Saturday, October 19, 2013

The horrific consequences of false rape claims

A candlelight vigil was held today in Surrey to remember two best friends who were murdered in cold blood 20 years ago. Friends since elementary school, Christian Lussier and Paul McDaniel were inseparable. “They were a team — they were always together,” Lussier’s older sister, Wendy Chapman, said. “I could never imagine one without the other.”

Tragically, the two young men also died together. On Sept. 11, 1993, John Joseph Arniel confronted Lussier, 16, McDaniel, 15, and Richard Moisan, 17, at a spot under the Pattullo Bridge, where he shot them all. Lussier and McDaniel died at the scene but Moisan, who had been shot in the face, survived. He was able to call 911 and identify Arniel as the shooter.

Arniel, then 18 years old, went after the teens because his girlfriend had told him that Lussier raped her — an allegation that police deemed unfounded and the woman later recanted. Arniel pleaded guilty in December 1993 to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years. Story here.

Over the past several years, our blog has covered far too many examples of the awful things that can happen because of false rape claims. We grow weary of people who trivialize false rape claims by claiming they are rare. Unfortunately, the people who make such assertions typically have a financial interest at stake. They fail to take into account that while only a relatively small number of rape claims can be definitively branded "false," the same is true for the percentage of rape claims that can be definitively branded as rapes. For most such, no one can say one way or the other -- even Dr. David Lisak's rape study affirms this. Of the rape claims that can be definitively classified (either way), false rape claims make up a significant percentage -- an unacceptable percentage.

But even if false rape claims were, indeed, rare, the consequences of a false rape claim can be so horrific, to trivialize them is an affront to decency. Here are just a few examples of some of the worst recent cases -- but first, a legitimate trigger warning: the stories are horrible and not everyone should read this. False rape allegations can take on a life of their own, and too often, they result in unspeakable harm, sometimes even death, for the men and boys falsely accused. Contrary to the progressive meme, toleration of rape is not "normalized" in our culture; rage and violent overreaction to even unproven rape allegations are more common. In some ways, we are little better than the grinning mob in Duluth or a thousand other places, posing for a twisted photo op with the lifeless body of a young man hanging from a tree for no reason other than that a woman has cried "rape." For the victim, the trial was over even before it had begun; the accusation became his conviction and death sentence. As one civil-liberties lawyer, who is concerned about the sometimes vigilante attitude toward accused rapists, puts it: "Some people regard rape as so heinous an offense that they would not even regard innocence as a defense." Here are the examples, and remember -- we warned you:

▲Renada Williams of Philadelphia invited a man over for sex, then called a male acquaintance and his teenage brother and lied that her lover had raped her. The brothers kicked in the door at Williams' home and found her lover naked in the middle of the bedroom. Williams stood back and watched while the brothers terrorized and nearly killed him. They beat him with their hands, a 4-by-4-foot wood plank, and extension cords; then they sodomized him with a broomstick after taunting him that he was going to feel what it was like to be raped. The victim suffered a collapsed lung, broken ribs, and other injuries, and was hospitalized for a week. The woman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to up to 23 months in prison. The teen is being handled in the juvenile system. And now, the older brother has been sentenced to 6 to 12 years in prison.

▲A 15-year-old girl falsely told her boyfriend that an 18-year-old man had raped her. The girl, her boyfriend, and another man drove to the innocent youth’s apartment. The innocent youth was looking through the peep hole of his front door when one of the men shot him to death through the door. The gunman fled, but the false accuser's boyfriend (who did not fire the gun) was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. 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 sentenced the killer to seven years in prison. 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 by the woman's brother. He was wrongly convinced that Mr. Chalmers had raped his sister, so he delivered a beating so terrible that Mr. Chalmers has had to “learn everything again.”

▲Darrell Roberson came 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. Mr. Roberson shot and killed Mr. LaSalle. In a rare switch, a grand jury refused to indict Mr. Roberson, but his wife, Tracy Roberson was charged -- and convicted and imprisoned for five years for involuntary manslaughter. "The wrong person went to prison," fumed Jill Davis, Tracy Roberson's attorney.

▲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 the young men that Mr. Wightman had raped her. Police say the rape claim was false. 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 accused another man of raping her. She pled guilty to that charge, too.

▲A 23-year-old San Antonio woman instigated a murder by lying to her boyfriend about being raped in an attempt to cover up the fact she was two-timing him. The victim was gunned down behind the Quiznos where he worked. The false accuser accepted a plea agreement in which she now faces up to eight years in prison.

▲Remember the tragic death of young Daniel Cicciaro? John White, a 50-something black father, shot the 17-year-old Cicciaro, who was white, following a false rape claim. 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 said he had threatened to rape her. 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. According to a news report: "Cicciaro Jr. and four friends descended on White's home to confront his teenage son because they were wrongly led to believe that in an online chat room Aaron had threatened their friend with rape. She later recanted the claim." One boy is dead, and a father was imprisoned after a racially charged trial that divided a city.

▲Regan Scott Derrick, 27. His then-girlfriend returned home after a Saturday night out with some of her friends. She was vomiting and crying, and she lied to Mr. Derrick that she had been date raped and robbed by some men. Mr. Derrick assembled a posse of friends to dish out some vigilante justice and to repossess the stolen items. They barged into the house where the supposed offenders were, and a violent altercation ensued. No one was killed, but Mr. Derrick was convicted of injuring with intent. Mr. Derrick said he was "shocked and horrified" when he learned his girlfriend had lied.

▲A vigilante mob burned down a gypsy camp near Turin, Italy after a 16-year-old girl falsely claimed she had been raped by two men. She lied to conceal the fact that she had lost her virginity to her Italian boyfriend.

▲And if we talk about overreacting to rape accusations, we can't leave out Philadelphia. The hanging trees of the Old South would feel at home there. On a steamy day in June of 2009, an innocent man named Michael Zenquis was beaten by an angry mob after he was wrongly accused of raping an 11-year-old girl. In light of this despicable atrocity to an innocent man, what did the mayor and the police commissioner do? Nothing. Worse, the next day, a different mob caught up with the actual rapist and gave him a brutal beating that lasted several minutes until the police got there. The police gave two of the men who helped "apprehend" the rapist $5,750 each. Further, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced he would not pursue criminal charges against the mob.