Woman charged with false rape report faces trial in Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas student who is charged with making a false rape report will go on trial this month after a judge denied motions to dismiss charges and suppress portions of the case, much to the chagrin of defense attorneys who say police botched the investigation.
Judge Amy Hanley’s ruling on Thursday means the trial will begin as scheduled on Oct. 28, The Kansas City Star reported.
Police first spoke to the woman last September outside a Lawrence hospital before she went inside to undergo a rape examination, according to court records. The woman said she had been raped by the friend of her ex-boyfriend, but the details were fuzzy because she was drunk at the time. She also said she didn’t want to press charges but allowed officers to look through her phone.
Police interpreted the texts as an acknowledgement that the sex was consensual, according to court records. District Attorney Charles Branson says the woman fabricated being raped out of regret and to get revenge.
However, the woman’s attorneys argue in court documents that she is innocent and that her text messages made light of what happened because she wasn’t yet able to admit she had been raped after waking up in a strange bed with no memory of how she got there with unexplained bruises on her legs, neck and arms. They say police decided to investigate her rather than the man whom she alleged attacked her. The man, who also was a university student, was never charged.
The woman’s legal fees are being covered in part by the Times Up Legal Defense Fund, an organization founded by celebrities during the Me Too movement.
Detective Charles Cottengim testified at a hearing last week that he didn’t launch a formal investigation into the alleged false report until Oct. 10, 2018, after the student asked for a detective to be present when she made a formal statement to Title IX investigators at the university.
Cottengim said during a motions hearing that he believed the student intended to eventually pursue charges against the man she accused of rape. The student ultimately decided not to meet with the university.
Patrick Compton, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman, said police have the latitude to determine whether to proceed with a case even if the reporting party declines to press charges.
“If during the investigation the alleged victim does not wish to pursue criminal charges or file a report, investigators will still document the information and determine whether to proceed,” Compton said.
The woman’s attorneys say she never told officers she wanted to pursue charges, though she did say she might consider it at some point.
“They violated almost every tenet of trauma-informed practices during this investigation by telling our client to think of her assailant’s reputation, suggesting that our client merely regretted what she had done, and repeatedly misrepresenting the status of the case,” her attorneys said in a statement. “All told, they investigated our client’s rape for less than two hours. That’s how long it took them to conclude that our client had ‘fabricated’ being raped. A two-hour rape investigation is neither ‘serious’ nor ‘respectful.’”
In hearings last week, her attorneys argued that two of the three false reporting counts should be dismissed. They said after the woman made her initial report of sexual assault, police caused her to make the same report two more times in the course of the investigation. In one case, the woman said “this happened,” referring to the alleged sexual assault.
The defense also argued that the detective interrogated the woman before reading the Miranda rights to her. The judge ruled that some of the statements were made after the woman had formally waived those rights.
The Star isn’t naming the woman because she says she is the victim of a sexual assault and the paper has a policy of not naming sexual assault victims. The felony false reporting charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 23 months in prison.