Friday, May 31, 2013

Marine military judge: 'We need more convictions' in sexual assault cases (as if 'justice' with a preferred outcome is ever just)

The Pentagon, Congress, and the White House have jumped on the bandwagon to crack down on sexual assault among the troops. As Michael Doyle, writing for the McClatchy Washington Bureau, put it, this means "it will get tougher for defendants; maybe, some fear, unlawfully so."  Doyle quotes Babu Kaza, a prominent military attorney: “What we are seeing now is the complete politicization of military justice in a way that would have shocked the members of Congress who passed the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

“The Military Commander and the Law,” an authoritative source, specifies that “superior commanders must not make comments that would imply they expect a particular result in a given case or type of cases.”  That didn't stop Marine Corps Lt. Col. R.G. Palmer, serving as a military judge, from telling junior officers the following, as shown by sworn accounts of junior officers: “Congress is saying that we need more convictions." And: "The commandant is ordering us to be more strict on criminal cases.” Then, the clincher: “We need more convictions.”

If there are specific lapses in the way these cases are being handled -- if, for example, claims are dismissed without a serious investigation -- these need to be addressed. But Palmer's blanket pronouncement, in all its Star Chamber ramifications, is among the more shameful we have encountered recently. Justice cannot be served by having a preferred outcome, such as getting "more convictions," at the expense of analyzing each case on its own facts and merits, freed of external pressures to reach a conclusion desired by a superior. Palmer's statement, and the attitude underlying it, are diametrically opposed to fundamental notions of due process.

The bandwagon jumpers have seized upon a military survey based on answers from about 2 percent of active-duty military personnel, which led to a widely reported extrapolated conclusion that 26,000 troops may have been sexually assaulted last year.

Arthur Herman explained the "26,000" number:
It’s based entirely on a voluntary survey — and it’s wildly anti-scientific to extrapolate from a self-selected group. And only 22,792 service members opted to respond — roughly 2.2 percent of a military that’s 1 million strong. 
Even more amazing, the survey never actually asked about sexual assault. Its questions centered on “unwanted sexual contact” — which can include any number of behaviors, including trying to slap someone on the buttocks, which may be vulgar or inappropriate but hardly rape (a very serious crime under the military’s Uniform Code of Justice). 
The Pentagon simply used the survey’s reported “unwanted sexual contacts” to extrapolate a total number for sexual assaults for the armed forces as a whole. Do this for the same survey done in 2006, for example, and you’ve got a whopping 34,000 “assaults,” even though fewer than 3,000 sexual assaults were actually reported that year. 
All the same, the 26,000 number has now become set in stone in the press and on Capitol Hill — and the calls for stopping an epidemic of “rape in the military” have been harsh and shrill.
Sometimes, the military's "crackdown" has had the opposite effect: Gen. James F. Amos last year declared that “80 percent” of sexual assault allegations are “legitimate.” Amos can't possibly substantiate that epiphany, of course. “I want the staff NCOs in here and I want the officers in here, the commanding officers and the sergeants major to take a hard look at how we are doing business,” Amos said at Parris Island, S.C., on April 19, 2012, a transcript shows.

Amos' comment may have hurt sexual assault victims. In the aftermath of the comment, Marine Corps defendants in more than 60 sexual assault cases filed unlawful command influence claims. Judges in nearly all the cases that have been litigated found the appearance of unlawful command influence, providing the defendants relief on matters such as jury selection.

Politicizing sexual assault is unfair to the accused and to victims.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Woman makes false rape claim against man who secretly filmed her abusing her children

A 46-year-old woman, Lisa Livia, was arrested for lodging a false rape claim against the man who had secretly filmed her abusing her children two years ago, police said. She was charged with making a false statement and released on a promise to appear in court. She has a court date of June 3.

After interviewing the woman, a police detective interviewed her 50-year-old significant other, who said he was "puzzled" by the allegations, police said. He told officers that the couple had consensual sex earlier in the day, and theorized that the false rape report may be an attempt to get back at him for her 2011 arrest. (She had been arrested in 2011 after her significant other filmed her verbally and physically abusing the couple's two small children over a one-month period. The case is still pending.)

After a police detective spoke with Livia's significant other, he again interviewed Livia, who eventually admitted that the sex was consensual, police said.

Livia told Sherry that she was "emotionally drained" by her relationship with the 50-year-old, because he controls all the money and she has "no life," according to a police affidavit. She told the detective that she "just needed a way for it to end," police said. Sherry advised her that making a false rape claim is "not the right way to do that," court documents show.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wrongly convicted man's brother gives tongue-lashing to politician who feels enough has been done to help the wrongly convicted

"I’m sick of this state screwing people, screwing all of these gentlemen. I’m tired of it. I AM TIRED OF IT!" -- Cory Session

In Texas, the wrongful conviction capital of America, the state legislature recently was witness to an extraordinary angry outburst for the wrongly accused, an outburst that is long overdue and that should reverberate from one end of America to the other.

Cory Session, the brother of Tim Cole who was posthumously exonerated of rape charges (read Tim Cole's tragic story at the Innocence Project's site), shouted -- you read that correctly -- shouted at state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, after she voiced opposition to a proposal to create a commission that would investigate wrongful convictions in Texas. The bill would establish a panel to study wrongful convictions and recommend improvements in the justice system. Mr. Sessions denounced Sen. Huffman's attitude as deplorable and she should get a new job, then he stormed out while muttering an expletive.

Huffman was chairing the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice at the time, and she declared the bill as unnecessary. Unnecessary in a state that has found at least 117 prisoners innocent of crimes for which they were convicted in the past 25 years. Here are some of them. Huffman listed the various justice reforms that the Legislature has passed over the past 12 years, essentially saying enough is enough. As one newspaper account reported: "Huffman may have thought supporters of the bill would be impressed and mollified, but some of them obviously were insulted by her tactic."

Four exonerees and Mr. Session walked to the witness table, and Mr. Session went first. His testimony:

SESSION: The eyes of Texas have been closed on criminal justice reform. My brother’s eyes are permanently closed – permanently. He’s six feet under. He ain’t ever coming out. And to hear the attitude that you have, to me is deplorable.

Don’t box yourself in to refusing to invite change. I witnessed my mother nearly have a nervous breakdown when a closed-minded prosecutor, who had an attitude like yours …

HUFFMAN: Sir, let’s not get personal

SESSION: … put her son in jail. Let me finish, let me finish, stop — and let me finish.

HUFFMAN: Of course, sir

SESSION: This is not Harris County, and I heard you say Harris County is not in favor. Well, I can tell you the Tarrant County prosecutor is in favor, the Dallas County prosecutor is in favor, and so many other county prosecutors are in favor.

I am sickened. You might as well disband this committee. That’s your job to figure out what went wrong in this state. It’s your job. You don’t like it? Go find another. I’m sorry. I am just pissed off to hear that kind of attitude. It’s deplorable. It’s despicable. …

We’re trying to make it right for a lot of people, the incarcerated innocent, the nameless. They don’t have a voice. They need a voice. And you got the highest sitting judges in this state, Wallace Jefferson and Sharon Keller, saying “Yes, it’s time.” It’s time. Time is running out. You’ve got to do something. …

I’m sick of this state screwing people, screwing all of these gentlemen. I’m tired of it. I AM TIRED OF IT!

HUFFMAN: Yes, sir

SESSION: Keep your mind closed, if you will, but, damn it, you need another job. [Gets up and walks off]

HUFFMAN: Thank you, sir.

The next witness was Billy Smith of Dallas, who also gave Huffman a lecture, with volume.

“It’s been 27 years now, and I still don’t how and why I was convicted of a crime I did not commit,” he said. “I want an answer.”

The bill’s author in the state house, Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, killed Huffman’s local bills for a couple days in a row. Nobody in the House came to Huffman’s aid.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Off-topic: Note to Samsung about this vile ad

My Note:

Re: Evolution Ad

In an age where boys have fallen behind in school at alarming rates, where teenage male suicide is an epidemic, and where the proportion of homes without fathers or male role models has reached a catastrophic level, the last thing our children need to see is an ad that reduces adult males to vile caricature and that taps into an ugly stereotype about useless men.

For the sake of a cheap laugh and a crass desire to peddle your product in the marketplace, you have done a grave disservice to our most vulnerable citizens. Samsung needs to school itself about the crisis affecting our sons and do the responsible thing by pulling this ad.

Sent to:

Cathy Young: More government overreach -- on campus sexual harassment

Found here:

A joint letter from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education to the University of Montana earlier this month signals a stepped-up federal initiative to combat sexual assault and harassment on college campuses. While the problems are undeniably real, the government's proposed solutions may jeopardize such basic values as free speech and protections for the accused.

The letter, which follows a review of that university's response to sexual harassment and assault, explicitly states that its recommendations are a "blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country." This is not just friendly advice from Uncle Sam: Schools that don't comply may lose federal funding.

