The 19-year-old swimsuit model was found around 5 a.m. in the dirt by the side of the road in Pleasant Grove, near a cemetery with a plastic shopping bag over her head. Her story was harrowing.
Our Birmingham sex crimes defense lawyers understand that the woman told investigators she was walking near the grave site of a friend when an unknown man approached her from behind and attacked her. He placed a bag over her head and attempted to sexually assault her.
There was a brief struggle, she said, before she was able to break away from the man.
She then raced to the roadway nearby on foot, apparently unable to remove the plastic bag from her head. She then collapsed near the edge of the road, and passed out. She appeared unconscious when found, though she was alive and breathing.
Of course, there was another version of events she gave in which it was the unknown man who dumped her in that roadside ditch.
Initial reports of the incident sent the small town of Pleasant Grove, about 11 miles outside of Birmingham, into a panic. Police officials said they began to receive dozens of calls from nearby concerned residents. They wanted to know the man’s description, so they could watch out for him.
Police spent the day scouring surveillance footage at the cemetery and nearby businesses, tapping into the young woman’s phone records and interviewing her close friends and neighbors.
They soon discovered there were numerous holes and inconsistencies in her account.
Upon pressing her further, the police received a confession from the woman admitting that the story was false. It was later revealed that the woman had recently broken up with her ex-boyfriend. The entire ordeal – down to the plastic bag over her head – was a rouse to illicit sympathy from him and, the hope was, woo him back.
There is often a great deal of talk from advocacy groups about a “rape culture” that heavily scrutinizes those victims who are brave enough to report a sexual assault. However, cases like this aren’t isolated, though they may be somewhat less spectacular in imaginative scope. In the criminal justice system, where there is a possibility that someone’s reputation, career, family and freedom is on the line, it is imperative for law enforcement officers to approach such allegations with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Thankfully, no suspects were identified or arrested during the course of this situation. Many times with false accusations, we see scenarios in which the accuser has a specific target suspect in mind. For example, the person will make false allegations against an ex-lover or encourage children to make false allegations against an ex-spouse.
Sometimes, the false accuser will face charges themselves, which is a good first step toward prevention. In this case, the woman is charged with misdemeanor false reporting of a crime.
But false accusations absolutely can lead to convictions. In a case out of Michigan, a woman is facing trial for making false reports after her allegation of rape was refuted by a doctor who reported her bruises were actually painted on with make-up, and wiped clean with gauze. Ten years earlier in a separate incident, a man was convicted of rape against the same woman. He was released and granted a new trial after authorities learned of this latest incident.