yes that when I was saying no, no, no, he thought I meant yes." Afterward, the fading star repeatedly called Beverly to apologize, and she agreed to go out with him again.  For the next two years, Beverly traveled the world with the quintessential screen Robin Hood, and Flynn even put her in a film with him.  Beverly, and not Flynn's wife, was with the Flynn when he suffered a fatal heart attack in October, 1959 and died at the age of 50.  Beverly's attorneys filed a court petition seeking part of Flynn's estate.

Beverly's mother, Florence Aadland, 50, one of Hollywood's most fascinating and least admirable characters -- the New York Times would one day dub her "Mommy Weirdest" -- mourned Flynn's death and called his relationship with her daughter "a thing of beauty."  Flynn, she said, "was a real gentleman" to Beverly.

Beverly launched a singing career and began performing at a Hollywood nightspot. She also took up with a man thirty years Flynn's junior, a 20-year-old aspiring actor and body builder named William Stanciu. Stanciu was a handsome nobody who had been busted for burglary when he was 16 and had been a troubled youth since his father died when he was 12.  Beverly Aadland was a long way from Sherwood Forest.

Sometime in early 1960, Beverly asked young Mr. Stanciu to marry her. We don't know his answer, but the pair kept seeing each other.  In late March, Mr. Stanciu was one of several male guests, some clad only in swim trunks, in attendance at a rollicking party at the apartment Beverly shared with Florence. Someone snapped photos of Florence posing affectionately with the young men, including Mr. Stanciu, and Florence got intimate with a sailor in her underaged daughter's presence.  At the same party, Florence and Beverly had a knock-down fight over a loud television set. Beverly wanted to turn down the volume, and this prompted Florence to lunge at her, grab her around the neck, and pull her hair. Armed with a bottle of wine, Beverly dropped her mother with two right jabs. 

On April 3, 1960, Mr. Stanciu allegedly inflicted a beating on Florence after Florence objected to his feelings for her daughter. Stanciu "couldn't afford to buy Beverly toothpaste for a month," Florence declared. The beating sent Florence to the hospital for eight days.  Mr. Stanciu visited her in the hospital and apologized. Florence told him to "let bygones be bygones."

This wasn't Florence's first squabble with one of Beverly's suitors. Earlier that year, a 35-year-old businessman named Jack Dulin fired a load of buckshot at Florence when she came to his apartment seeking Beverly.

Everything came to a head on Saturday, April 9, 1960. Police were called to Beverly's apartment where they found the nude, near-lifeless body of William Stanciu sprawled across Beverly's bed with a gunshot wound to the head.

With matted blood in her hair, a sobbing Beverly told police that Mr. Stanciu had called her around 4 a.m., claiming he had murdered someone and that he needed money to get out of town. She told him to come over to her apartment. He knocked on the door (despite the fact that he had his own key), and she opened it a crack to hand him a check for $10.  He forced his way in and raped her at gunpoint. Then he pointed the gun to her head and played Russian roulette; then, for an hour and one-half, he held the gun to his own head. Finally, he told her to close her eyes. She did, and she heard a shot and felt her boyfriend's blood on her face.

Mr. Stanciu had been distraught, Beverly claimed, after she told him she wanted to end their relationship. She said that he had asked her to marry him, but she refused.  "He told me that I had ruined his life--that he loved me, but I didn't love him, and he was going to kill me," Beverly sobbed.

The mortally wounded Mr. Stanciu was taken to the prison ward of a hospital where he was charged with rape and rushed into surgery. He passed away the next day, April 10th, which happened to be his 21st birthday. On the first day he could legally buy a drink, William Stanciu's life was over. Police called it an apparent suicide.  Callous headlines screamed: "Beverly Plays Rough; Playmate No. 2 Die," and "Beverly's suitor commits suicide."

Florence was questioned about Beverly's sexual tryst with Mr. Stanciu before his death. "That Billy must have raped her," Florence exclaimed. Beverly "never did things like that."

After the shooting, Beverly was taken to Juvenile Hall and held due to a "lack of supervision" and because she was "in danger of leading a lewd and immoral life."  She was questioned about Mr. Stanciu's death and took a lie detector test, which she failed.

Finally, on Tuesday, April 12, she came clean. An Associated Press news story directly quoted Deputy Police Chief Thad Brown as saying the following: "Beverly admits she lied when she said Stanciu raped her."  She and Mr. Stanciu had sex, then he started playing around with a gun his brother had given him. Beverly admitted that the two playfully scuffled in the nude for possession of the gun, and Beverly's finger was on the trigger when the gun accidentally discharged.

Later, Deputy Police Chief Thad Brown told the Associated Press that the direct quotation attributed to him by the Associated Press had been "misinterpreted": Beverly was sticking to her "rape" story but she denied other aspects of her original tale.

Mr. Stanciu's mother called for an inquest. The Stanciu family believed that there might have been another person in the apartment who was responsible for William Stanciu's death. Eventually, police determined the shooting was accidental, and Beverly was never charged with wrongdoing in connection with it.

Police filed a petition to make Beverly a ward of the juvenile court because she was in danger of becoming a juvenile delinquent.  There is no record of any such a petition having been filed when Beverly was cavorting with Errol Flynn at the age of 15.  Beverly's mother objected to the petition. "This could ruin her night club career," she exclaimed.  "They can't send my baby to Juvenile Hall," she added.  "There's no telling what she'll learn from those nasty girls in there."

Authorities concluded that Beverly was a $100 a night call-girl who had been intimate with adult males since the age of 12. Florence was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of her daughter. As she was being led off to jail, Florence declared, "I haven't done anything -- I'll sue for false arrest."  Then she chided the press for reporting that she was 53. "I'm only 46," she said. (She was actually 50.)

Florence denied that her actions hurt her daughter, and she revealed the real problem. "It's these young Hollywood men," she said. The bleached-blonde former showgirl added: "If only Errol Flynn was alive my little girl wouldn't be in this mess."  In the end, though, Florence thought the tragedy would help, not hurt, Beverly's career.

Several weeks after Mr. Stanciu's death, Beverly expressed interest in marrying Errol Flynn's stand-in.  Then, Beverly made a profession of faith and announced she wanted to "accept the Lord."

At Beverly's delinquency hearing, Beverly was represented by famed attorney Melvin Belli, a celebrity in his own right. Florence was asked about the rollicking party at her aparement with the young men in swim trunks. "Why should I fool around with kids like that?" she asked. "I'm old enough to be their mother."

William Stanciu's brother testified he had seen Florence drunk 10 to 15 times. Florence shouted, "You're a liar!" She added, "Why not make it 20?" before she was tossed out of the courtroom.

In the end, a judge placed Beverly in the custody of a Hollywood evangelist and his wife. The court said Beverly was forbidden from going to night clubs or appearing in public, that she couldn't release any stories of her life, and that she wasn't allowed to drink.

William Stanciu's mother sued Beverly and her mother for William's death. The outcome of that case does not appear to have been publicized. 

In time, Beverly got permission from the court to restart her performing career. As the years went by, she slipped out of the news. She married, got divorced, married again, and got divorced again. After her second marriage, she ended her performing career and was a cocktail waitress when she met Ronald Fisher, who sold auto parts and tires. They married, and Beverly became a housewife.