The guidelines depart from earlier norms in several important ways. "Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," physical or verbal, is deemed actionable regardless of if it is severe or pervasive enough to limit educational or work opportunities (the legal standard for sexual harassment). Indeed, colleges are specifically warned to act before offensive conduct rises to such levels.

Any requirement that such conduct be "objectively offensive" -- even to a "reasonable person of the same gender" -- is deemed unacceptable. Subjective perceptions must be taken into account as well.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which defends freedom of speech in academia, notes that these rules theoretically target any sex-related expression that offends anyone, from a classroom discussion of sexual morality to an unwelcome request for a date. Though in practice, as attorney and author Wendy Kaminer points out in a web column for The Atlantic, religious conservatives offended by talk about sexual liberation are not likely to get equal attention.

While criticism of the letter has focused mostly on speech, it also raises disturbing issues of fairness for students accused of misconduct. The government has reaffirmed its position, first expressed in 2011, that campus disciplinary proceedings for reports of sexual offenses must use the lowest legal standard, "preponderance of the evidence": If those adjudicating the charge believe there is more than a 50-50 chance that it is true, they must find the accused guilty. Previously, most colleges used the higher standard of "clear and convincing evidence."

The guidelines also mandate proper training about sexual violence for college officials and student jurors who handle such complaints -- which, in practice, often amounts to indoctrination in presumption of guilt. At Stanford University, such a training program has used materials stating that one should be "very, very cautious in accepting a man's claim that he has been wrongly accused."

Sexual assault can shatter lives, no doubt. But so can wrongful accusations, and sometimes in acquaintance or dating situations telling the two apart is wrenchingly difficult. The Justice Department is currently investigating a complaint about the University of North Carolina's handling of sexual assault charges. One complainant, Landen Gambill, says she was devastated when a student panel rejected her claim that her former boyfriend had repeatedly raped her. Meanwhile, Gambill's ex-boyfriend has told the student newspaper that the case was a harrowing ordeal for him -- he was barred from campus for months and grilled with invasive questions about his sex life -- and that he still faces harassment from people who know his identity.

Which of them is the real victim? No one knows. Yet federal civil rights officials seem concerned exclusively with the accuser's rights. Even with no criminal penalties at stake, the imbalance is troubling, however worthy the goal of protecting students from sexual victimization. Civil libertarians, and feminists who support true equality, should oppose this egregious and biased misuse of government power.

Where is the outrage for Chad Lesko?

As reported here:

Chad Lesko of Ohio was walking in a Toledo park when he was approached by a man who told him to leave, accusing him of being a rapist.

“I was walking at Highland Park yesterday, a guy comes up to me and said, ‘You shouldn’t be around here, this is a kids’ area, you’re a rapist,’” Lesko said, according to Toledo News Now Wednesday. “I’m like, ‘Excuse me, no I’m not.’”

These accusations all link back to a Facebook post that has gone viral picturing Lesko and labeling him a child molester.

“This is crazy, I’m scared to even walk down the street now because all of the drama that’s been going on,” he said.

The post originating from an account owned by “Nicole McCarthy” has been shared tens of thousands of times, but Toledo News Now reported police saying Lesko is not wanted on such charges. Lesko believes the account to be a fake created by the mother of his son. He told the Toledo Free Press he believes the woman created a fake account because he couldn’t give her enough money for child support this month and because he had recently broken up with a friend of hers.

Lesko told Toledo News Now he is trying to clear his name of this serious accusation.

The Toledo Free Press received a message from McCarthy’s account, which stated that she believed her post to be true and that she was “sorry for the false accusations.” The account was taken off the social media site shortly after the Free Press received the message.

Aside from the threats Lesko and his mother have received over the false accusations, he told the Free Press it affected him on an emotional level as he was molested by his own father.

“It hit me pretty hard and I’m all like, ‘Why the heck would I follow in my father’s footsteps?’” he said.

Criminal charges could not be brought against the false poster because it is “not illegal to spread a rumor,” Toledo Police Sergeant Joe Heffernan told the Free Press. But it could make “a very good civil case.”

Monday, May 27, 2013

On Memorial Day, for the war dead everywhere

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

Sunday, May 26, 2013

George Will takes Obama administration to task for ludicrous campus sex policy

Barack Obama, vowing to elevate Washington to the level of his fastidiousness, came from Chicago, where the political machine inoculates itself from scandals by the proliferation of them: Many scandals mean merely cursory scrutiny of most. Now, notice the scant attention being given to an assault on civil liberties by the misconceived Education Department’s misnamed Office for Civil Rights.

Responding to what it considers the University of Montana’s defective handling of complaints about sexual assaults, the office, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, sent the university a letter intended as a “blueprint” for institutions nationwide when handling sexual harassment, too. The letter, sent on May 9, encourages (see below) adoption of speech codes — actually, censorship regimes — to punish students who:

Make “sexual or dirty jokes” that are “unwelcome.” Or disseminate “sexual rumors” (even if true) that are “unwelcome.” Or make “unwelcome” sexual invitations. Or engage in the “unwelcome” circulation or showing of “emails or websites of a sexual nature.” Or display or distribute “sexually explicit drawings, pictures, or written materials” that are “unwelcome.”

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, a specialist in First Amendment jurisprudence, notes (on the indispensable Volokh Conspiracy blog) that the OCR-DOJ’s proscriptions are “not limited to material that a reasonable person would find offensive.” The Supreme Court has held that, for speech or conduct in schools to lead to a successful sexual harassment lawsuit, it must be sufficiently severe and pervasive to create a hostile environment. And it must be “objectively offensive” to a reasonable person. But, Volokh notes, the OCR-DOJ rules would mandate punishment for any individual’s “conduct of a sexual nature,” conduct “verbal, nonverbal or physical,” that is not objectively offensive to a normal person. This means any conduct “unwelcome” by anyone. Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, says a single hypersensitive person could declare herself sexually harassed because she considers “unwelcome” a classroom lecture on the novel “Lolita” or a campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues.” Do not even attempt a sex education class.

Wendy Kaminer, a civil liberties lawyer who writes for The Atlantic, traces the pedigree of the OCR-DOJ thinking to the attempt by some feminists in the 1980s to define pornography as a form of sexual assault and hence a civil rights violation. Volokh, too, believes that the government is blurring the distinction between physical assaults and “sexually themed” speech in order to justify censoring and punishing the latter.

The OCR-DOJ “blueprint” requires, Kaminer says, colleges and universities to hear harassment complaints under quasi-judicial procedures “that favor complainants.” Under 2011 rules, establishing a low standard of proof, Kaminer says, “students accused of harassment are to be convicted in the absence of clear and convincing evidence of guilt, if guilt merely seems more likely than not.” And schools are enjoined to “take immediate steps to protect the complainant from further harassment,” including “taking disciplinary action against the harasser” prior to adjudication. So the OCR-DOJ “blueprint” and related rules not only violate the First Amendment guarantee of free speech but are, to be polite, casual about due process.

Hans Bader, a former OCR lawyer now with the limited-government Competitive Enterprise Institute, notes that this “Alice in Wonderland” — “sentence first, verdict afterward” — system “casts a cloud over academic freedom and the ability to discuss topics that are offensive to some listeners.” Indeed, to one listener.

When the Education Department was created in 1980, (Jimmy Carter’s payment to the National Education Association, the largest teachers union, for its first presidential endorsement), conservatives warned that it would be used for ideological aggression to break state and local schools to the federal saddle. Lukianoff says:

“Given that the (OCR-DOJ) letter represents an interpretation of federal law by major federal agencies, most colleges will regard it as binding. Noncompliance threatens federal funding, including Pell grants and Stafford loans.”

Most of academia’s leadership is too invertebrate and too soggy with political correctness to fight the OCR-DOJ mischief. But someone will. And it is so patently unconstitutional, it will be swiftly swatted down by courts. Still, it is useful idiocy because, coming right now, it underscores today’s widespread government impulse for lawless coercion — the impulse that produced the Internal Revenue Service’s suppression of political speech that annoys the Obama administration.

Like the IRS abuses of power, the OCR-DOJ initiative demonstrates how permeated this administration is with disagreeable people with dangerous intentions. So the administration is making conservatism’s case against the unlimited arrogance that is both a cause and a consequence of unlimited government.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Forensic experts, police, conspired to send man to prison for 20 years for a rape he didn't commit

Wrongly accused man believes cops prompted accuser to falsely accuse him

Reported here: 

Bennie Starks was released from prison in 2006, after being locked up for 20 years for a crime he never committed. He is now suing the forensic experts who falsely testified against him in a case of sexual assault.

Although Starks’ charges were dismissed, the 53-year-old man will never regain his lost years. In 1986, he was found guilty of assaulting and raping a 69-year-old woman from Waukegan, Ill., and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Government witnesses, two dentists and a forensic technician testified against him. The rape victim also identified him in a photo line-up, but Starks believes two police officers encouraged the woman to accuse him.

Dr. Carl Hagstrom and Dr. Russell Schneider, two dentists, testified that the bite marks on the victim’s body matched the marks left by Starks’ teeth. Their methodology, however, was outdated and unreliable, according to information obtained by the Courthouse News Service.

