False Allegations
Derek “The Fallen One” Logue
April 24, 2009, Addendum added Dec. 12, 2009

"
Hell no, I ain't worried. I didn't do this. You can't convict me of something I didn't do." – John Stoll, one of the
accused in the Bakersfield day care scandal

On Sunday, April 12, 2009, MSNBC premiered the documentary “Witch Hunt,” which told the story of the infamous
Bakersfield day care abuse panic, which led to the false convictions of dozens of innocent people in the small town
of Bakersfield, California during the early 1980s [
1]. The Bakersfield hysteria spread throughout the United States
and other English-speaking nations during the 1980s and early 1990s [
2]. It could be argued that the current spate
of sex offender laws find their origins in this social panic. In the nearly thirty years since the first of the Bakersfield
cases were tried, the social panic surrounding sex crimes and offenders remains at a high level.
Our culture has cast all men in particular as potential sexual predators, and as a consequence, a growing number of
men are fearful of children. As one man put it, “being a man, I’m guilty until proven innocent [
3].” The news media
releases many stories yearly of individuals who have served years or even decades in prison for crimes they didn’t
commit. This begs the question: just how prevalent are false allegations in our hysteria-driven society?

Studies on false allegations

One critical study on false rape allegations found 41% (190) of rape allegations made over a 9 year period in one
metropolitan area were indeed false allegations. “These false allegations appear to serve three major functions for
the complainants: providing an alibi, seeking revenge, and obtaining sympathy and attention.” This study also noted
possible reasons for false rape allegations: “False rape allegations are not the consequence of a gender-linked
aberration, as frequently claimed, but reflect impulsive and desperate efforts to cope with personal and social stress
situations… Other factors that are typically responsible for unfounded declarations are victim’s late reporting to the
police, lack of corroborating evidence, lack of cooperation by the victim and/or witnesses, reporting in the wrong
jurisdiction, discrepancies in the victim’s story, wrong address given by the victim, victim’s drunkenness, victim’s
drug usage, victim’s being thought a prostitute, victim’s uncertainty of events, victim’s belligerence [4] .” Granted,
this is only one study, but one that remains relevant in a culture that believes an accusation is the same as a
conviction.
Many more studies have focused on the possibility of false child sexual abuse allegations. An annotated list of
studies at the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal violence lists numerous reports on the number
of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) cases found to be false. Below is the false CSA allegation stats from the studies listed
at the aforementioned website:

•        Bala, Schuman                                                     45 of 150 (30%)
•        Benedek, Schetky                                                10 of 18 (55%)
•        Brown, Hewitt, Sheehan                                        9% of 200
•        Faller                                                                    15%-25% false
•        Green                                                                   36%
•        Jones, McGraw                                                     7%
•        Jones, Seig                                                           4 of 20 (20%)
•        McGraw, Smith                                                     3 of 18 (16.5%), 1 from child
•        Thoennes, Tjadea                                               33% of 129 [
5]

It is interesting to note that most studies, with the exception of one, found no significant difference in allegations
arising from custody disputes. The single study found the percentage of false allegations rose from 4% to 12%
when custody disputes are involved and argues the possibility of malicious prosecutions in custody disputes should
not be ruled out of the realm of possibilities [
6].
Many professionals should look out for specific warning signs in such cases which may increase the likelihood of
false allegations in CSA cases:

  1. Certain personality disorders of the accusers
  2. Divorce/ child custody proceedings
  3. Situations with the potential for financial gains
  4. History of unsubstantiated allegations
  5. Unusual timing of the allegation
  6. Situations which the accuser may have a need to draw attention away from them (such as substance abuse)
  7. Lack of response from the child [7]

The report lists typical reasons for false allegations; one or all could be prime factors:

1.        Emotional motivations [such as attention seeking]
2.        Revenge
3.        Therapist Error or Collusion
4.        Accusation to protect oneself from the consequences of other behavior [8]

