Thursday, July 25, 2013

Police on summer camp false rape claim: 'Sometimes students make up attacks because they want to go home'

The male summer camp student who reported a man attempted to rape him on the Iowa City pedestrian mall in the middle of the afternoon last week made up the story, police said Wednesday.

The Iowa City Police Department is not filing charges against the juvenile. The department also is not releasing his name, as it doesn’t identify juveniles. He was attending a summer camp at the University of Iowa, but left Iowa City after reporting the attack on July 15.

The alleged victim was taken to the hospital last Monday after he reported being attacked around 1 p.m. in an alley off of the pedestrian mall. He told police his assailant was a slender white male, about six foot three inches tall.

After interviewing three to five witnesses who knew the alleged victim, Iowa City Police Lt. Doug Hart said their stories were inconsistent with the information the alleged victim had provided. From there, the investigator on the case spoke with the juvenile who admitted the incident did not occur, he said.

Hart said he doesn’t believe a mental illness or malicious motive drove the young man to make up the crime.

"My impression from speaking with the investigator is that this was basically just a juvenile that made a bad decision," he said.

The young man was either 16 or 17 and is believed to be from Texas, Hart said. He said he didn’t have definitive answers on the person’s age or hometown because he did not perform the investigation in this case. He declined to name the officer who did perform the investigation.

False assault claims are rare for both the ICPD and UI. UI spokesman Tom Moore said in his 24 years at UI, he’s only heard of one other such claim.

The day after the student reported the assault, the university called the parents of all 110 students enrolled in the same summer program as the alleged victim, Moore said. He declined to say which program the student was in.

In determining whether to file charges in a false report case, police consider factors like the reporting party’s age, the disruption to the community it caused and the time dedicated to investigating the case, Hart said.

A false reporter also is less likely to be charged if he or she did not name a specific suspect, Iowa City Police Sgt. Dave Droll said.

"Since nobody was brought in an interviewed as a suspect and basically falsely put in, I would imagine that probably went into some of the consideration as well," said Droll, who was not involved in the investigation.

As far as the young man’s motive for his actions, Hart said he was in the dark. Sometimes, Droll said, students make up attacks because they want to go home.

“There have been athletes in the past that have done similar things because they’re homesick,” he said. “They want to create some sort of thing so that mom or dad will bring them back home.”