The Livingston Daily has printed the name of a 17-year-old boy who was accused of raping his 17-year-old girlfriend even though the girl, who is not named, admitted she lied because she was jealous that the boy was seeing someone else. The charges against the boy were dropped, and his attorney said the dismissal means justice has been done. But has it?
Prosecutor David Morse said his staff decided it could not move forward with the prosecution after the girl recanted. "At this point, we're uncertain which version of the facts she has related is untrue," he said Friday. "If we couldn't be certain, we couldn't put it before a jury. ... We just don't have evidence one way or the other."
The girl initially testified at a preliminary hearing in June that the boy raped her in May while they had been using synthetic marijuana known as Spice. She also testified that she and the boy had a two-year sexual history that included consensual "rough" sex while using Spice. On cross-examination, the girl acknowledged that the boy could have seen the May sexual encounter as their normal rough sex.
Following the preliminary hearing, the girl provided a written statement to police recanting her allegations. She wrote: "[Name of boy redacted] does not deserve to be in any trouble; he did nothing wrong," the girl wrote in her statement. The statement explained that the girl was upset because the boy "had sex with me while dating another girl."
The girl testified about injuries she allegedly received during the encounter. Authorities concluded that the girl's original story and her injuries "were consistent." However, the girl noted in her revised story that a bruise on her leg was caused when she and the boy were "roughhousing" and that she laughed and never once told him to stop. She said his causing her nose to bleed also "was an accident" due to their rough play, according to her statement.
"We're stymied as to which version is right," Morse reiterated.
The girl also admitted that she "lied" at the preliminary hearing because she was afraid of the "consequences I could be facing" for lying to police.
She claims she was high on Spice when two friends, whom she considered to be older-sister figures, convinced her that she needed to report the May incident as rape to police. She claimed one friend advised her that it was a good way to get back at the boy, according to the girl's statement.
"I decided to step up and take responsibility today and do the right thing, to fix the wrong thing I had done," the girl wrote in her June statement. "Again, everything was consentule [sic] and I wanted to have sex with him and I started the ruff [sic] housing with him that day; not him."
Morse said the girl most likely will not face criminal charges for perjury.
COTWA has no opinion as to which of the girl's versions of reality is the truth. One of them was a lie. Whether she should be prosecuted is a complex issue. The injustice here is that the boy's name has been widely publicized for an alleged crime that no one, except the boy and the girl, can say occurred and that both now claim didn't happen. But the boy will never be able to definitively disprove it -- that's the nature of the allegation -- and a prosecutor has publicly stated that the boy is a possible rapist. A simple Google search by a prospective employer, would-be spouse, neighbor, or anyone else will forever brand him as a possible rapist.
Our news outlets have made a compact to protect the identities of accusers of sexual assault because of the stigma associated with such assaults. It is troubling that the damage to a teenager's reputation from an unfounded rape claim is not even deemed worthy of public discussion, much less a similar compact.