Florence died in 1965, but not before penning a scandalous biographical account of her daughter's love affair with Errol Flynn called "The Big Love." Years after Florence's death, the book was turned into a Broadway play starring Tracey Ullman as Florence. ". . . there's something so humorous within [Florence]," said Ullman, "so cheeky and honest."

The play ran for just 41 performances. Somewhere, Florence was not happy.

In 2010, a half century after two of her lovers had died so unexpectedly, Beverly Aadland (her name was Beverly Fisher then) passed away at the age of 67.  The obituary in the Los Angeles Times made just brief reference to William Stanciu's tragic death; it focused on -- what else? -- Beverly's torrid affair with Errol Flynn.

Even in that obituary, Mr. Stanciu was denied a screen credit: it referred to him as "the boyfriend" and didn't bother to mention his name.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Wildest, Most Sordid 'False' Rape Case Ever

The Wildest, Most Sordid 'False' Rape Case Ever

False rape report lands teen in prison

A teenager who made a false report about being raped was Tuesday slapped with a nine-month prison sentence when she appeared in the Corporate Area Corporate Resident Magistrate's Court.

The court heard that the complainant was arrested, charged and dragged before the court as a result of the false report by 19-year-old Ayana Morrison.

The matter, the court further heard, was at the preliminary hearing stage when Morrison told the court that the report was untrue after she went into the witness box and swore on the bible.

She was then taken into custody and charged with creating public mischief.

Morrison who broke down was in tears, told the court that she acted out of ignorance after pleading guilty before Senior Magistrate Judith Pusey.

"I overlooked what I did and I am sorry for what I did," Morrison told the court.

However, the magistrate told her that being sorry was not enough as the complainant could have been killed or maimed while in custody or during his arrest.

She also told Morrison that she had ample time to withdraw her statement before the matter got that far. "You can't just say you were ignorant; suppose I get ignorant and give you three years," RM Pusey said. "You have to pay for the ignorance and when you make allegations against a person they must be true," the magistrate said before handing down the sentence.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Charges dropped in Crown Heights rape case after it was revealed the accuser recanted her rape allegations a day after she made them, and that the information was never given to defense lawyers


Prosecutors on Tuesday dismissed the case against four black men from Crown Heights accused of raping and prostituting an Orthodox Jewish woman for eight years, starting when she was 13.

All charges against Damien Crooks, Darrell Dula, and the two brothers, Jawara and Jamali Brockett, were dropped in Brooklyn Supreme Court, months after it was revealed the accuser recanted her rape allegations a day after she made them, and that the information was never given to defense lawyers.

Outside the courtroom Crooks, 32, and Dula, 25, who spent 10 months in jail before they were released in April, said they were relieved.

“I feel overjoyed,” Dula said. “I feel justice has been done. I just want to start a new chapter in my life and put all this behind me.”

The two were released when problems with the case began to arise. The brothers remain in jail on unrelated charges.

District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a statement that in April his office discovered that exculpatory information, the alleged victim’s recantation of some accusations, was not turned over to the defense attorneys. After reinvestigating the case, Hynes stated, “we have concluded as a result that we can no longer proceed with this case.”

Dula and Jawara Brockett were charged with rape in June 2011. Crooks faced rape and sex trafficking charges, and Jamali Brockett was charged with rape, compelling prostitution and criminal sexual act.

The case has attracted much attention due to the seriousness of the charges and the involvement of four older, black men and a young, Orthodox Jewish woman, all of whom lived in Crown Heights.

“They [the District Attorney’s office] labeled Damien a rapist, a pimp, a sex trafficker,” said Elliot Kay, Crooks’ attorney. “All those allegations were false in their entirety, and today Damien fells vindicated that finally the truth has come out.”

Kay said his client’s relationship with the victim included consensual sex when she was of age, and that there was “nothing criminal” about it.

“It wasn’t good for what she did, but I forgive her,” Crooks said, in a message to his accuser, who he described as a friend.

Shortly after the case was concluded, a group of anti-trafficking advocates gathered in front of the DA’s office to criticize the dismissal.

A statement from the victim’s father was also read: “Despite my daughter’s total cooperation, the Brooklyn DA has surrendered against our will and without our consent.”

The girl’s father also wrote that his daughter shared with the DA’s office her mental health history and was assured it would not stand in the way of prosecuting the case.

See also:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Man sues Det. Sgt. Ingrid Jonas for allowing him to sit in jail on a sexual assault charge and not revealing that his accuser is a serial false accuser

Woman confesses to false rape claim

A woman who claimed she had been abducted by a group of four men and sexually assaulted by one of them, later admitted to having made the story up.

Theresa Bradey-Smith, 50, of Dannevirke admitted to Judge Bridget Mackintosh she had been stupid and apologised for her actions when she appeared in the Dannevirke District Court.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Ollie Outtrim told the court on March 7, Bradey-Smith was at an address having a few drinks with family.

Around 8pm, she went to another address in Dannevirke where she met up with a former partner.

"She stayed at this address for approximately one hour leaving at around 9pm," he said.

"During this time, a family member was trying to contact her by phone but her phone remained unanswered.

"The family member called again at around 9pm and the defendant answered saying 'I'm being attacked' and the phone then cut off."

Mr Outtrim said the relative kept trying to ring and at 9.15, she finally got a reply from Bradey-Smith who said she was at the Mormon Church on Cole St. Bradey-Smith waited until her family member arrived and then walked home.

"Once they got home, the defendant said that she had been pushed into a car on High St by four males and was driven up to Guy St where she was raped by one of the males. Police were called and an investigation commenced."

Bradey-Smith was interviewed on May 10 regarding inconsistencies within her statement and in explanation, said she had made the abduction and rape up to cover the fact she had been with her previous partner.

Judge Mackintosh told Bradey-Smith she had done the right thing by pleading guilty. Bradey-Smith was convicted and sentenced to 80 hours of community work.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Study: Wrongful conviction rate of sexual assault 'much higher than previously thought'

A national policy group examined the DNA test results in hundreds of old sexual assault and homicide cases. The findings on the sexual assault cases are disturbing.

According to the Virginian-Pilot: "If the scope is narrowed to just the sexual assault convictions, DNA testing eliminated between 8 percent and 15 percent of convicted offenders. The wrongful conviction rate previously had been estimated at 3 percent or less." 

The study was based solely on DNA evidence, which means it did not count wrongful convictions where the defense was consent (e.g., "date rape"). Moreover, in two-thirds of the cases, the samples didn't have enough DNA for testing, and "that may mean the number of false convictions is much higher." and

These numbers are sufficiently disturbing that they should trigger a national dialogue.

Justice, Phuket style: Stevie Bamford might not serve time for false rape claim

The photo to the left shows Stevie Bamford, 21. She's the Australian woman who was vacationing in Thailand with her boyfriend when she told police on June 10 that she had been raped by a local taxi "tuk-tuk" driver while his two accomplices restrained her.

Bamford stuck to her bizarre story over the course of nine hours of police questioning, spread over two days. Thai police investigated her claim. After several days of finding nothing but loose ends, they uncovered a security camera video that showed the young woman driving to the hotel on the back of a motorcycle taxi, not a "tuktuk."  When presented with irrefutable security camera evidence, Bamford eventually confessed to lying.