With government witnesses, forensic ‘experts’, and the victim herself alleging that Starks was the rapist, there was little he could do to keep himself out of prison. But in 2006, the Illinois Appellate Court vacated the man’s conviction and set up a retrial. DNA evidence cleared him of the 1986 rape, and Starks walked out of prison a free man.

It wasn’t until January 2013 that all of his charges were dismissed and his record was clean.

“I’m just overwhelmed with joy,” Starks told ABC after walking out of the courtroom with a clean slate. The man’s attorney, Jed Stone, compared the outcome to a “ray of sunlight that cracked through a cloud”.

But what Starks can’t forget is the false testimony by the state’s forensic technician, Sharon Thomas-Boyd, as well as the two dentists who matched his teeth to the bite marks. Thomas-Boyd falsely claimed that Starks’ semen matched the DNA found on the victim.

US District Judge Gary Feinerman supported Starks’ theory that the forensic experts engaged in a conspiracy to falsely accuse him.

"The complaint amply alleges that the police defendants, the dentist defendants, and Thomas-Boyd all worked to get Starks convicted for a crime he did not commit, and it is more plausible that they each made their contributions to that effort in the context of an agreement to secure a wrongful conviction than that, by some wild coincidence, everyone who came into contact with Starks's case independently developed a desire to see him convicted and a willingness to lie in pursuit of that goal," the judge said, according to court documents.

It is unlikely that the police officers will be penalized for lying to the jury, since they hold impunity for doing so. But it is possible that they could face charges for prompting the rape victim to falsely identify Starks as the suspect.

Starks claims the conspiracy caused him emotional distress. The Innocence Project, a group that originally helped the man clear his name, told ABC that in cases where innocent men are imprisoned, misidentification is most often the cause.

“Bennie’s case features a wrongful identification and also faulty forensics,” Lauren Kaeseberg of the Innocence Project said in January. “Misidentifications make up 75 percent of wrongful convictions.”

In the state of Illinois, committing conspiracy or perjury under oath or affirmation is a class 3 felony, which could result in 2-5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $25,000. The lawsuit accuses the forensic experts of filing false reports, giving false statements, conspiring against Starks and pursuing wrongful prosecutions.

The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, but Judge Feinerman denied all motions except the intentional infliction of emotion distress.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mother who falsely accused ex-husband of abusing children loses custody of children

As reported here:

A Winnipeg mother has permanently lost custody of her three children after admitting she falsely accused her ex-husband of sexually abusing them.

The woman appeared before the Manitoba Court of Appeal last month begging for a second chance, apologizing for the bogus claims and saying she was "at most, guilty of caring too much."

But the high court slammed the door shut in a decision released [in April], upholding a family court judge's decision to award sole custody to her estranged spouse. The woman will continue to be allowed supervised access.

"She argues... specifically that she falsely accused the father of sexual abuse of the children of the marriage and tried to alienate them from him... that she has been 'punished long enough,' " Justice Freda Steel wrote in the Appeal Court. "She submits the conditions placed on her ability to see her children as harsh, punitive and contrary to the best interests of her children."

The case began shortly after the couple separated in 2003 following eight years of marriage. They initially agreed to joint custody of their three young boys, but their arrangement quickly imploded and the courts were brought in to mediate.

It was in 2006 when the woman first accused the man of molesting the children. The bombshell claim led to several months of Child and Family Services and police investigation which greatly disrupted the father's life, the Appeal Court wrote this week.

Eventually, the abuse was ruled out and the woman eventually admitted she had made it up in an attempt to discredit her ex and gain sole custody. She was never charged for the malicious allegations, although they have come back to haunt her in the child-custody dispute. The woman has twice been found in contempt of court for failing to abide by previous legal rulings in the case. She is on the hook for more than $10,000 of her ex-husband's legal costs.

A Winnipeg psychiatrist who did a court-ordered family assessment as part of the ongoing legal dispute predicted this case wasn't going to have a happy ending for all parties.

"The parents are incapable of negotiation, co-operating or conversing in an open, civil manner on any subject. As such, they are completely incapable of collaborative parenting of any kind," the doctor wrote.

This followed an earlier report from a couples' therapist who predicted back in 2002 -- months before they formally separated -- that big trouble was looming.

"They will spend 10 years and all their money on litigation because of their inability to agree on anything," the therapist said in a report referenced by the Appeal Court this week.

Steel, writing on behalf of the three justices who decided the case, said that's exactly what has happened.

"This is a high-conflict domestic dispute which has been ongoing for 10 years and which has resulted in thousands of dollars of legal fees to both parents, emotional anguish to the entire family and continuing litigation," said Steel. "It is the kind of domestic dispute which is particularly ill-suited to the blunt blows of the legal system, despite the best intentions of all involved."

Both parents can no longer afford lawyers and have been self-represented for the past several years, court was told.

Another court-ordered report has found the three boys to be "happy and adapting well to life with their father." Unfortunately, the author also concluded the mother continues to be "inappropriate with the boys during her visits" in terms of trying to turn them against their father. This is why all visits must now be supervised, the Appeal Court ruled.

The mother has also been ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment because of concern she may have a "delusional belief system or some other mental-health issue." To date, she has refused to comply on the grounds she can't find a psychiatrist willing to work with her.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

False accuser who sent innocent young man to prison for four years pleads guilty to perjury

A follow-up to a story we've followed closely. Elizabeth Coast pleaded guilty yesterday to making a false sexual assault report that led to the conviction and imprisonment of an innocent man. Johnathon Montgomery spent four years in prison for a sexual assault that never happened.

Coast falsely claimed that Mr. Montgomery molested her in 2000 when he was just 14-years-old and she was 10. Mr. Montgomery denied the allegations, but in 2008 a judge convicted him of aggravated sexual battery and other charges based solely on his accuser's story. He was sentenced to 7½ years in prison.  Coast finally recanted her story last year and was charged with perjury.

Coast told investigators that her parents caught her looking at pornographic websites in 2007 when she was 17, so she concocted a story of prior sexual abuse to explain her behavior. In 2000, Montgomery lived across the street from Coast's grandmother in Hampton.

A newspaper account this morning noted that when Coast devised the assault story, she supposedly didn't think anything would happen to Montgomery because he had moved with his father and stepmother to North Carolina in 2004.

Coast's excuse scarcely mitigates her heinous wrongdoing. Once unleashed a rape lie takes on a life of its own. In this case, Coast could have spared Mr. Montgomery the horrors she put him through at any time but chose not to. When Coast saw that Mr. Montgomery had been targeted by law enforcement authorities, she allowed him to be charged, and then tried, convicted, and imprisoned for four years. Finally, she spoke up. (To put this in perspective, if a young man failed to withdraw for several seconds after his sex partner tells him to "stop," he is considered a rapist and will face years in prison. In contrast, Elizabeth Coast allowed Johnathon Montgomery to spend four years in an unspeakable false rape hell.) It would be difficult to fathom a more despicable act.

A Circuit Court judge exonerated Mr. Montgomery last November and ordered him freed. He was released after Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a conditional pardon. The governor stated: "Tonight I called Johnathon to personally offer, on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth, our heartfelt apologies for all that he has been put through due to this miscarriage of justice. I am thankful that the witness in this case finally stepped forward to recent her testimony. Justice, while tragically delayed, has been served."

The governor's sentiments no doubt were sincere, but this was anything but "justice."  And despite the pardon, Montgomery will not be fully exonerated unless the Virginia Court of Appeals grants his petition for a writ of actual innocence. The court agreed last December to let Montgomery's petition move ahead, but Montgomery's lawyers and the Virginia Attorney General's office asked the court to delay considering the petition until after the perjury charge against Coast was settled.


A bill to create an exoneration commission that would study false convictions at a standstill in Texas Legislature

As reported here:

FORT WORTH — Cory Session isn’t giving up.

A bill to create an exoneration commission that would study false convictions — named for his brother, Tim Cole, a Fort Worth man found innocent of a rape conviction years after he died in prison — appears to be at a standstill in the Texas Legislature.

Less than a week after he exchanged heated words with a state senator who opposes the bill, Session said he hopes to shake the measure loose today when he and his mother, Ruby Cole Session, visit the Texas Capitol.

“I have not given up,” said Session, who works with the Innocence Project of Texas. “I have not given up since 1986, when he was convicted. I won’t give up now. I’m very hopeful ... that we will be able to prevail.

“If it’s not this session, then I’ll be back.”

Debate over this bill grew heated last week during a committee hearing, when state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said she felt the exoneration commission isn’t needed.

“I strongly oppose creating yet another commission to second-guess, once again, what has been done,” said Huffman, a former judge. “I think that Texas has done a really good job to try to do what we can to compensate the exonerees for the injustice that has been done to them.”

Session, upset by Huffman’s point of view, has tirelessly fought for years to have his brother — who died of an asthma attack in prison in 1999 — exonerated.