While malicious or intentional accusations may be considered “rare” by statistical standards, the fact remains they
do happen. Below are a few case studies of the different ways people landed behind bars due to false allegations:

Malicious Prosecution

Perhaps no other case embodies malicious prosecution than the infamous “Duke Lacrosse” sex scandal of 2006.
The allegations stemmed from one of the two “exotic dancers” hired for an off-campus party. The backlash from the
allegations was severe, including media embarrassment for the program and the players. Durham County District
Attorney Mike Nifong would state that as many as 46 of the Lacrosse players were under suspicion of the sex crime
allegations [
9]. Among those in the media who were quick to crucify the accused, media personality Wendy Murphy
was the most vocal; she emphatically stated, “I never, ever, met a false rape claim, by the way. My own statistics
speak the truth [
10].” Apparently there is a first time for everything, as the case ended with the exoneration of the
Lacrosse players and Prosecutor Nifong disbarred for prosecutorial misconduct. “The bar's three-member
disciplinary panel unanimously found Nifong guilty of fraud, dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation; of making false
statements of material fact before a judge; of making false statements of material fact before bar investigators, and
of lying about withholding exculpatory DNA evidence, among other violations [
11].” [Note: See also my addendum
regarding malicious prosecution from child services agencies]

Financial Gains

A New York man was freed after three years in prison for child rape he says he didn’t commit. He was convicted
despite tests showing no rape had taken place and questionable evidence. The man states the motivating factor in
the false allegations was money; he had recently acquired a work injury settlement. Despite the fact there was no
evidence of a crime, Laura Ahern of Parents For Megan’s Law claims the man got off on a technicality [
12].

Accusation to protect oneself from the consequences of other behavior

A thirteen-year-old boy in Pasco County, Florida called in a false kidnapping report to hide the fact that he was out
on a date with a girl; the boy was subsequently placed in juvenile detention [
13].

Coercion to cover up another crime

A South Dakota man was recently pardoned and exonerated after serving 22 years for a sex crime he never
committed. Accused by his half-sister, it was later determined the half-sister lied under coercion by the boyfriend of
the girl’s mother; the boyfriend was the one molesting her at the time [
14].

Attention Seekers

Two Alabama teenagers lured a convicted sex offender to their homes in order to get him arrested and gain air time
on television. Later, evidence surfaced that the teens lied about how they lured the registrant to their house for the
arrest (to buy a broken motorcycle, not for soliciting sex through MySpace), and the charges against the registrant
were dropped [
15].  

False Guilty Pleas

You’re faced with the possibility of a 25 year sentence for rape, the jury is poised to convict you, and the state offers
you probation or two years with a lesser charge, would you take the deal? In the case of one Virginia boy, he did
just that. The boy admitted to sex with a girl she claimed raped him. Later, the girl recanted, but not before the boy
entered a guilty plea in exchange for a juvenile sentence. The case has yet to be overturned [
16].  

Even when proven innocent, still considered guilty

DNA evidence has cleared over 200 people convicted of sex crimes since 1989, many of whom have served lengthy
prison sentences. In addition to the stigma and shame they carry even after being exonerated, few states offer
support and assistance to the exonerated. Many of those exonerated have found even with the exoneration papers
in hand, they were typically treated as a convicted sex offender, including harassment, denial of housing and
employment, and some were still forced to register [
17].  Even the New York man released on appeal was harassed
even on the day of his release, and Laura Ahern implied he was still a guilty man [18].  Fortunately, a handful of
states are taking initiative to expunge the public records of those completely exonerated, including Alaska, which is
drafting a bill to do just that. Currently under Alaska law, the arrest records remain public even after exoneration,
which becomes a major problem particularly when applying for employment [
19].