Her motive for lying, police said, was that she was late in returning from a nightclub area to the resort early on a Sunday morning, and she was afraid her boyfriend might be angry.

Bamford was found guilty by a Phuket provincial court on June 15 of making false claims. She was sentenced to serve 15 days in a detention center.

Bamford is the daughter of a retired Australian pro rugby player, and she has been afforded every possible assistance throughout the ordeal she created. Her father appealed to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs to assist her, and she had Australian consular assistance for the entire period of questioning.  Phuket's only woman police officer was also with her for the interviews.

Bamford's penalty should have been 30 days but was cut in half, as is normal in such cases, when Bamford pleaded guilty. The guilty plea, of course, came only after prolonged questioning during which time she continued to lie, and only after irrefutable video proof showed she lied.

She was sentenced to serve her time in a rural detention center instead of the more severe women's prison. Why? Because of "her age" and "the good relations between Thailand and Australia."

But even that slap on the wrist was too much for Bamford. She has appealed her sentence and was granted bail. Instead of serving her very meager time for a false rape claim, she is holidaying at the resort area of Krabi in Southern Thailand.

Will Stevie Bamford ever serve time in prison?  According to news reports, following the recent murder of an Australian travel agent in Phuket, "Thailand may also be looking to repair its battered tourist image, leading to an acquittal."

Man convicted on rape charge petitions for release after victim recants testimony

ST. CROIX - A 27-year-old man who has spent the last eight years in prison for raping a 12-year-old girl has petitioned the court for release, saying he is being unlawfully detained after the victim in the case repeatedly recanted her story and now claims no sexual contact ever happened.

After a two-day trial in June 2004, Hector Ledesma was convicted of first-degree aggravated rape and first-degree unlawful sexual contact for having sex with the girl when he was 18.

He was sentenced to 15 years on each charge.

During Ledesma's trial, a jury found him guilty of having sex with the girl at his Mon Bijou home. The girl's mother reported the rape to police days later, and he was arrested after the girl said that she had sex with him.

Superior Court Judge Edgar Ross sentenced Ledesma to the mandatory minimum of 15 years on the rape charge and five years on the unlawful sexual contact charge, ordering that the sentences be served concurrently.

The victim, who is now 21, has written a subsequent letter to the court since the trial and recently posted a 30-second video online saying that she wanted to know why Ledesma was still in jail after she had said that she lied and claimed that they had never had sex. She said it was unfair that he is incarcerated for a crime he did not commit.

In 2007, Ledesma filed a writ of habeas petitioning the court to release him from prison claiming he was being unlawfully held.

The girl's mother also filed an affidavit with the court in support of Ledesma's petition, saying that the girl had confessed to her on repeated instances that the rape never occurred. The mother asked the court to have the sentence revoked and requested that Ledesma's record be expunged.

In response to Ledesma's petition, Assistant Attorney General Pamela Tepper told the court Ledesma already had appealed the conviction to the District Court requesting a new trial. The court upheld the conviction because it found the motion to be untimely and the assertion that the evidence was insufficient to be incorrect.

When Ledesma petitioned the Magistrate Court for a writ of habeas corpus, he raised the issue of the victim and her mother's recantation, Tepper said. During a hearing in November, the victim testified, but her mother refused to appear, according to Tepper.

Tepper argued that the facts were outlined before and that during the trial the girl's mother testified that she believed her daughter was sexually active. The girl's mother also said she thought her daughter was involved with Ledesma, and the girl's mother told police that she had confirmed that before filing the report, Tepper said.

During the investigation, police determined that the charges were substantiated and believed that some of the girl's stories were false, intended to protect Ledesma.

Tepper said the jury and judge observed the demeanor of the victim and her mother during trial and Ledesma's demeanor during his testimony, and the jury believed the victim and her mother and all other witnesses because of the detail of their testimony and their credibility. The prosecution believes the girl is fabricating stories now because she is an adult with children of her own and harbors some sense of guilt that Ledesma is still in prison because of her actions and her statements, according to Tepper.

"What Ledesma wants this court to do is act as a 13th juror and re-evaluate the testimony, the credibility of the witness and weigh the evidence differently, hoping for different results," Tepper said in her response to Ledesma's petition. "This is the purview of the jury and not the purpose of the habeas corpus proceeding."

Ledesma's mother, Luisa Saldana, said that when prosecutors learned of the girl's letter recanting her statement and reviewed Ledesma's case, they told her they needed a hearing, then release would be granted.

Saldana said that because the girl has since relocated and was unable to testify in person, prosecutors said they would allow for a video conference hearing if her family would pay for it. She said she paid for the hearing, the girl testified and everyone heard what she had to say.

"Now where is justice to protect my son," she said. "I need someone to let me know why he is still in jail."

Prosecutors said that since the petition was filed, they have learned that Ledesma has been assisting the girl, who has left the territory, with rent and other personal obligations in exchange for her favorable testimony.

Attorney Charles Lockwood, representing Ledesma, disputed that allegation and argued that the government has been proceeding with a false premise that they got truthful testimony from the girl at trial. What they have really done, he said, was show that while they know the girl is known to lie, they are turning a blind eye and using her testimony at trial to preserve the conviction.

Lockwood said that Ledesma never tried to buy the girl's testimony of recantation and that the only money he gave her since the trial was to cover the fees associated with getting a notary and express mail for documents she was sending to him to move the petition forward.

Lockwood said the government could have questioned the girl to determine her credibility before trial but did not.

He said the government's contention that Ledesma must show that the government knowingly used the girl's perjured testimony to convict him in order to obtain his release is incorrect. He said the 3rd Circuit Court condemned the view that wrongfully convicted individuals should remain incarcerated unless they can show that the prosecutor knew perjured testimony was being given during the trial.

"Mr. Ledesma has shown by more than preponderance of the evidence that he never had sex with the girl," he said. "Her uncontradicted recantation of her previous testimony demonstrates that Mr. Ledesma is entitled to his release, based on his wrongful conviction and factual innocence."

When a convict files a writ for habeas corpus, he must assert that his conviction raises constitutional violations, Tepper said. The standard for granting a petition for habeas corpus is not preponderance of the evidence, but whether the petitioner has been deprived of a constitutional right, she said.

Earlier this month, Magistrate Jessica Gallivan, who presided over the November hearing, issued a recommendation order about Ledesma's petition.

As a threshold determination, the court must ascertain whether the recantation testimony of the victim is reliable, Gallivan wrote. In Ledesma's case, the inherently suspicious nature of the victim's recantation is further exacerbated by the girl saying that a majority of her testimony at trial was in fact false and that she was scared and pressured into testifying by police, according to Gallivan.

"Such an admission of perjured testimony only raises the level of suspicion around the recantation," Gallivan wrote.

After having a full opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witness, Gallivan wrote, she finds the girl's testimony to be unreliable and her recantation to be unbelievable.

"While the testimony given at the evidentiary hearing generally refutes her statements during the investigation and trial, the inherent unreliability of recantation testimony and low credibility of her current statement should lead the court to refrain from disturbing the findings of the jury," Gallivan wrote. "No act, omission or event exists entitling Ledesma to a discharge from his lawful imprisonment."