“The attitude you have is deplorable,” he said to Huffman during last week’s committee meeting. “I am sickened.

“That’s your job to figure out what went wrong in this state,” he shouted at her. “It’s your job. You don’t like it? Go find another one.”

Huffman has said that Session’s reaction was unprofessional; the bill — HB 166 — has remained stalled in the committee since then.

Since last week’s argument, state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, has been killing Huffman bills that have shown up on the local and consent calendar in the House.

“If God gives me the strength to walk back here on every one of those bills that belongs to that senator, I will do what I have to do,” McClendon, author of the exoneration commission bill, has told the media.

One week left

Session said he’s optimistic he can get this bill back on track in the waning days of the session that wraps up Memorial Day.

This measure would create a nine-member Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission to determine the causes of wrongful convictions, promote adoption of needed reforms to improve the accuracy of criminal investigations and the reliability of criminal prosecutions and protect innocent people.

It has drawn bipartisan support and was mentioned during the State of the State address by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, is trying to carry the bill through the Senate since it already passed the Senate. But he has said he doesn’t have the votes to get it out of committee right now.

Session said he hasn’t spoken to Huffman since last week’s committee haring.

“I’m sorry for the outburst,” he said. “She is a very smart attorney, but sometimes we can be so smart we can’t see the forest for the trees. I want her to see the forest.

“We haven’t done enough,” he said. “We will never do enough.”

Continuing work

Session and his family spent years trying to get Tim Cole a posthumous pardon.

Cole, who died in prison in 1999 while serving a 25-year sentence, was exonerated by a Travis County judge in 2009 after DNA testing cleared him of the 1985 rape of a Texas Tech student. Another man, Jerry Wayne Johnson, had sent a letter to Cole's mother confessing to the crime.

In 2010, Gov. Rick Perry formally presented the family with a posthumous pardon.

The next year, state lawmakers came close to establishing an innocence commission. They did approve bills to overhaul eyewitness practices by law enforcers, ensure DNA testing can prove a person’s innocence and create uniform standards for collection of biological evidence.

The family wants to do more to protect against wrongful convictions.

Today, Session and his mother will be in the Senate where Ruby Cole Session is expected to be recognized for her achievements.

“We will see what we can do about this this to a vote,” Session said. “My mom will try to talk to some people to try to get it moving again.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Innocent man arrested on false rape claim

Strood woman, 26, pleads guilty to false rape claim:

A woman who wasted 100 hours of police time falsely claiming to have been raped as she walked home from a Chatham nightclub has pleaded guilty.

Stacey Wallace, 26, of Humber Crescent, Strood, told police that in the early hours of October 20 last year four men had followed her over Rochester Bridge and that one of the men had raped her by a grass area near the bridge.

A man was arrested following an investigation by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate and despite Wallace being kept updated, she made no further comment on the incident

During his police interview the man said that the sex was consensual and that he even gave Wallace his business card. The card was later found in Wallace’s pocket.

Officers seized CCTV which showed Wallace and the man walking with their arms around each other. Mobile phone communication records and evidence led officers to put it to Wallace that her allegation was false.

She was charged with wasting police time on November 1 last year.

Detective Constable Catherine Holmes said: “Wallace’s lies have led to the arrest of an innocent man who had to undergo extensive questioning and after which intimate forensic samples were taken from him.

“Her claims resulted in over 100 hours of police time being wasted, resources which could have been used helping victims of crime.”

Wallace will be sentenced on June 10.

Monday, May 20, 2013

College student leader: Requiring substantial evidence of a sex offense before a student may be expelled 'automatically assum[es] the information from the victim is false'

Ted Barnhill, a finance professor at GW University, recently took issue with the school's sexual assault policy that, among other things, allows students to be punished based on a mere "preponderance of evidence" standard. Professor Barnhill wants the school to commit itself to requiring substantial evidence of wrongdoing prior to the termination of faculty or staff, or expulsion or suspension of students, for an alleged sex offense. See here.

Professor Barnhill explained: "In sexual harassment and violence cases there may be little or no evidence. False, emotional or confused claims do occur. Our proposal . . .  is focused on insuring that career and education ending decisions are based on substantial evidence."  He cautioned: "Given the Federal Government’s aggressive behavior including the Dear Colleague letter it would not be surprising to see a significant, and perhaps justified, increase in complaints. Some of these complaints may have limited or no evidence of wrong doing. Given the threatened financial penalties and potential law suits the University could be pressured to terminate faculty or staff or expel students in the absence of substantial evidence of wrong doing. . . . ." And: "Have we forgotten the many sham trial abuses where defendants were convicted in the absence of evidence (Salem,Georgia, Moscow, Afghanistan, etc. etc.)? Are we prepared to have our students, our colleagues, and ourselves face career and education ending sanctions in the absence of substantial evidence of wrong doing? I am not so inclined."

Prof. Barnhill's advocacy for the presumptively innocent was too much for Student Association Executive Vice President Kostas Skordalos. Skordalos ran for student government on a platform of enhancing sexual assault awareness, and he suggested that Barnhill's concern was "troubling." Why? According to Skordalos: "You're automatically assuming the information from the victim is false."

Read that quote again. The implication is chilling. Somehow, having a policy that helps insure innocent students aren't punished for something they didn't do is "assuming the information from the victim is false."

Skordalos' comment, itself, is premised a very troubling assumption: that an accuser, by necessity, is a "victim." It follows, then, that the accused must be guilty on the basis of the accusation.

Is it even necessary to explain the grotesque error here? The hanging trees of the Old South were witness to such odious assumptions.

Skordalos's blithe dismissal of the interests of the presumptively innocent evinces an absence of schooling on matters fundamental to our culture's collective sense of fairness, most robustly articulated in the steady expansion of due process rights for the accused since before our nation was founded. Blackstone's formulation has always been one of the pillars of our jurisprudence. See here. Based on Skordalos's comment, I would be surprised to learn that he is familiar with it.

In the current campus climate, Skordalos's views are the bow wow of the mob, neither brave nor controversial, and certainly not well thought out. Even GW's Deputy Title IX Coordinator Tara Pereira recently admitted: "It's much more popular to make sure you're being fair to the complainant right now . . . ."

In contrast, Blake Neff, writing for the Dartmouth Review last week, understands that Blackstone's formulation retains its relevance, even on college campuses: "The argument has been made that the preponderance standard is necessary because the use of a stricter standard implies that the accuser’s word is not equal to the word of the accused. Relying on preponderance, so it goes, puts the two sides on equal footing. This may be the case, but what it ignores is that the consequences of a [disciplinary] hearing are far from equal for the two sides." He added: ". . . expulsion from college is a severe, life-altering event with effects comparable to a brief prison stint."

Prof. Cynthia Bowman of Cornell echoed that in her school's debate over adoption of the "preponderance of the evidence" standard: “The consequences for someone expelled for sexual assault are enormous and will follow him throughout his life, leading to rejection by other schools, inability to qualify for the bar and a great deal of stigma.” She added: "To impose those consequences on someone requires a rigorous standard of proof and many due process protections to ensure fairness.” She said that procedures proposed at her school in response to the Department of Education's mandate were "Orwellian.” Prof. Kevin Clermont said that “not all would characterize the procedure as Orwellian; some have used instead the term Kafkaesque.” (Alas, their voices have not been heeded at Cornell: Prof. Clermont recently told me: ". . . battle and maybe war lost.")

GW's student newspaper endorsed Kostas Skordalos in the school's recent student election. It said he "demonstrated his interest in relevant student issues, one of which is heightening awareness of sexual assault. As a founder and co-president of GW’s Men of Strength chapter and an active member of Students Against Sexual Assault, it is clear that this is an issue that he is both passionate and knowledgeable about."

It is troubling that someone with so much concern for victims of sexual assault has so little for the wrongly accused.  Every civilized society must strive to eradicate heinous criminality by punishing offenders, but it also must insure that the innocent aren't punished with them. It is perpetually mystifying to us why more of us don't have concern for both victims of sexual assault and the wrongly accused.


'Plainly wicked' false rape claim denounced

Editorial posted here.

THE fake rape allegation of Kirsty Debanks made in her twisted scheme for “revenge” against her ex-lover [COTWA reported on that story here] is all the more disgraceful given the conclusion this week of the Operation Bullfinch trial.

However horrific it was at the time for Chris Newitt to be arrested, there were secondary victims to Debanks: every current and future victim of rape.

This week, six women abused by the Bullfinch gang finally achieved some justice after years of their collective plight being ignored by the authorities.

It took great courage for each of them to give their evidence, in part because they would face accusations from the defence they were lying and because the conviction rape for sex crimes is so low.

Often rape cases come down to he said/she said, and many juries find it hard to return a guilty verdict.

What Debanks has done with her preposterous plan is to potentially undermine the cases of genuine victims in the future.

Often with completely fictitious claims of rape, the complainant has mental health issues and so there has to be an element of sympathy.

