Four wrongly accused students have filed a lawsuit against William Paterson University for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and civil rights violations. According to the report, they were falsely accused after a women had consensual sex with them all, then later falsely reported they raped her.
Two of the wrongly accused students' attorney, Michael Epstein stated:
“Without conducting any investigation and based on the accuser’s report alone,” campus police arrested the men within the next few days and charged them with numerous offenses, including aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit sexual assault and criminal restraint.
Campus police did not interview any other witnesses, did not obtain cellphone records or surveillance video, and did not conduct a sexual assault examination — known as a rape kit — on the accuser, Epstein said.
“The officers who did the reported investigation were untrained, did not know how to conduct a sexual assault investigation,” Epstein said Tuesday.
Another attorney represents two other students who have filed a defamation case against the President of the University and the Accuser, but has stated that he intends to add the campus police as defendants to the lawsuit.
Victim advocates often say that victims don't report because they want to put the incident behind them. That might be true, although that leaves a rapist out there to rape again. But, the same holds true with victims of false allegations. Many times they just want to put the pieces of their lives back together after they are exonerated. However, in the military and our universities, a false allegation can have extremely negative ramifications on your career and education, respectively.
The only way the wrongly accused can fight back is to hold the false accuser and those who assist the false accuser accountable. In the military, this is difficult because Feres bars Servicemembers from suing the Government for injuries they receive incidental to their service. So, they are left with suing the accuser. But, finding an attorney to take on such a case where the false accuser most likely does not have deep pockets will be difficult because their is no gold at the end of the rainbow if you succeed in getting a verdict.
If they can find an attorney who will take the case, then there still are some pitfalls for Servicemembers who are falsely accused who want to hold their accuser accountable. They are fighting for their lives and their career in a court-martial that might take a year to resolve. Most states have a one-year statute of limitations for defamation actions, so the Servicemember who is exonerated will be barred from filing suit if he waits until after the court-martial. Of course, in the case of a vindictive false allegation, Servicemembers could sue the false accuser for tortious interference with employment, which has a longer statute of limitation.
But, kudos to these four students for fighting back. Their lawsuit will do little to prevent a false allegation because false allegations have been around since the beginning of time, but just maybe in the future, William Paterson University will do a little more than take an accuser at her word and arrest four innocent men.