She asked the presiding judge of the V.I. Superior Court to further deny the writ of habeas corpus.
As of Friday no action has been taken on the magistrate's recommendation to deny the petition.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email

Friday, June 22, 2012

Woman arrested for fake Fernandina Beach sexual assault claim

A woman has been arrested and charged with filing a false police report after she claimed she was the victim of a sexual attack at Main Beach on May 30.

Jennifer Riechert, 32, was arrested Friday and was being held in the Nassau County Jail on $15,000 bond, according to a release from the Fernandina Beach Police Department.

Detectives found that the incident did not happen, and Riechert has since recanted her claim. Riechert purposely misidentified a man she described as homeless as her attacker.

Police Chief Jim Hurley said Detective Tracy Hamilton worked to reconstruct the timeline of events, which led to the discovery that Riechert's report could not be accurate.

Detectives are still investigating what would lead Riechert to file a false report with sensational details.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Milford woman sentenced for falsely accusing man of rape

Milford Woman was sentenced to jail and probation for crimes that included falsely accusing a man of sexually assaulting her.  Kaileigh Burkert, age 18, of Milford, previously plead guilty to false reports to law enforcement and theft by unlawful taking.

In September 2011, Burkert told the Pennsylvania State Police that Gregory Landix of New Jersey had entered her residence in Dingman Township uninvited and proceeded to physically assault and rape her. Burkert provided the Pennsylvania State Police with written statements containing these allegations. The next day, Landix was charged with burglary, simple assault, stalking and trespassing by the police.

Pursuant to local rule, the Pike County District Attorney's office must approve criminal complaints which charge an individual with rape and other serious sexual offenses.

The District Attorney's Office requested further investigation.  During the course of the subsequent investigation, Landix provided State Police with evidence of text messages between himself and Burkert. These messages revealed that Burkert invited Mr. Landix to her Pike County residence and desired to engage in consensual sexual activities.

After being confronted with this evidence, Burkert admitted that she did not tell the police the truth.

The Pike County District Attorney's Office immediately withdrew the burglary, simple assault, stalking and trespassing charges against  landix.

State Police charged Burkert with false reports to law enforcement.

Assistant District Attorney Sarah Wilson stated that "Ms. Burkert's outrageous false statements have affected Mr. Landix monumentally, as well as cost law enforcement valuable resources of time and money in pursuing this false accusation. Our office will continue to pursue criminal charges against individuals making false accusations such as these."

Burkert failed to appear for her preliminary hearing on the charge of false reports to law enforcement and warrant was issued for her arrest. While absconding from the court, she stole several checks from her mother, also of Dingman Township.

Burkert was arrested on a bench warrant in March 2012. She served 115 days incarceration in the Pike County Correctional Facility.

At sentencing, Burkert was given credit for her time incarcerated and will be on parole for 18 months to be followed by an additional year of probation. She is ordered to pay a fine of $600.00.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

'This sort of thing could damage Phuket's tourism industry'

A YOUNG Sydney woman on holiday in Thailand has been jailed for 15 days after admitting she made up a story that she was raped by a taxi driver.

Stevie Rochelle Bamford, 21, from the eastern suburbs, had told police she took a tuktuk taxi home after arguing with her boyfriend while on a late night out in Soi Bangla, Phuket's red light district, on Saturday, June 9.

On the way to the resort where she and her boyfriend were staying, she claimed, the driver picked up two friends and drove her to a secluded spot where the two ''accomplices'' held her down while the driver raped her. She said she eventually managed to break free and run away.

But after investigating the woman's claims for almost a week, police discovered CCTV footage showing her going back to her hotel on the back of a motorbike taxi, not in a tuktuk. When shown the footage on Thursday night, police say Bamford admitted making up the story because she was afraid her boyfriend would be angry about her staying out late.

Bamford was charged with making a false statement to police and appeared in the Phuket Provincial Court on Friday where she was sentenced to 15 days in the Bang Jo detention centre. Once she has served her time, she will be deported.

Two senior officials from the Australian embassy in Bangkok flew to Phuket on Friday to be with her in court. A senior police officer involved in the case said the woman's boyfriend, also 21, was ''extremely angry'' when the truth emerged and he realised he, too, had been misled.

''This sort of thing could damage Phuket's tourism industry,'' the officer said.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

'Emotionally unstable' Dunedin woman made false rape claim

A young woman was seriously emotionally unstable when she falsely claimed she had been raped, counsel for 20-year-old Sarah Louise Jenkins, unemployed, told the Dunedin District Court.

Jenkins made the false statement to police on November 1 last year, when she alleged a 19-year-old male acquaintance had raped her several days earlier. Police spent about three months investigating the complaint before they re-interviewed Jenkins because of their concerns about several aspects of the case.

The defendant then admitted she had sex with the person she later accused of rape but the sex had been consensual. She said she felt under pressure from associates to make the complaint.

Mr Miller acknowledged the complaint had been "disturbing". But although it caused difficulties for the young man, it was "at the low end". The defendant was truly sorry for what she had done. She was having ongoing counselling and was stable at present, Mr Miller said.

Judge Michael Crosbie told Jenkins the victim had gone through "a very bad situation" as a result of the false allegation. He had liked her, although he knew she had "issues".

Then it seemed her friends became involved and made threats against him. Although angry and upset about what happened, the victim had since "moved on", the judge said.

And he said the particular case showed the importance of people being truthful with the police.

On the charge of making a false complaint, Jenkins was sentenced to two months' community detention, 200 hours' community work and was ordered to pay reparation of $480, being the cost of a medical examination the police had organised.


Monday, June 18, 2012

False rape case slammed

A YOUNG Laghey woman, who falsely claimed that she was raped, was severely condemned by a judge this week, who told her that she had done “tremendous damage to genuine victims of rape.”

The story is found here:

Sinead Morrow, who is hoping to train as a chef, admitted making a false statement to gardaí in Donegal Town on November 14, 2010 claiming an offence had been committed against her.

Monday's sitting of Donegal District Court heard how Morrow, who was 19 at the time, was a willing participant in sex with her 35-year-old bed-partner at a house in Donegal Town.

Nevertheless, when her committed an act, which she didn't like, she reported a rape following the advice of her friends.

However, when the Bridgetown woman was re-interviewed a few days later, she admitted the rape claim she had made had been false.

Inspector Denis Joyce said that as a result of her statement, the alleged suspect was arrested but indicated that it was consensual sex and told gardaí that the girl was on the phone during the sexual activity.

Defence solicitor, Máirín McCartney said the girl had apologised to the gardaí and was “very traumatised” by what had happened.

 Judge Kevin Kilrane said he had no doubt consensual sex took place and that Morrow had made a false report to gardaí.

Had Morrow persisted with her false claim, the trial could have ended up in the Circuit Criminal Court and if convicted the accused - who has now returned to his own country - could have been sentenced to six years in prison.

Judge Kilrane added: “She has also done tremendous damage to genuine victims of rape who are going to be undermined.”

 He imposed a €1,000 fine on Morrow for falsely claiming she was raped.


Friday, June 15, 2012

False claims, 26-month sentence

A 42-year-old woman has learned that lies can be expensive – especially when they trigger costly police investigations.

By Sue Yanagisawa, Kingston Whig-Standard

Janice English has been sentenced to 26 months in prison for public mischief that put a former boyfriend behind bars for three months in 2009 and impaired driving last fall.

