Thursday, January 3, 2013

Woman gets jail time for false reporting of rape

The following news story is reported here:

A Wilber woman convicted of attempted prostitution, tampering with evidence and lying to authorities about a sexual assault was sentenced to 32 to 60 months in prison Wednesday in Gage County District Court.

Jennifer L. Valenta, 28, will serve three months in prison for attempted prostitution, 12 months for false reporting and 20 to 48 months for tampering with physical evidence. The sentence for evidence tampering is to be served after the others.

She was given credit for three days served.

On Nov. 24, 2011, Valenta told law enforcement she was raped by four men at Big Indian Lake in southern Gage County. Authorities later arrested Elliot Hawkins in the case.

She gave photos of her injuries to authorities, who had them examined by a medical expert who said they did not match the timeline she gave of the rape and that they could have been self-inflicted.

Valenta also told investigators they could find paper towels at the scene that would implicate Hawkins and three others in the sexual assault, but tests turned up DNA from Hawkins and Valenta only.

Then, during a Jan. 19, 2012, interview, Valenta told authorities she engaged in sexual acts with Hawkins on Nov. 23, 2011, in exchange for money. She also said she used her fingernails and a disposable razor to cut herself.

Hawkins was released from jail, and authorities dropped all charges against him.

Public Defender Stephanie Clark said in court on Wednesday that Valenta was prepared to serve jail time, but she asked that incarceration be limited.

District Judge Paul Korslund denied Valenta’s request.

"You engaged in a deception at a very extreme level that caused a lot of work by law enforcement. It generated sympathy for you which it was intended in some way to do that,” Korslund said. “It involved not only false allegations against Mister Hawkins, but lies about other people being involved in a sexual assault against you.”

And, he said, Valenta’s actions could have serious ramifications on future victims of sexual assault.

“Sexual assault by its very nature involves a victim testifying as to something that happened and the victim, often times, is placed on trial, so to speak,” Korslund said. “The credibility of the victim is an important issue in any sexual assault case, and what you have done is to damage people who are real victims of sexual assault, especially since it was played out in the media the way it was.”

Valenta shook her head but remained silent when given the chance to speak.

She will be eligible for parole in 16 months and for full release in 30 months.