But being in concert with two other people to create injuries to back up her case is plainly wicked and Judge Ian Pringle was right to reflect the community’s outrage in this case.

Friday, May 17, 2013

British Home Secretary: Suspects should have right to anonymity at arrest

We've written extensively about anonymity for persons charged with heinous sex offenses, most recently here. Now, a high ranking British official, Home Secretary Theresa May, has called for anonymity for persons after arrest until they are charged.

Here's a news report from the BBC:

People who have been arrested should not normally be named until they are charged, Home Secretary Theresa May has said in a letter to police.

Her call comes amid concerns different approaches are being taken by forces in England and Wales.

It also follows some newspapers' claims that not naming suspects until they are charged amounts to secret justice.

But Mrs May adds that "there will be circumstances" when naming a suspect will be in the public interest.

The home secretary also insists that "there should be no right to anonymity at charge apart from in extremely unusual circumstances".

In her letter, addressed to the College of Policing, she writes: "I believe that there should be a right to anonymity at arrest, but I know that there will be circumstances in which the public interest means that an arrested suspect should be named."

The letter comes as the Association of Police Officers (Acpo) finalises new guidance on how officers should engage with the media.

A draft of the guidance, due to be approved by the college next week, states that, "save in exceptional and clearly identified circumstances, the names or identifying details of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime should not be released by police forces to the press or the public".

The exceptional circumstances could include a threat to life, the prevention or detection of crime, or a matter of significant public interest and confidence, according to the guidance.

However, senior officers have asserted that all suspects should be named when they are charged with an offence.

'Freedom of expression'
Some journalists have expressed concern that preventing police officers from revealing the names of suspects they have arrested but not charged amounts to a sort of secret justice.

Former Metropolitan Police commissioner, Lord Blair, has also said that naming on arrest can encourage other victims to come forward.

But the author of the proposed new guidelines, Chief Constable of the British Transport Police Andy Trotter, says he has spoken to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) about the potential risks of such a policy.

"I asked the DPP how defence lawyers would react to police arresting and naming a person and then asking if anyone has got any information about this person that might lead to a charge," he said recently.

Keir Starmer QC - the DPP - is understood to be content with the new guidance on anonymity, which stresses how "police forces must balance an individual's rights to a private life, the right of publishers to freedom of expression, and the rights of defendants to a fair trial".

Meanwhile, the Society of Editors, representing newspapers, has put out a statement suggesting that the police's decision to name the former TV celebrity Stuart Hall when he was arrested for sex offences demonstrates why anonymity may not be in the public interest.

Executive director Bob Satchwell said: "If Stuart Hall had not been named when he was arrested he might never have been brought to court. None of his victims knew one another."

Mr Trotter has since responded by pointing out that Hall was arrested at 10:00 BST and charged at 19:00 on the same day - during which time only one victim came forward having heard his name.

After his charge a further 12 people contacted the police.

"How do you select whose name to release?" Mr Trotter asks. "What is our criteria? An MP's son? A VIP? How many of the 1.2m people we arrest each year should we name?"

His view is that naming everyone arrested risks tarnishing the reputations of innocent people.

"People can be arrested one minute and de-arrested the next. We had someone who was arrested for the theft of a mobile phone who we later proved had found it and was trying to hand it in to police."

Mr Trotter is highly critical, though, of police forces which do not name individuals who have been charged.

When Warwickshire Police recently refused to name a former officer charged with the theft of £113,000 from the force headquarters they were widely condemned.

"It is atrocious that forces are not naming on charge," Mr Trotter says.

In a reply to the home secretary, the chief executive of the College of Policing, Alex Marshall, writes: "It is clear that a balance must be struck between the principle that a person is innocent until proved guilty and the understandable media expectation of openness."

Attention craving woman has boyfriend arrested on false rape claim, smirks when she finally recounts the lie to police

As reported here.

A woman has been jailed for eight months after falsely accusing her ex boyfriend of raping her.

Kirsty Debanks, 20, lied that Chris Newitt had attacked her the day after she suffered a miscarriage.

However, she finally admitted that she had made it all up when CCTV showed Mr Newitt was in Oxford city centre with his brother at the time.

Sentencing her, Judge Ian Pringles told Miss Debanks 'Those who suffer genuine rape are undermined by people like you. You undermine the whole system of justice.'

He added: 'I would be failing in my duty today if I was not to pass an immediate prison sentence.'

The city's crown court heard that police were called by paramedics to help control Debanks who was claiming to be having a miscarriage.

Prosecutor Jonathan Stone said the next day Debanks told police that Mr Newitt had raped her when she got home from hospital.

Mr Stone told the court: 'She said he had pushed her friend Tracy out of the address.

'He had pushed her (Debanks) down on the sofa. He said: 'You're going to f*** me whether you like it or not'."

Mr Newitt was arrested and questioned in police custody for almost six hours and subjected to forensic testing.

Officers visited her to begin the formal investigation but she told them she did not want to make a complaint only 'wanted the defendant to pay for what he did'.

She also refused a medical appointment and would not sign the officer's notebook to confirm her account.

However, later on she called police to say that she did want to make the complaint. In interview she described the alleged attack to them, saying Mr Newitt's face was 'pure evil'.

Miss Debanks' mother then called police and said something did not ring true in her daughter's account.

Mr Newitt protested that he could not have carried out the attack as he was in Oxford city centre with his brother at the time. When officers viewed CCTV footage it confirmed his account.

Debanks then called police herself and confessed that she had lied.

In her statement she explained that in fact she had gone to the pub with her friend Tracy to drink double vodkas and beers, then gone back to her home to continue drinking and smoke crack cocaine.

Tracy then suggested making the false claim, she said. Debanks only told the truth when her mother warned her the case would go to trial.

'She appeared to show no remorse. In fact she smirked as she gave her account,' Mr Stone told Oxford Crown Court.

Lucy Ffrench, defending, said Debanks had suffered a difficult time, including the loss of her father to cancer and of her uncle in a freak accident, as well as other personal issues.

'She has been looking in the wrong places for the attention she craves,' said Ms Ffrench.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Most shocking federal policy yet: sexual harassment on campus is now defined by the accuser's subjective feelings, regardless of how irrational they might be

Citing a "hostile educational environment" at one university affecting "substantial numbers of female students," the Justice Department (DOJ) and the Education's Department's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) have written a joint letter intended to "serve as a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country to protect students from sexual harassment and assault."  The letter shockingly declares that conduct may constitute sexual harassment even if it is not "objectively offensive." Specifically: "Whether conduct is objectively offensive . . . is not the standard to determine whether conduct was 'unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature' and therefore constitutes 'sexual harassment.'"

That means that, on college campuses across America, sexual harassment is now defined on the basis of another student's "subjective" feelings. Attorney Wendy Kaminer, writing in the Atlantic, explains: "If a student feels harassed, she may be harassed, regardless of the reasonableness of her feelings, and school administrators may be legally required to discipline her 'harasser.'"

In case you are suspecting that Ms. Kaminer is engaging in hyperbole, in just the first few days after the letter was issued, a chorus of protests appeared in print that unanimously denounced it in the strongest possible terms. FIRE collected them here. We can't recall such universal condemnation for any policy remotely similar. And for good reason.

FIRE calls the letter's "breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment" a "shocking affront to the United States Constitution" and explains that the letter "establish[es] . . . speech codes that violate the First Amendment and decades of legal precedent." It is nothing less than a sea change in the law:
This result directly contradicts previous Department of Education guidance on sexual harassment. In 2003, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) stated that harassment "must include something beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive." Further, the letter made clear that "OCR's standards require that the conduct be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable person in the alleged victim's position, considering all the circumstances, including the alleged victim's age."

What does this mean in the real world?
Among the forms of expression now punishable on America's campuses by order of the federal government are:

•Any expression related to sexual topics that offends any person. This leaves a wide range of expressive activity—a campus performance of "The Vagina Monologues," a presentation on safe sex practices, a debate about sexual morality, a discussion of gay marriage, or a classroom lecture on Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita—subject to discipline.

•Any sexually themed joke overheard by any person who finds that joke offensive for any reason.

•Any request for dates or any flirtation that is not welcomed by the recipient of such a request or flirtation.

Wendy Kaminer, for one, doubts that the policy is "intended to be fairly enforced," and we think she's right. "I doubt federal officials want or expect it to be used against sex educators, advocates of reproductive choice, anti-porn feminists, or gay rights advocates, if their speech of a sexual nature is 'unwelcome' by religious conservatives," Ms. Kaminer writes.

The letter even misquotes a United States Supreme Court decision, leaving out a critical phrase that harassment must be "objectively offensive" to trigger a school's Title IX obligation.  This suggests that the letter's misinterpretation of settled law is purposeful.

The letter also makes it mandatory that "a university must take immediate steps to protect the complainant from further harassment prior to the completion of the . . .  investigation/resolution." These steps include "disciplinary action against the harasser." (It is mind-boggling how a school will be able to declare someone a "harasser" before an investigation into an allegation of harassment.)  According to the letter: "These steps should minimize the burden on the complainant . . . ."