She’s also prohibited for two years from driving as a consequence of the impaired driving conviction – her second. And Justice Rommel Masse has issued two free-standing restitution orders against her, totalling $14,718.54, more than half of it payable to the Attorney General to recover the cost of arresting the man falsely accused by English and bringing him back to Ontario from British Columbia. The rest of the money is for damage she did to a car she hit while driving impaired on an e-bike.

The mischief and assault charges stem from incidents in early 2009 and English initially began her trial in the fall of 2010. That proceeding was declared a mistrial, however, when the judge hearing it retired for health reasons before the evidence could be completed.

A new trial was scheduled, which was heard by Justice Masse over several days in January this year. He convicted her on the public mischief in late February, but acquitted her of the assault, finding that there was evidence she and her former boyfriend had been involved in a mutual fight.

English then pleaded guilty to the September 2011 impaired driving charge and her case was initially put over to April for the preparation of a pre-sentence report, then re-scheduled to this week.

The roots of English’s charges go back to January 2009, after her then boyfriend was convicted of assaulting her and received an intermittent weekend jail sentence, absconding for the west coast before completing it.

After he was gone, English went to Kingston Police, complaining that before he’d left the man assaulted her again, brutally raped her multiple times and in various ways and afterward forced her into a bathtub where he poured bleach over her to destroy evidence. She also claimed that he threatened her with a gun, held her prisoner, at one point, duct-taped her to a chair and inflicted cruelties on her dog.
Masse was told that Kingston Police took the accusations seriously enough that they located her former partner in Vancouver and flew there to charge him and bring him back

The man was sent to Quinte Detention on Feb. 16, 2009, and remained there until May 1 that year, with multiple allegations, including sexual assault charges, hanging over his head.

The whole time he was there he insisted it was a fabrication and he hadn’t done any of it. And as assistant Crown attorney Janet O’Brien noted in her closing argument, English’s claims just wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny.

Eventually, police and the Crown attorney’s office became convinced they were holding a man in custody based on falsehoods. The charges against him were dropped and English was charged with public mischief in his stead.

“Her first statement is at odds with her second,” O’Brien told the judge and the more times English repeated her tale the more inconsistent it became.

Moreover, the man she accused claimed that English had blackmailed him into continuing their relationship by threatening that if he didn’t come to see her - in contravention of court orders - she’d accuse him of assaulting her again to police.

Her victim told Kingston Police investigators that he left the city before completing his intermittent sentence, however, after English, who worked as a bartender at the time, convinced some men of her acquaintance to beat him up.

Masse, in his judgement convicting English, noted that it was evident in photos the Kingston officers took after arresting him in Vancouver that he had been severely beaten.

But he also found there was evidence he and English had assaulted each other the night before he fled, and there was insufficient evidence of the involvement of the others he’d named.

With regard to English’s other accusations, however, Masse said, “I am satisfied beyond any reasonable doubt that the video statement [she gave police] is a complete fabrication,” and her accounts to police were comprised of nothing but “outright lies, half-truths and omissions.”

With regard to the impaired driving charge, O’Brien told the judge that English was riding an e-bike west on Hwy. 2 on the evening of Sept. 13, last year, when she crossed the centre line, just west of Glenview Avenue, and collided with an eastbound car.

She suffered an injury to her stomach and a gash to her kneecap, which was later found to have been broken during the impact.

However, Masse was told that English managed to convince a total stranger at the scene to open the rear compartment of her e-bike and toss an apple juice bottle he found there into a nearby ditch.

The female passenger in the car retrieved it and turned it over to police. O’Brien said the bottle still smelled strongly of alcohol.

Yet, English denied drinking, O’Brien told the judge. She told paramedics that she was a recovering alcoholic and that mouthwash was the only alcohol she’d touched - even though her blood-alcohol concentration was later found to be 220 mg per 100 ml of her blood, close to three times the legal limit.

At her sentencing, this week, O’Brien emphasized those additional lies and observed that even as her pre-entence reports was being written English wasn’t coming clean. She told her family she’d been intoxicated on methadone that night, O’Brien said. She also pointed out that English’s current boyfriend disclosed to the author of her pre-sentence report that she’d received her one-year sobriety pin from AA in November - and she accepted it, two months after she’d been charged with impaired driving.

O’Brien, noting that this was also English’s second public mischief conviction, urged the judge to send her to prison for 30 to 36 months.

Defence lawyer Matt Hodgson tried to convince Masse to give his client a conditional sentence and house arrest, arguing that she’s the main support for her mother.

“Please don’t take me away from my mother,” English entreated the judge.

“I’m not,” he told her. “You are.”


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Flashback: Congressional report called rape accusations against US soldiers in WW II a 'racket' and said the Army convicted innocent men to maintain its 'good name'

From the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, until the end of World War II in 1945, 43 US soldiers were executed for committing the crime of rape. Following the war, U.S. troops occupied the conquered nations, and by February 22, 1946, the number of soldiers executed for rape had risen to 51. (This does not include those soldiers executed for committing the dual crimes of rape and murder.)  At the time, article of war 92 made mandatory a sentence of either death or imprisonment for life for this offense, a far more severe penalty than mandated by European nations.*

Two troubling, but related, phenomena combined to cause some, and more likely numerous, innocent soldiers to be unjustly punished for rapes they did not commit during the War and in its immediate aftermath:

First: The Severity of the Punishment for Rape was Believed to Have Encouraged False Rape Claims

Article of War 92 made mandatory a sentence of either death or imprisonment for life for soldiers convicted of this offense.  The House Committee on Military Affairs issued a disturbing report in June 1946 called Investigations of the National War Effort. The Report noted: "Armies of other nations in Europe and probably elsewhere never give a sentence of more than 10 years for this offense (the British Army gives 6 months to 2 years) and when the peoples abroad have seen us hang our own soldiers for it they have been asking curious questions about American freedom."

The House Report concluded: "The object, presumably, was to coerce soldiers into good behavior and to increase the respect for our forces in enemy and liberated countries. It may be conjectured that neither of these objectives was greatly promoted."

The severe punishment for rape was known among the conquered German people.  The Associated Press reported in May 1945 that evidence showed at least some false rape accusers were aware that rape was a hanging offense for American soldiers.

The departing German army prompted at least three women to falsely accuse American soldiers of rape in an effort to harass American troops.  False rape claims were used as weapons of war.

Moreover, the House Report Investigations of the National War Effort noted: "Bringing charges of rape against American soldiers became a sort of racket among some portions of the populace in the European theater. . . ."  The severe penalty for committing rape, the House Report explained, might have "contributed to a practice in Europe of bringing the charge in order to extort money from American soldiers . . .."**

Second: The Military Was Less Interested in Justice than in Public Relations

The House Report Investigations of the National War Effort  raised troubling indications that numerous innocent soldiers were wrongly convicted of rape, and some of these might have been sent to the gallows.

When it came to charges of rape, military justice erred on the side of severity in the interest of setting examples and in maintaining the U.S. Army's good name among the local populace where the army served.  The House Report explained: ". . . it is believed that numerous convictions of innocent soldiers took place because courts too amiably accepted dubious identifications in the interest of discipline in general or of maintaining the good name of the army among liberated or conquered people."