Sex Offender label the new insult

Current discriminatory remarks such as the misuse of the term “gay” as a derisive term are being replaced with the
terms “sex offender,” “predator,” or “pedophile” as the latest form of personal attack, which can have serious
consequences. In Pennsylvania, an eighth-grade student nearly faced criminal charges after making online claims
her school principal was an admitted “sex addict” and “pedophile [20] .” In Colorado, an anonymous person made
false sex offender fliers targeting a man not listed on any sex offender registry, citing the controversial website
“Family Watchdog” as a reference. Crime Stoppers offered a reward for the arrest of the creator of these
slanderous fliers [
21].  In Illinois, a smear campaign depicting one state senator as a “friend of child molesters”
during the 2008 election [22].

Conclusion

Predator panic is alive and well even in 2009. If anything our culture is reinforcing this panic. We’ve gone so far as
use labels given to sex offenders as insults and personal attacks against individuals. So it comes as no surprise that
despite a high degree of false allegations, the accused are already convicted in the court of public opinion.
Everyone is “guilty until proven innocent.” Actually, even when proven innocent, public opinion merely sees him as
“getting off on a technicality.” The innocent be damned; even celebrity child safety advocate Mark Lunsford testified
before the March 2009 SORNA committee hearing that sacrificing a few innocent people is a small price to pay for
child safety [
23].  Sacrificing the innocent to save the innocent is an oxymoron. The pressure to accept a lesser plea
is overwhelming, and given the vast majority of criminal cases end in guilty pleas, those who are truly innocent have
little hope to overcome false allegations.
At the least, one solution would be to make false allegations as serious as the offenses they false accuse others of
committing. Programs should be in place to assist those exonerated, and no red tape should exist to stymie the
clearing of the records of innocent people. But until people accept the real possibility of false allegations, many
more innocent people will be swallowed up in this wave of Predator Panic.

More reading on false allegations

http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/ -- The False Rape Society, a great blog chronicling cases of false rape
allegations

http://
www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/falseaccusation.html -- A compilation of information on false allegations,
primarily of child abuse

http:/
/www.nolanchart.com/article3294.html -- Great article on a false allegation and the disastrous consequences,
“In Memory of All the Dead Fathers,” by John Morphonios, March 26, 2008. Has links to similar articles at the bottom
of the webpage.

http://
falseallegations.com/ -- Contains a plethora of links to articles on false sexual abuse allegations and other sex
offender related issues

http://
www.witchhuntmovie.com/ -- Official website for the "Witch Hunt" documentary, proceeds from the DVD sales
go to the Innocence Project