Two years ago, the Department of Education issued a letter designed to make it easier to punish the accused, both the guilty and the innocent, when it comes to alleged sexual offenses. Now, the Department of Education has teamed up with the Department of Justice to declare that the offense is whatever the accuser wants it to be, and it doesn't matter if the accused has any basis to anticipate that he is in breach of it.

The due process infirmities here are stark and manifest. College sex policies should not be guessing games, or free-floating standards of purported wrongdoing that punish offenses “in the air.” Fundamental notions of fairness dictate that college rules of conduct be sufficiently definite to warn the accused in advance of any purported offense that he might be violating. This is a fundamental component of due process. “The test is whether the language conveys sufficiently definite warning as to the proscribed conduct when measured by common understanding and practices.” Jordan v. DeGeorge, 341 U.S. 223 (1951). A policy that does not meet that standard is unconstitutionally vague.

The joint letter scraps any semblance of fidelity to due process or the fair administration of justice. It establishes a policy akin to the rule of third world dictators: a punishable offense is whatever the dictator says it is. This should be unacceptable to all persons of good will.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Woman fabricates rape lie because she didn't want to pay for a taxi ride home and knew police would give her a free ride

An unnamed, unemployed, 25-year-old woman with personality disorders and an "attention seeking" problem fabricated a rape story after a dalliance with a male stripper because she didn't want to pay for a taxi ride home. She knew if she cried rape, police would give her a free ride. This week, she pled guilty, and has been convicted of providing police with a false statement.

It started last month when she met a stripper the Body Heat male strip show. He gave her his cellphone number and asked her to meet him at his nearby accommodation later that night. The woman was dropped off at the stripper's accommodation by a friend, but then decided to go home instead of meeting up with him.

The problem was, she had no way to get home other than to call a cab, but she didn't want to pay for one. So she dialed the emergency police number on her cellphone and told a police officer she had been raped by a man she met at the strip show. Shortly thereafter, a police officer was called out from his home to meet the woman and to start an investigation into the complaint. The officer took her to the police station where she met a second police officer and a rape crisis support worker.

After several hours speaking to police and the support worker, the woman got what she wanted: a free ride home.

The next day, a specialist police interviewer spent about three hours with the woman while she provided a formal statement. The woman again insisted she had been raped. An extensive and time-consuming police investigation failed to show any corroborative evidence to back up her claims.

Three days after her lengthy police interview, the woman went to the police station and provided a second statement that admitted she had made up the rape allegation. She admitted that what she wanted was a free ride home.

The woman will be sentenced next month. The woman's lawyer asked for continued name suppression, saying media coverage and the publication of her name would probably lead to a further deterioration of her mental health. The judge handling the case indicated he might consider a sentence of community detention.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Co-founder of Anonymous UK, Occupy London activist, is falsely accused of rape (video put him elsewhere at time of the "attack") and wants anonymity for the presumptively innocent

As reported  here

A POLITICAL activist who says his life has been ‘shattered’ by false rape claims is returning to Weston to begin a fight for new laws to protect people from malicious allegations.

Malcolm Blackman made national headlines two weeks ago when he went on trial at the Old Bailey accused of raping a woman at the Occupy London demonstration at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Jurors have since cleared the 46-year-old of any wrong-doing – and now Mr Blackman says he wants to return home ‘with his head up high’ and campaign to save others from having their lives ‘ruined’ in the same way.

Formal ‘not guilty’ verdicts were recorded on both charges against Mr Blackman on May 3, and now he faces the task of piecing together a life which has been on hold for more than a year.

Mr Blackman – the co-founder of activist movement Anonymous UK – told the Mercury: “The whole situation has been horrendous.

“All year, people have been told I am a rapist. Life will never be the same again.

“There will always be that stigma attached to me. There will always be people who are wondering ‘I wonder if he just got away with it’.

“The worst thing was knowing that I would either be going to prison as an innocent man, or walking away with my life in ruins.

“Completely vindicated as I was, it’s not going to change the fact that my life is shattered.”

Key video evidence and witness testimonies put Mr Blackman elsewhere at the time the woman – who cannot be named – claimed she was attacked.

And he now wants the law to do more to protect the identity of people accused of rape until their guilt is established.

Mr Blackman said: “We live in a make-believe world where people are innocent until proven guilty - but I had to prove my innocence.

“I expected British justice to do its thing. The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) should have looked at this and seen it had no legs. They said they have to be sympathetic to the victim – but now I am the victim.

“I am 100 per cent behind anonymity for alleged victims of rape, as real victims must not be deterred from coming forward.

“But what I am going to be stamping my feet about and campaigning for is the need for anonymity for both parties.

“The law needs to be reviewed as a matter of urgency. The accused gets his life torn apart. It has cost me my career, my home.

“I had to go and see everyone in my life that matters to me. I told them ‘the first thing I need to say is I didn’t do it – the second is, you’d better sit down’.

“It’s a very difficult thing to try to explain something which is so alien to you.

“Even my sisters, like everyone else, just didn’t know. They were forced to question their faith in me.

“I’ve not slept, I’ve not eaten. I’ve lived with untold pressure. I have lost a lot of faith in humanity. I now have only a very few friends. And I have an absolute fear of women – I don’t intend to date ever again.”

The first step will be for Mr Blackman to return home to the town where he has lived for more than 20 years, and is well known for his work in the security industry and for his street act as a magician.

He said: “What I really want to do is get back to Weston and rebuild my life. I want to be able to walk around with my head up high. I want people to know the truth.

“I consider myself a decent citizen of Weston, and an asset to the town. I love it as home.

“I want to sit on the beach and watch the sun go down. Little things like that mean a lot now.

“But I will have to take it one day at a time because there have been no plans for me. How can you make plans when your life is in limbo?”

UCSB Student Heads to Trial for False Rape Report

An update to our report, as reported here:

The trial for a UCSB student charged with filing a false police report after orchestrating a violent and bizarre series of events in Santa Cruz this February is scheduled to begin May 23.

Morgan Triplett, 20, told authorities she was beaten and raped by a stranger as she looked for banana slugs along a path on the UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) campus. She had traveled there for a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender conference. Over the course of their investigation, detectives determined Triplett had actually hired a man through Craigslist to beat her in exchange for sex. While the motive remains unclear, authorities have speculated she organized the entire affair in an attempt to save a troubled relationship.

Efforts to reach Triplett have been unsuccessful, and messages left with her attorney — Santa Cruz public defender Jack Lamar — have not been returned. If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, she faces up to six months in jail. She pleaded not guilty during her March 29 arraignment.

In the criminal complaint, Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Johanna Schonfield claims that Triplett called 9-1-1 on February 17 to report she had been raped. Law enforcement arrived on the scene, interviewed Triplett, found no suspects, and sent her to a nearby hospital for a sexual assault exam. But, the complaint explains, Triplett refused to give the nurse her clothing despite being told it could contain evidence, and she asked that DNA samples not be sent to the Department of Justice, “which raised red flags in the minds of the investigators.”

Triplett helped a forensic artist sketch an image of the supposed suspect that was then disseminated to the public. As a result, several people were detained and questioned. Parents pulled their children out of school, Schonfield said, and “widespread fear” permeated the community.

Over the next few weeks, “police learned Ms. Triplett has a history of lying, particularly in efforts to save troubled relationships,” Schonfield wrote. The day before she filed the report, Triplett and her boyfriend at the time had broken up. “In response to the ending of this relationship, she claimed she was pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, which was not true,” the complaint reads. “She also previously had told this boyfriend her father had suffered from a heart attack, which he had not, that she had been lost in the desert with amnesia, and that she had ovarian cancer, none of which was true.”

That same day — February 16 — Triplett reportedly posted two ads on Craigslist. One sought a gun owner who would shoot her in the arm or shoulder “with the smallest caliber bullet possible.” She promised she wouldn’t press charges and offered undefined compensation. The other ad asked for someone to beat her up. “Punches, bruises, kicks,” she wrote.

An unnamed individual responded to the second ad and began texting with Triplett. “The two reached an agreement that in exchange for the physical assault Ms. Triplett would have sexual intercourse with him,” Schonfield said. They met February 17 on UCSC’s campus. “Ms. Triplett directed him to hit her repeatedly in the body and face. They had sex and afterwards she used his cell phone screen reflection as a mirror to see if the injuries were bad enough and then directed him to hit her some more.” They parted ways, and Triplett called 9-1-1.

“During the course of the investigation it became very clear that Ms. Triplett is a very troubled young woman who was engaged in self-injurious behavior and been suicidal at points,” the complaint concludes.

Outside a Santa Cruz courtroom after her arraignment in March, Triplett’s father, Richard Triplett, told the Register-Pajaronian that his daughter did arrange to be beaten, but was then forcibly raped. “Morgan asked for some trouble, but she did not ask to be sexually assaulted,” he said. “There are two sides to every story.”