"Military law, like our other law," the Report explained, "is supposed to proceed on the presumption that the accused is innocent until his guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt. This is explicitly stated in the manual. In practice, however, the reverse is often the case. . . . ."

A startling case that illustrates the injustices was the famous trial involving Lt. Sidney Shapiro.  A woman claimed she was raped near a Nebraska army base in 1943, and that she bit her assailant in the hand before he got away.  Military police later spotted a man with a bandage over a laceration on his hand, so, on that basis alone, they charged him with assault with intent to rape.  Second Lt. Sidney Shapiro was ordered to defend the accused man in the court martial. Shapiro decided he needed to attack the accuser’s identification. 

At the opening of the court martial proceedings, Shapiro kept the accused soldier outside the room, and substituted in his place another soldier who had no connection with the case. Under oath, the accuser solemnly identified the impostor as her assailant, and so did two other government witnesses. Not until the prosecution had finished its case did Lieutenant Shapiro tell the court what he had done. A mistrial was declared.

A few days later, a second trial was held, this time with the true defendant in the courtroom. The same accuser and the same government witnesses who just a few days earlier had wrongly identified under oath an impostor as the guilty man now swore that this man was the perpetrator.

The result? The court had no difficulty accepting the witnesses’ testimony the second time around, and the man was convicted and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.

For his part, Lt. Shapiro was kicked out of the Air Force -- relieved of his commission. Why? For delaying a court martial proceeding.  The fact that this "delay" exposed the blatant injustice of convicting the man accused was lost on the military. Only after the war had ended did President Truman pardon Shapiro.


*On the American penchant for punishing rape with death: during the oral argument of the Kennedy v. Louisiana, 2008 U.S. LEXIS 5262 (June 25, 2008), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that the historical imposition of the death penalty in rape cases stems from a tradition "when a woman was regarded as as good as dead once she was raped; and the crime was thought to be an offense against her husband or her father as much as it was to her." Importantly, treating rape as akin to murder, and thus warranting the death penalty, did "no kindness to women," she noted.

**Rape was, of course, a serious problem during the war, but it was widely believed that American soldiers were not the chief offenders. During the brutal Battle of Manila, which ended the three year Japanese occupation of the Philippines, Japanese soldiers and officers rounded up 400 young Filipino women and selected 25 based on their beauty to be used as unwilling human sexual playthings. The women were taken to a hotel where the soldiers passed them from room to room and forced them to endure night-long rape-fests; some of the women were subjected to 15 separate rapes. The women were stripped, slapped, and kicked and could be heard screaming for mercy.  Soldiers threatened to murder members of the women's families if they refused to submit. Some of the victims were as young as 12-years-old.

Moreover, during the Russian occupation of Vienna immediately after the war, there were reports of Russian soldiers raping Austrian women to "get even" for what Germans had done to their homes and women.  One soldier admitted to raping an Austrian woman, even though it meant execution by the American army.  "My wife was raped and killed in the advance on Stalingrad," he explained.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Search for three Univ. of Michigan gropers called off

The following are two news reports from earlier this week:

Ann Sunday, June 10, 2012: Woman surrounded, groped by 3 men on University of Michigan campus

Campus police are investigating an alleged groping incident that involved the use of an anti-gay slur against a woman walking on the University of Michigan campus late Saturday.

The woman told police that three unknown men approached her as she walked northbound through Ingalls Mall, near the 800 block of East Washington Street, between 11:30 p.m. and midnight.

The men taunted her with an anti-gay slur, and one of the men grabbed her multiple times, including her arm and breast, before she was able to push free and flee, U-M police said in a crime alert dated Sunday.

The suspects did not pursue the woman and she did not seek medical attention.

The main suspect is described as an 18 to 20 year-old, 6-foot white male of medium build, medium-length blonde hair and unshaven. He was wearing a light-colored T-shirt and blue jeans.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call (734) 763-1131.

Ann Monday, June 11, 2012: Police: Sexual assault reported on U-M's campus Sunday did not occur

The University of Michigan Department of Public Safety stated Monday that a sexual assault involving three men allegedly "groping" a woman did not occur and cancelled the crime alert sent to the university community.
The crime alert was sent Sunday morning and detailed a sexual assault reported between 11:30 p.m. Saturday and midnight Sunday in the 800 block of East Washington Street.

The woman told police she was walking northbound through Ingalls Mall and was taunted by three men with an anti-homosexual slur.

According to the crime alert, one of the men grabbed her multiple times, including her arm and breast, before she pushed him away. The update on Monday stated that never happened.

“Through follow-up investigation, it has been determined that the reported assault did not occur,” the report stated.

Department spokeswoman Diane Brown said there wasn't anything more to add to the alert cancellation.

She said it's "too early to tell" if a charge of filing a false police report will be pursued against the woman.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


False Arundel rape claim earns woman £80 fine

The Argus

A 26-year-old woman has been fined £80 for wasting police time after she told officers she had been raped.
Sussex Police received a call from the woman to say that she had been assaulted near Arundel Station shortly before midnight on Saturday.

A full scale police investigation was launched on Sunday morning with police officers scouring the surrounding fields for clues.

Nearby residents described several officers with grass strim- mers cutting back the hedgerow as specialists with blue gloves on their hands and knees picked around for evidence.

However, officers said that the area was no longer a crime scene on Sunday afternoon after receiving fresh information.

The woman was interviewed again on Sunday evening and admitted she had lied.

She was handed an £80 fine for wasting police time.

Karate instructor to pay up for false child rape claims

The Star:


A PRETORIA karate instructor who has been involved in the sport for many years at both national and international levels has succeeded in his damages claim against another instructor who, in e-mails to various karate bodies, accused him of being a child molester, rapist and paedophile.

The plaintiff, who is not being identified due to the nature of the allegations levelled against him, claimed R250 000 in damages from karate expert Tshepo Maaga, who operates under the name and style of Doshinkai Karate.

Maaga did not defend the action, and the Pretoria High Court issued judgment by default, ordering Maaga to pay the plaintiff R250 000.

The 52-year-old instructor said in papers before the court that Maaga in November last year and in January this year sent two e-mails addressed to various individuals who are part of the National Karate Organisation of SA. “I am well acquainted with all these individuals as I have myself been involved in karate at national, international and All Style level for more than 40 years.”

He said that from the contents of the e-mails it was clear that he was being implicated as “being convicted in a court for raping his students”.

He said the allegations contained in the e-mails were not true, nor was their publication in the public interest.

“I have been a professional karate instructor for the past 44 years and I have various karate clubs under my control. I instruct, educate and teach students of all ages.

“During 1997/98, and after instructing thousands of students over the years, one disgruntled student laid charges of sexual misconduct against the biological father, myself as her karate instructor and two defence force ambulance men.

“We were all investigated but nobody was convicted.”

Although he wanted to react on these allegations at the time, he decided “in his wisdom it was best to lay the matter to rest”.

He decided to withdraw himself from all levels of coaching while he was being investigated.

The plaintiff said the latest development of the e-mail messages “stirred-up old wounds”. He said it seemed that Maaga had a vendetta against him and was trying to discredit him with the national karate members on a senior level.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chilling recording: Husband: 'Are you going to make something up that I hit you?' Wife: 'Yes, without a doubt.'