References

  1. “Witch Hunt: About the Film - Synopsis.” Witch Hunt Documentary Website, 2009. http://www.witchhuntmovie.
    com/about.html, Retrieved April 24, 2009
  2. “Day care sex abuse hysteria.” Wikipedia, 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_care_sex_abuse_hysteria,
    retrieved April 24, 2009.
  3. Zaslow, Jeff, “Avoiding Kids: How men cope with being cast as predators.” Wall Street Journal, Spt. 6, 2007.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118903209653018615.html, Retrieved Feb. 19, 2008
  4. Eugene J. Kanin. “False rape allegations.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, Feb. 1994
  5. “Are Allegations of Sexual Abuse That Arise During Child Custody Disputes Less Likely To Be Valid? An
    Annotated Review of the Research.” The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence,
    2009. http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/ap.html, Retrieved April 24, 2009
  6. Nico Trocme and Nicholas Bala. “False allegations of abuse and neglect when parents separate.” Child
    Abuse and Neglect, 2005. http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/docs/Trocme.pdf, Retrieved April 24, 2009
  7. Richard CW Hall and Ryan CW Hall. “False Allegations: The role of the Forensic Psychiatrist.” Journal of
    Psychiatric Practice, September 2001.
  8.  Ibid., pp. 343-344
  9. “Looking back at the Duke Lacrosse Case.” Duke Office of News and Communication, 2009. http://news.duke.
    edu/lacrosseincident/, Retrieved April 24, 2009
  10. KC Johnson. “The Wendy Murphy File.” Durham in Wonderland, Dec. 31, 2006. http://durhamwonderland.
    blogspot.com/2006/12/wendy-murphy-file.html, Retrieved April 24, 2009
  11. Lara Setrakian and Chris Francescani. “Former Duke Prosecutor Nifong Disbarred.” ABC News, June 16,
    2007. http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=3285862, Retrieved April 24, 2009
  12. Emily Smith. “Convicted sex offender free on appeal.” ABC 7, December 18, 2008. http://abclocal.go.
    com/wabc/story?section=news/local&id=6182352&pt=print, Retrieved April 24, 2009
  13. “Authorities: Boy called in own fake kidnapping.” Bay News 9, April 3, 2008. http://www.baynews9.
    com/content/36/2008/4/3/337118.html?title=Authorities:+Boy+called, retrieved April 24, 2009
  14. Amanda Palluck. “Finally Free.” Brookings Register, April 3, 2009. http://www.brookingsregister.
    com/V2_news_articles.php?heading=0&story_id=4740&page=76, Retrieved April 25, 2009
  15. Virginia Bridges, “Charges dropped in fake Baldwin County sex sting.” AL.com, Oct. 16, 2008. http://www.al.
    com/news/press-register/metro.ssf?/base/news/122414854135910.xml&coll=3, Retrieved April 25, 2009
  16. Steve Drizin. “False Guilty Pleas and Juvenile Injustice.” Bluhm Legal Clinic Blog, Northwestern Univ. School of
    Law, March 7, 2009. http://blog.law.northwestern.edu/bluhm/2009/03/false-guilty-pleas-and-juvenile-injustice.
    html, Retrieved April 25, 2009
  17. Kevin Johnson. “Those cleared by DNA tests struggle to be free.” USA Today, Jan. 27, 2009. http://www.
    usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-01-27-exonerated_N.htm, Retrieved April 25, 2009.
  18. Emily Smith, “Free on appeal,” ABC 7, ibid.
  19. James Halpin. “Bill would clean files of false accusations.” Anchorage Daily News, April 12, 2009. http://www.
    adn.com/2627/v-printer/story/757736.html, Retrieved April 25, 2009
  20. Gene Policinski. “Fake Web page may have chipped away at student-speech rights.” Rockford Register Star,
    Oct. 6, 2008.
  21. Nick Bonham. “Flier falsely calls resident sex offender.” The Pueblo Chieftain, Oct. 18, 2008. http://www.
    chieftain.com/articles/2008/10/18/news/local/doc48f978e821a9e505539832.prt, Retrieved April 25, 2009
  22. Kevin Haas. “Friends of Rep. Ron Wait respond to Tuite’s political ad.” Rockford Register Star, Sept. 17,
    2008.
  23. Laurie Peterson, “The AWA Hearing.” RSOL Digest, March 2009. http://reformsexoffenderlaws.org/digest.
    php#0019, Retrieved April 25, 2009

ADDENDUM 12/12/2009

Re: Malicious Prosecution by social workers

Recently I received an e-mail suggesting I left out one very important detail; namely, malicious prosecution cases by
social workers rather than through the DA or police. To clarify, for the sake of argument, I simply neglected to use
the term "social workers/ children's services" when writing; however, I had them in mind when writing about malicious
prosecution. Social workers, child services employees, and law enforcement serve the same functions in regards to
the investigation and prosecution of sex crime accusations, so for all intensive purposes, are one and the same.
However, I will delve further into this topic to add to this article. I hold the Bakersfield day care scare as the standard
of malicious prosecution from social services and law enforcement agencies in a collaborative effort. It is difficult to
separate the two agencies in terms of malicious prosecution. Hopefully, this helps clarify the deficiency point out in
this article.
(c) 2007-2014 Derek  W. Logue. No part of this website may be used in any way without expressed written consent of the site owner.
This article is about the statistics of false allegations. If you are looking
for assistance or support groups that specifically deal with false
allegations, visit the following websites:

http://
www.falserape.net/
http://www.innocenceproject.org/
http://www.cotwa.info/
http://www.mediaradar.org/