Richard Triplett went on to say Morgan is remorseful for the entire incident. “She is sorry for any problems or chaos that she has caused,” he told the Register-Pajaronian. “What we’re dealing with is a very scared, very upset, very confused 20-year-old girl who has made some poor choices. This is the culmination of those choices.”

For her part, Morgan simply stated, “Right now, I just want this to settle down. I’m trying to move on with my life.”

Monday, May 13, 2013

The military's hidden epidemic: false or baseless claims of sexual abuse

The Department of Defense's Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for fiscal year 2012  released by the Pentagon last week has been widely discussed in the mainstream news media -- or, at least, one portion of it has been widely discussed. Almost all of the attention has been on the unacceptable prevalence of sexual misconduct.

Hardly discussed at all is that the report shows an unacceptably high percentage of wrongful rape claims in the military, and that reports of false or baseless complaints of sexual abuse in the military are rising at a much faster pace than reports of sexual assault.

At the outset, it is important to note that the report calls false or baseless claims "unfounded." The word "unfounded," is ambiguous when used without definition, but in this report, it is carefully defined. The Pentagon's report specifically defines "unfounded" claims as "false or baseless" (page 13).  More specifically: "When an MCIO makes a determination that available evidence indicates the individual accused of sexual assault did not commit the offense, or the offense was improperly reported or recorded as a sexual assault, the allegations against the subject are considered to be unfounded. As a result, no action is taken against the accused." (Pages 66-67.) Further, when the "evidence discovered by the investigation demonstrates that the accused person did not commit the offense," the report says "the allegations are determined to be unfounded, meaning false or baseless." (Page 79.)

A brief summary of the numbers is revealing.  In FY 2009, the Pentagon said there were 3,230 reports of sexual assault. See here. According to the FY12 report released last week, there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault. (Page 3 of the report.) That is a 4.5 percent increase.

But during that same period, the percentage of unfounded claims (meaning false or baseless) has jumped much more dramatically. Specifically, in FY09, 331 of the 2,584 subjects in reported dispositions made unfounded allegations. In FY12, 444 of the 2,661 subjects in reported dispositions made unfounded allegations. (Page 80 of the report.)

This means that for fiscal year 2012, the percentage of unfounded claims was a whopping 17 percent of all claims. (That does not mean that the remaining 83 percent were actual sexual assaults: the 17 percent represents only the claims that could be determined to be unfounded. As for the rest, many sexual assault reports fall into a gray area where it is impossible to say whether a sexual assault occurred but it is also not possible to say the claim were false or baseless.)

Perhaps even more startling, between 2009 and 2012, the number of claims that were false or baseless jumped a staggering 34 percent.

Not only has the mainstream news media practically ignored the unacceptably high percentage of unfounded sexual assault claims, the report itself seems unconcerned about it.
Elaine Donnelly, who runs the Center for Military Readiness, said the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Office (SAPRO) is ignoring the problem of false reports.  
“Unsubstantiated accusations remain a significant problem, but the SAPRO is doing nothing about it,” Mrs. Donnelly said. “I went through both volumes and found no evidence of concern about the significant 17 percent of ‘unfounded accusations.’ Something should be done to reduce the numbers of false accusations, the first step being an admission that the problem exists.” (See here.)
Any discussion of the problem of wrongful rape claims need not, and should not, detract from the discussion about sexual assault. But willfully ignoring a serious problem that is well-known among servicemen undermines confidence in efforts to reduce sexual assault and engenders a belief that there is a concerted witch hunt against male recruits when it comes to sexual offenses while false accusers are excused.

Justice requires that every allegation of sexual misconduct be treated seriously but that false claims should not be tolerated. Concern about one problem should not mean that there is an absence of concern about the other. In short, it should not be a zero sum game.

Women do not join the military to be raped; men do not join the military to have their reputations destroyed or their liberty taken away from them by false rape claims.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Police: Woman arrested after lying about rape

A woman who police said lied about being raped was charged Monday with false reporting to law enforcement.

Raquel Maxfield, 26, told officers that two men attacked her in the back of an SUV after they left a restaurant at the corner of Greensboro Avenue and Fourth Street last Wednesday, said Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander Sgt. Dale Phillips. She called police and made the accusation on Thursday.

“During a follow-up interview, the victim admitted to lying about the rape and stated that it never occurred,” he said in an e-mail.

Maxfield, who has a Carrollton address, turned herself in at the Tuscaloosa County Jail Monday and was released a short time later on $1,000 bond.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

To all followers of this site . . .

To all our readers. This blog has gone about as far as it can go. It is now time to involve other people, calmer heads, who care about the wrongly accused. I will still be involved but there will be others, too, including the guy who gave me the idea for this blog, and who constantly chides me to be fair to women. (Call him "Mr. T.) Become followers of our new site?

Sheriff: woman arrested after false report of sexual assault

A Madison County woman has been charged with disorderly conduct after authorities said she falsely reported a man she met in a bar had sexually assaulted her.

Sheriff's deputies were called to an Alton hospital at 3:19 a.m. Friday where Nicole L. Mitchell, 24 of 110 Cardot Street in East Alton, told them she met a man at a bar in Cottage Hills and gave him a ride home. There, she said, the man sexually assaulted her.

But investigators said the Mitchell's story and the evidence don't add up. They determined her claims were false and that no sexual assault took place.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Notorious false rape accuser faces unrelated fraud charges

Sara Ylen is back in the news -- again. Here's a follow-up to our stories herehere and here.

DETROIT — A Michigan woman whose alleged trail of lies led to the release of a man convicted of raping her was charged Monday with fraud after investigators said she tricked an insurance company and sympathetic supporters into believing she had cancer.

It was Sara Ylen’s second criminal case in just a few days. The 38-year-old Lexington resident also is charged with filing a false report of rape in September.

Besides those cases, Ylen was involved in the prosecution of James Grissom, who was convicted of raping her in a parking lot, despite no physical evidence. A judge threw out the conviction after authorities learned she had made up sexual-assault allegations in California, information that wasn’t available to the defense at the 2003 trial.

Grissom, now 55, was released from prison in November after nearly 10 years.

“She’s getting what she deserves,” Grissom said when told about the new charges.

He said he still can’t find a job or a permanent place to live and is considering a move to Tennessee.

“She’s ruined my life,” Grissom said.

Ylen appeared in a Sanilac County court Monday. She was charged with six crimes, all related to her claim of cancer, said chief assistant prosecutor Brenda Sanford.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Man wins settlement from city after cop invents fake lab report linking his DNA to scene of alleged sexual assault

Mission Santa Clara
Michael Kerkeles of San Jose was ordered to stand trial for sexual assault because a police detective wrote up a fake lab report showing that his semen was on a blanket where a developmentally disabled woman claimed she was sexually assaulted, and a prosecutor presented it to a court as a real report. Now, Mr. Kerkeles has settled a civil rights suit against San Jose and will collect $150,000 -- and his legal fees, which could top $1 million.

Mr. Kerkeles' nightmare started in 2005 when the purported victim claimed he sexually assaulted her on a blanket in his garage. Her assertions were not reliable. She told widely contradictory stories to police and a nurse about whether she had even been to Kerkeles' house, and whether he had sexually attacked her. She also told officers that a teen who previously lived nearby also had been raped at the house, an allegation the girl denied. Mr. Kerkele denied the assault.

End of case, right? Wrong. Detective Matthew Christian was assigned to question Mr. Kerkeles. What better way to trap someone into confessing than to pretend you have evidence that categorically proves he's the perpetrator? Christian typed up a report by a fictional Santa Clara County Crime Lab technician that he named "Rebecca Roberts" that showed that semen was found on a blanket taken from Kerkeles’ garage.

The District Attorney's Office lost two preliminary hearings in the case because the judge found the woman was not a competent witness and that the evidence was insufficient to hold Kerkeles over for trial. But at the third preliminary hearing, then-prosecutor Jaime Stringfield produced the ruse report, not knowing it was phony. She elicited testimony from Detective Christian, who supposedly forgot that he had faked the report, regarding its contents.

Stringfield asked: "This blanket that you seized, did you submit it to the crime lab for analysis?"

"Yes," Christian said.

"Are you aware of any results?" she asked.

"Yes. There was semen found on the blanket," Christian said.

The detective's testimony prompted Superior Court Judge Gilbert T. Brown to find there was probable cause to hold Kerkeles over for trial.

Stringfield listed Roberts, the fake analyst, among her trial witnesses, which gave the prosecution's trial strategy credibility. Prosecutors tried to bully Kerkeles into taking a plea deal.

The only reason anyone found out that the report was a fabrication was because Kerkeles’ attorney called the crime lab to ask for the technician’s resume—only to learn she didn’t exist.

On December 4, 2006, Kerkeles' attorney stated that he intended to move for dismissal based on, among other things, perjury by Christian and falsification of the lab report. On December 6, 2006 the district attorney dismissed the charges against plaintiff. In January, 2008, Kerkeles sued the city and detective Christian. That's the case that is just now settling.

