Monday, April 18, 2011

Six are sentenced for vicious home invasion stemming from false rape claim

Exactly one year ago, on April 18, 2010, Felisha Hardison, 25, from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, along with her mother, picked up a group of young men, ages 19-22, and drove them to the home of Cody Wightman, 25. Hardison and her mother then sat in their minivan while the young men proceeded to kick in Mr. Wightman's front door, then punch and kick him, and finally, beat him with a claw hammer. They cut Mr. Wightman's head and bruised him, but, thankfully, Mr. Wightman survived the attack relatively unscathed.

The attack occurred because Hardison had told her mother and the young men that Mr. Wightman had raped her. Police say the rape claim was false.

Last Friday, Hardison, her mother, and four of the young men pled guilty to charges in connection with the attack.

It turns out that several weeks before the attack on Mr. Wightman, Hardison had falsely accusing another man of raping her. She pled guilty to that charge, along with charges related to the attack on Mr. Wightman, last Friday. In that earlier false rape claim, Hardison told police she had been raped by a man with whom she has three children. She claimed the man forced her to have sex with him, punched her and choked her, and videotaped the act with his cell phone camera.  The man denied the allegations and said Hardison made the accusations to get custody of one of their children. A review of the cell phone camera footage contradicted Hardison's claims of rape and showed the two had consensual sex, police said.

Last Friday, two of the young men in the attack on Mr. Wightman were given maximum sentences of 23 months and two years respectively. Hardison's mother was given a sentence of nine to 23 months in jail, but she was given credit for time already served and is no longer in custody. Hardison and two other young men were given sentences of two to four years.  But note, Hardison's sentence also included her unrelated, prior false rape claim, so, presumably, Hardison received a more lenient sentence for the attack on Mr. Wightman than the two young men who merely exacted her vengeance against Mr. Wightman.

This was just another mind-numbing tragedy all too common to readers of this blog. Those of us who closely follow the false rape phenomenon find unmistakable patterns of gendered reactions to rape claims, true or false. Based on a fair review of the reported cases, it is reasonable to assert that men, especially young men, typically express far greater outrage over rape claims than do women. The rape of a woman often elicits a visceral reaction of outrage in men exceeding the actual harm inflicted by the crime. One need not look to the hanging trees of the old South to know that even rape accusers who tell far-fetched rape lies are nearly universally believed while even innocent men and boys accused of rape are nearly universally vilified.

This blog has covered more than its share of similar tragedies. Need to be reminded?

Last December, New York Governor David Patterson commuted the sentence of John White, a 50-something black father, who was serving a two-to-four year sentence for manslaughter in the shooting death of 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro, who was white. At his trial, Mr. White testified that late in the evening of August 9, 2006, his 19-year-old son, Aaron, woke him up to tell him that he had just come from a party where a young woman wrongly accused him of threatening to rape her on a MySpace posting. Aaron told his father that a group of angry white youths were headed to their house to beat him up because they wrongly believed the young woman. Mr. White and his son walked to the end of their driveway to confront the youths, and in the heated confrontation that followed, young Mr. Cicciaro was killed. Mr. White claimed his gun accidentally discharged.  The girl later recanted the rape claim.  One boy is dead, and a father was imprisoned after a racially charged trial that divided a city. But the girl, apparently, escaped unscathed.

A 15-year-old girl falsely told her boyfriend that Sumbo Owoiya, 18, raped her. The girl, the boyfriend, and another man then drove to the innocent youth’s apartment. While Mr. Owoiya was looking through a peep hole, the other man shot him to death through the door. The boyfriend was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, but the girl was given a suspended sentence.

Two teenage girls lied to a 19-year-old man that another 19-year-old, Cory Headen, had raped one of them, so the man broke into Mr. Headen’s home and beat him to death with a baseball bat while he was sleeping. At the man’s trial, the judge described the teens who accused Mr. Headen of rape as "stupid, drunken, immature girls" who delivered a vile message. The judge sentence the man who did the beating to seven years in prison. One young man was dead, another’s life was destroyed, all because of a false rape claim, and the girls who ignited the fire apparently escaped unscathed.

John Chalmers, a 47-year-old prominent businessman, suffered devastating brain injuries in a vicious attack after a woman's brother was wrongly convinced that Mr. Chalmers had raped his sister, so the brother thrashed Mr. Chalmers. So terrible was the beating that Mr. Chalmers has had to “learn everything again.”

Darrell Roberson had come home unexpectedly from a trip when he found his wife, Tracy Roberson, and her lover, Devin LaSalle, together in Mr. LaSalle's truck. To cover up her affair, Mrs. Roberson falsely told her husband she had been raped, and Mr. Roberson shot and killed Mr. LaSalle. In a rare switch, a grand jury refused to indict Mr. Roberson, but Ms. Roberson was charged, convicted, and imprisoned for five years for involuntary manslaughter. "The wrong person went to prison," fumed Jill Davis, Roberson's attorney.

And we won't even mention Philadelphia, where vigilante "justice" against men accused of rape isn't just tolerated but officially encouraged and rewarded.

Chivalry, far more than so-called "rape culture," is a defining characteristic of masculinity.  Too often, this chivalry serves to enable the worst kinds of false rape claims.

We will be posting about another similar tragedy tomorrow.