A chilling false accusation case is in the news in New York. A former prosecutor in the Albany County District Attorney's Office named William Conboy III, 35, and his wife wife Kelly Conboy, 33, were involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle when Kelly Conboy reported to police that her husband had kicked and choked her, that he pushed her to the ground, and that he kicked her in the throat with a rubber-soled boot and dragged the boot from her throat to her chest.  Mr. Conboy, who claimed the allegations were false, was arrested.

According to William Conboy's attorney, Kelly Conboy's allegations coincided with important events in the couple's divorce and custody dispute. Kelly Conboy was served with divorce papers on Dec. 19, 2011. Later that day, records show she emailed an Assistant District Attorney, the lead sex crimes prosecutor in Albany County. The email stated: "I need to know and speak with whoever is taking over my case ASAP." In addition, it was only after a judge ruled that Kelly Conboy could only have supervised visits with her daughter that she officially filed charges against William Conboy.

Mr. Conboy sought to prove the charges were lies, but, as WNYT's report of the case succinctly put it: "As a young prosecutor, William Conboy knew he had been placed in a tough position of being forced to prove a negative. In other words, he had to prove that something did not happen."

The case was all set to go to trial, the jury had been picked, but the charges were dismissed before opening statements. The prosecution's star witness, Kelly Conboy, refused to attend the trial. William Conboy's attorney was prepared to play for a jury a recording William Conboy had made where his wife threatened him with a vicious false accusation. Watch the news report of the case and hear pertinent portions of the actual call. The rage and the unbridled vindictiveness in Kelly Conboy's voice is beyond description:

Kelly:  "I want you to know what's going to happen."
Bill: "Ok"
Kelly: "If you are not out by tonight with all your stuff, I will call the Albany Police Department, and say that you beat me, and get an order of protection next week against you."
Bill: "Are you going to make something up that I hit you?"
Kelly: "Yes, without a doubt."
Bill: "Why would you do that kell?"
Kelly: "Why would I do that? To get you out of the house, that's why?"

The recording was more than enough to have all charges dismissed against Bill Conboy. According to Cheryl Coleman, William Conboy's attorney, he has no intention of pressing criminal charges against his wife, even though that may not be his choice.  A special prosecutor has been appointed to review the case.

Kelly Conboy's attorney told a newspaper reporter: "This was not an act of vengeance or spite on Mrs. Conboy's part. The reason she elected not to testify against Mr. Conboy is that would only serve to make her strained relationship with Mr. Conboy even worse and this would have a negative impact on their young daughter."  He noted the tape-recording took place after the alleged assault and "doesn't prove the incident didn't happen." He said his client stands by her statement.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Flashback to 1957: Chivalry unkind to the falsely accused

Ah, the Eisenhower years, when chivalry was king, and unbending gender roles were seared onto our nation's DNA.  Things were lots better back then, right?

Here's a news item from the Milwaukee Journal, November 17, 1957: An 18-year-old woman lied that she'd been raped by young Mexicans or Puerto Ricans (horrors!).  Police arrested two boys, 16 and 17-years-old, and a 20-year-old man in connection with the incident.

In fact, the woman lied. She later admitted that she knew one of the boys and willingly got into a car with the three falsely accused men.  She told them where they could buy beer, and after they got the beer, the guys drove to a field and parked the car.  Although she continued to maintain they wouldn't let her out of the car, she admitted he had relations with the two underage boys.

What was her punishment for telling a lie that, in many states, could have resulted in the death penalty for the guys back then?  What was her punishment for having relations with two boys?

A fair reading of the news article suggests she wasn't charged, but the guys were: the 16 and 17-year-old boys were referred to juvenile authorities, and the 20-year-old man was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor (you see, he had purchased the beer).

Man accused of rape might have been sent to prison for life if the defense team hadn't uncovered last minute evidence showing a key prosecution witness lied: why didn't the prosecutor uncover it?

A troubling case is in the news in Cleveland. A man accused of rape might have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment if it weren't for a last minute miracle. As the trial was coming to an end, the man's defense team discovered that a key prosecution witness apparently lied under oath, and that the prosecutors made representations to the court based on the witness' lie. 

This is an important case that deserves more recognition than it is getting.  Here is the full story:

Earlier this year, a defendant was on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting his former stepdaughter and giving her genital herpes. If convicted, he faced a mandatory life sentence.  The trial was nearly over when the defense was able to produce medical records showing that the girl had been treated for herpes -- likely from sexual contact -- years before the alleged assault, and before the defendant had access to her. 

The mother, who was involved in a bitter custody dispute with the defendant, had testified that she did not recall any such infection or doctor visit -- contrary to testimony from her own mother and to defense arguments.  The evidence that the defense uncovered suggested that the mother had lied on the stand.

As the Cleveland Plain Dealer succinctly put it: if the mother's testimony had stood unchallenged, it might have sent an innocent man to prison for life.

Judge Michael Donnelly, who presided over the trial, acquitted the defendant from the bench but didn't stop there.  The judge said it was "particularly troubling that the false nature of (the mother's) testimony was only uncovered through the diligence of a well-financed defense team with paid investigators. The majority of the criminal defendants facing similar charges are not afforded this benefit."

The judge noted that the male and female prosecutors who tried the case made "certain factual representations" based on information provided by the witness that "was later revealed to be patently false."

What does that mean? The Plain Dealer explained it could mean one of two things: "That could mean that they [the prosecutors], too, were duped. Or it could mean that the Prosecutor's Office did not sufficiently vet witnesses or look hard enough for the potentially exculpatory evidence that later surfaced."

Judge Donnelly asked the court's administrative judge for a special prosecutor -- independent of the district attorney's office -- to consider criminal charges against the witness, the mother of the alleged victim.  Judge Donnelly said he had no reason to believe that assistant prosecutors who handled the case, Jennifer Driscoll and Daniel Cleary, had "acted in any manner other than with good faith in pursuing the charges." But the judge said he feels a special prosecutor should look into the matter, rather than the prosecutor's office, to "protect the integrity of the investigation."  Donnelly said that he expects the assistant prosecutors and their supervisors to be interviewed as part of the investigation and that those interviews should not be performed by a colleague.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason is bristling and has mounted a resource-draining effort to prevent a special prosecutor from being appointed. He does not understand why any prosecutors in his office would have a conflict, except those involved in the original rape case.  Nevertheless, in late April, the court's administrative judge appointed a former judge, Robert Glickman, as special prosecutor. Mason challenged that decision in the Ohio Supreme Court. The next day, based on evidence gathered by the district attorney's office, a county grand jury indicted the  rape-case witness on one count of perjury. Then, the administrative judge rescinded her special prosecutor appointment pending a hearing. And then Mason asked Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor to disqualify the administrative judge from the matter.

If County Prosecutor Mason's office had expended as much effort to uncover the facts in the rape trial as it is expending to prevent a special prosecutor from being appointed, it might have uncovered the falsehood that the defendant was forced to discover. Mason "should want to get to the bottom of what went wrong in the case," the Plain Dealer correctly noted, "and stop continually throwing up roadblocks. An independent investigation would only enhance the credibility and integrity that Mason claims are the hallmarks of his office."

One final note: in his May 24, 2012 news report on this matter, Plain Dealer writer Peter Krouse wrote: "The Plain Dealer does not identify rape victims. To protect the victim in this case, the newspaper also will not name her mother."