What about the practice of making up evidence? City Attorney Richard Doyle says it’s OK as long as it’s used as an interrogation tool and it’s not coercive. It turns out there's even a procedure that cops use for fake evidence: normal procedure would require an officer to write the word "ruse" on such a document after it was used in an interview.

Assume that the detective actually did forget he made up the report, before the ruse was discovered, detective Christian and prosecutor Stringfield ignored several signs - beyond the fact that no one named Rebecca Roberts worked in the county lab - that could have warned them the report was a fake. The phony report claimed the crime lab had found semen on a blanket in Kerkeles' garage on the same day the blanket was seized. The report also claimed the DNA had been matched to Kerkeles. But obtaining DNA test results normally takes at least several days.

In addition, Stringfield had in her file an authentic report from a real crime lab examiner named Nancy Marte that concluded semen could not be found on the blanket.

Stringfield later would blame Kerkeles' defense attorney for not exposing the discrepancy between the two reports, both of which had been provided to the defense. (The defense attorney, Kurt Seibert, had twice asked Stringfield for more information about the two reports in 2005, but Stringfield turned down the requests, saying one was too "vague.")

Stringfield continued to claim she believes Kerkeles is guilty, and she even argued against his being declared innocent.  She's no longer a Santa Clara County prosecutor.

It is our guess that Mr. Kerkeles' ordeal was not worth $150,000, or, for that matter, any amount of money.


Kerkeles v. City of San Jose, 199 Cal. App. 4th 1001 (2011).

Monday, May 6, 2013

Princeton's Student Newspaper to the Wrongly Accused: Drop Dead

The editorial board of the Daily Princetonian, the student newspaper of Princeton University, has penned an editorial that sweeps over the rights of the presumptively innocent like a high-speed rail. It calls for the school to scrap its “clear and persuasive evidence” standard in deciding sexual assault cases in favor of the much lower "preponderance of the evidence." (Under a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, a disciplinary board might have serious doubts about a young man's guilt, but nevertheless must find him guilty if it believes the accuser's evidence is even slightly more persuasive than the accused's.)

The higher standard of proof at Princeton, and everywhere that it is employed, is designed to do just one thing:  make it difficult to punish the innocent for offenses they did not commit. The editorial's upshot -- that it is worth the risk of punishing some innocent students in order to nab more guilty ones -- turns on its head the long-settled consensus of civilized people that it is far more important to protect the innocent than to convict the guilty. This sentiment was most famously articulated by the celebrated English jurist William Blackstone, but its roots extend back at least to the Book of Genesis, when God was deciding what to do about the evil in Sodom and Gomorrah.

In language that is downright Orwellian, the editorial explains that because it is difficult to find students guilty of sexual assault, the rules need to be changed to make it easier to do this:
Sexual assault is unique among cases requiring on-campus discipline. The physical evidence in these cases rapidly deteriorates or is completely unavailable, and often the only witnesses are the victim and the guilty party. Such a dynamic makes it difficult to meet the current standard, since it is hard to accumulate enough evidence to meet the high burden of proof. . . . While the clear and persuasive standard may be appropriate in cases of theft, assault or drug use where there is often clear evidence and witnesses, such a standard is inappropriate in the case of sexual assault.
The editorial has it backwards: the absence of corroborating evidence to establish guilt or innocence in "he said/she said" cases is scarcely a valid justification to make it easier to punish the presumptively innocent. Rather, it underscores the necessity of being ever more vigilant of the possibility of punishing an innocent person for something he or she did not do. The "clear and persuasive evidence" standard should not be scrapped; it should be fortified.

The editorial justifies its call to roll back the rights of the presumptively innocent by citing underreporting of sexual assault. The current standard of proof, it declares, "likely has the effect of discouraging students from pursuing claims of sexual assault in front of the Committee on Discipline because they feel that they will not be able to prove their cases."

This epiphany is posited with no supporting evidence beyond the editorial board's serene ipse dixit. The invocation of "underreporting" to support lowering the standard of proof is a snare and a delusion, and the editorial board would have better served its readers by actually examining the evidence before calling for the rights of some of its students to be rolled back based on a gut reaction.

For one, the editorial board could have looked to Scott Berkowitz, President & Founder of the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), undeniably an expert on the subject. His testimony about this subject in a Senate hearing in 2010 undercuts the editorial board's conclusion. Amanda Hess summarized it here:
More victims may not be reporting their rapes, but the reasoning has changed over the past few decades. "A generation ago," the reasons were things like, "fear of not being believed; fear of being interrogated about and blamed for their own behavior, and what they were wearing. In short, they feared that they would be the one on trial."

Today, "the perception of many victims has evolved." Now they don't report for these reasons: "they don't want their loved ones to know what happened; they're ashamed themselves; they just want to put it all behind them." Today, "fear and shame of how the police wil [sic] treat them" has moved down on the list of reasons victims provide for not officially reporting the crime.
The editorial board also should have sought out the experience of other schools that have lowered their standards of proof. Last year, the University of Maryland lowered its standard of proof for sexual assault convictions from “clear and convincing evidence” to “preponderance of evidence.” Has this resulted in more reporting? “I was hoping that with changing the standard of evidence, that it would have an influence on sexual assault reporting, but it hasn’t really,” said resident student conduct manager Keira Martone. See here.

The editorial board even undercuts its own argument about underreporting by asserting: "While over 40 assaults have been reported over the past few years, these accusations have resulted in only three punishments."  This suggests that the problem isn't underreporting after all. (Beyond that, the editorial board doesn't bother to furnish any explanation as to why the 37 cases resulted in no punishment. The reader is supposed to take it as a given that justice was not served in these cases, an assumption that is without any supporting evidence.)

What does the editorial board say about the fact that innocent students are more likely to be punished if the school were to adopt the lower standard? In perhaps the most breathtaking assertion of the entire piece, the editorial board says that there is no necessity to be concerned about the innocent because even if they are found guilty, the disciplinary board may not punish them as harshly as the guilty.

This assertion bizarrely conflates the adjudication of guilt and the sentencing phases of a disciplinary proceeding. It is akin to telling an innocent man to take consolation in the fact that a corrupt judge who unjustly tried and convicted him has discretion to exercise leniency in meting out his punishment. Whatever this is, it is not justice.

The students of Princeton need to understand what the lowering of the standard of proof means for the innocent who are wrongly punished for something they did not do: "The consequences for someone expelled for sexual assault are enormous and will follow him throughout his life, leading to rejection by other schools, inability to qualify for the bar and a great deal of stigma,” said Prof. Cynthia Bowman of Cornell. “To impose those consequences on someone requires a rigorous standard of proof and many due process protections to ensure fairness.” Even attorney Brett Sokolow, the most prominent sexual assault victim's advocate on American campuses, has expressed concern that "a lot of colleges now are expelling and suspending people they shouldn’t, for fear they’ll get nailed on Title IX.” He, too, points out that the stakes are high for students expelled for sexual assault: expelled students no longer automatically have the option of just registering at another school. Nowadays, schools share information, which makes that problematic, so students who are expelled have a lot more at stake.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) recently released its first report on the topic of campus sexual assault, spearheaded by the AAUP's Committee on Women in the Academic Profession, Subcommittee on Sexual Assault on Campus. It makes clear that the AAUP does not support the Department of Education's mandate that schools use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard for college disciplinary proceedings involving sexual assault. The higher "clear and convincing evidence" standard isn't just preferable, it is "necessary" to insure that students are afforded the due process they are entitled, according to the AAUP.

It is a tenet of the Community of the Wrongly Accused that every civilized society must strive to eradicate heinous criminality by punishing offenders, but it also must insure that the innocent aren't punished with them. The latter concern too often is absent from the public discourse. What we need are more adult voices grappling with these issues in sincere, reasonable ways, not puerile incantations asserted to satisfy a public outcry to get tough on rapists. Mark A Godsey of the Innocence Project recently said that "the risk of wrongful conviction is the highest when there’s public outcry. Most of the exonerations and wrongful convictions have occurred in rape cases."

It is well to note that the position of the editorial is, by any measure, anti-progressive. Innumerable valiant progressives over the past century, many of them attorneys defending the wrongly accused, have sought at every turn to expand the due process rights of our citizens, and our history as a people can be written by tracing the expansion of these rights. We can't recall the last time when persons who identify as progressives cheered rolling back the due process rights of some of our citizens. Have the hanging trees of the Old South been transplanted to the shores of Lake Carnegie at Princeton?

To put into perspective how far from the mainstream this policy is, it is well to note that at the urging of  FIRE and others, the Democrats in the U.S. Senate removed the higher standard advocated by the editorial board from an early version of the recently reenacted VAWA.

Finally, we applaud the dissent to the editorial penned by Zach Horton. As he eloquently puts it: "It is indeed lamentable that transient evidence may make [finding evidence of guilt] difficult. It would be more lamentable, however, to uproot the tradition of 'innocent until proven guilty' by allowing the accuser’s testimonial evidence to carry more weight than the word of the accused."