Based on the policy of the Plain Dealer, it was appropriate to withhold the accuser's name since she might be a rape victim. However, it was not appropriate to bestow the "victim" mantle on her under these circumstances. Mr. Krouse should have called her the "alleged victim" or "the accuser."  Words matter, and by labeling the accuser a "victim" before an adjudication of guilt, and especially in light of the apparently materially false testimony that supported the prosecution's case, Mr. Krouse has impliedly suggested that the allegation was factual.  It might have been, but we don't know. Use of the "victim" label under these circumstances does a disservice to (1) the presumptively innocent who are accused of such crimes since, by necessity, they must be guilty if their accusers are, in fact, "victims"; (2) actual rape victims, because we trivialize rape when you include among its victims women and men who might be false accusers; and (3) the readers of the Plain Dealer, who are entitled to accurate reporting but receive something less than that when a writer unilaterally transforms an accuser into a "victim."


Saturday, June 9, 2012

'I went to the prom with a sissy': Evolving gender roles and the high school prom

'I went to the prom with a sissy': Evolving gender roles and the high school prom

Off-topic: 'I went to the prom with a sissy!': Evolving gender roles and the high school prom

It's a Saturday in June, and we're taking a break from our usual heavy fare.

Ah, the prom! -- partly iconic, partly inane, America's strange, formal rite of passage for high school students retains its allure in an age when everything says it shouldn't. For some, it's the pinnacle of their callow lives; for others, its a cruel social pressure cooker that underscores their outcast status. But for the older, reflective set (i.e., us), it's a microcosm of America's cultural evolution, especially its changing gender roles. (Too pretentious for a Saturday morning in June? Yeah, you're right.)  The prom has been in the news lately, highlighting how, as Bob Dylan used to try to sing, The Times They Are a-Changin.

For starters, American families with teens who attended the prom shelled out, on average, between $700 and $2,000 this year, depending on where they live.  That's more than one year's college tuition when I was in school.

But here's better news: the New York Times reported on the trend of older girls asking younger boys to the prom, which is good for the guys and a minor mile marker of female empowerment.  One junior girl explained why she wanted to go to the prom with a ninth-grader:  "I could just have . . . fun with him at the prom and not feel any social pressure.” Yet, a few wise asses are calling the girls "cougars."

A couple of famous newspaper advice columnists, twin sisters Eppie Lederer and Pauline Phillips -- better known as Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby) -- used to write about the prom all the time, and a look back on some of those columns is enlightening. Some of it is hysterical, some of it is frightening.

First, all this nonsense where the girls are asking younger guys to the prom? Forget that!  Dear Abby, 1962: "It is no more proper today for a girl to ask a boy to dance . . . than it was years ago. This is where 'pushy' girls get their start. . . . I hope mothers of sons read this and encourage their boys to ask girls to dance." 

On that last part -- teen boys needed to be pushed, and chided, because one of the themes of these columns was how the boys were letting the girls down. Example, Ann Landers, 1965: a self-proclaimed "bitter" 16-year-old girl starts off with this gem of a sentence: "This letter is for teen-aged boys because they are mainly to blame for the misery of teen-age girls."  Why is that? Because boys chase after the best looking girls and ignore the "plain gals."  Ann's response: "Thank you for an excellent letter."

Or how about this one: Dear Abby, 1960: A mother wrote: "Prom time is just around the corner and you could do many girls a favor if you would print my suggestion: Won't the mothers of SONS urge them to ask a girl to the prom?"  It seems the boys were slow to ask, leaving many a girl "broken-hearted . . . at home on prom night . . . ."  Abby's response: "Thank you for your beautiful letter. I am starting on my son tonight."

Boys may not come off well in these columns, but girls are kept on a tight leash lest they stray from traditional femininity: Ann Landers, 1965: A girl writes that she can't get a date to the prom. She admits that she "got off to a bad start" because she used to play baseball and football with the guys in the neighborhood. She quit when her mother said it was "disgraceful." Ann agreed with mom: "I'm glad you finally gave up the sand-lot routine," she wrote. "What fellow wants to get romantic with a third baseman?"

And then there was the shocked mother who wrote to Dear Abby in 1967 to complain that a 16-year-old girl gave her garter to her prom date as a souvenir.  "Maybe the next move," mom quipped, "will be for the boy to ask his date for her girdle or bra!  What is happening with our young people anyway?"

Here's a good one -- Dear Abby, 1967: a high school boy reported that when he picked up his "nice, clean respectable" girlfriend for the winter prom, his teenage boy sensibilities were shocked -- shocked I tell you! -- at the sight of his girlfriend's low neckline. He poured out his soul to Abby: "I was ashamed and embarrassed." You can only imagine the horrors that followed. The boy's enlightened friends made "several wisecracks and dirty remarks" throughout the evening. Thankfully, the customs of the day forbade the newspaper from reprinting the off-color remarks. One can't even fathom the terrors this boy experienced, dreading all night that he might accidentally catch a glimpse of nipple.  What should he have done, he implored the wise Ms. Van Buren?  Abby's sage advice was spot on: "You should have told her in a nice way to please change her dress." With her customary cutting wit, Abby noted that "[w]ith summer coming on, no telling what she might have worn to the next dance."  Right on, Abby!  If she wasn't stopped in her tracks right then and there, I'll bet she'd have gone to the next dance naked!

If girls weren't permitted to stray far from traditional femininity, boys who veered from traditional masculinity were subjected to name calling: Dear Abby, 1959: A girl wrote: "I went to the prom with a boy who is what you call a sissy."  The only evidence provided for the "sissy" label was that the boy didn't like to mix with others. In her response, Abby seemed oblivious to the name calling, likely because she approved.

And name calling wasn't reserved for the boys: Ann Landers, 1963: A European boy new to America wrote that he invited a girl to the prom and she asked him to pay for her prom dress. Is this customary, he asked?  Ann replied: "In America, girls do not ask such favors . . . unless they are cheap little gold-diggers."

Funny, being a "gold-digger" was a bad thing, but when it came to who pays for the prom, there was none of this modern talk about splitting the cost: the boy paid, period.  Ann Landers, 1964: A girl's father wrote to complain that his daughter was going to the prom, but she informed her parents that it was customary for the girl's father to hand the boy half of the expenses for the grand evening. The money was supposed to be passed to the boy in an envelope when the boy comes to pick up the girl -- this sounds less like a prom date than a union rep visiting a Congressman.  (Actually, it smacks of a scam cooked up by the girl and her Romeo -- they probably agreed to split the dough in the envelope.) Ann would have none of it -- the boy pays for the entire evening, not dad.

And, Dear Abby, 1960: A boy explained to Abby that he was not taking a girl to the prom because it would cost him over $25!  Abby expressed sympathy. What Abby did not express, however, was a common sense solution: the boy and the girl should split the cost. Heaven forbid.

There's a lot wrong with the world today, but speaking as an ex-teenage boy, I'd prefer to be a guy going to the prom in 2012 than in the '60s. In fact, I want to be that ninth grade dude going to the prom with the older girl. No one would expect me to do the driving; I promise that I wouldn't complain about my date's low neckline; and my guess is that the girl and I would split the cost.