We have another bizarre case of a person who faked a hate crime. We previously followed the case of a lesbian in Nebraska charged with faking a gruesome anti-homosexual attack in her home. Now, police have concluded that a black woman in Louisiana who was the subject of vigil and national outcry is not a victim after all. Sharmeka Moffitt, 20, claimed that three white men doused her with a flammable liquid and lit her on fire while writing KKK and a racial slur on her car. Police say that Moffitt did these acts to herself.
Moffitt called 911 on a Sunday night to report that she was attacked while on a walking trail in Winnsboro by men in white hoodies. She suffered extensive burns.
However, police found that her fingerprints were found on a lighter and lighter fluid at the scene. Police say that they have not been able to ask Moffitt about the allegations because she remains in critical condition.
The Franklin Parish District Attorney’s Office will now decide whether to file charges against Moffitt.
Before the investigation’s findings, the federal government was treating the case as a federal hate crime. Vigils were held and Facebook sites were created seeking justice for Moffitt.
The question is whether Moffitt should be charged. I believe that she should be charged. I remain disturbed by the fact that Crystal Mangum was never charged after making false gang rape allegations against members of the Duke Lacrosse team. The allegation resulted in the destruction of the lives of these students and the university itself turned on the students — not waiting for a determination of guilt. Mangum compounded her crime by appearing at rallies and stoking the anger over her alleged abuse. In a highly political (and in my view unprincipled) decision, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper decided not to charge Mangum despite her ruining the lives of these students and causing an international controversy over false allegations. It sent a chilling message that false rape charges can be treated as simply bad judgment rather than a crime. What is bizarre is Cooper cited the need to reduce the public controversy surrounding the case, but it was Mangum who fueled that controversy and then, with Cooper’s help, benefited from it. Mangum was later repeatedly arrested for other crimes. Other false rape victims have not only been allowed to avoid criminal prosecution but in one case was allowed to keep money received as a faux victim.
Unlike Cooper, some prosecutors do take false rape claims more seriously and charge the culprits. For an English case, click here.
In the same fashion, Moffitt deserves a criminal charge if this evidence is as strong as suggested. While Mangum’s deception was worse in targeting specific men, Moffitt intentionally triggered a hate crime investigation and may have resulted in the implication of innocent persons. It also served to fuel racial tensions. While I expect that there are serious questions of her mental state, those issues should be resolved in the course of the criminal process. Given the burns, I would not argue for a long prison sentence and, if a first offender, would be inclined toward probation. However, these false allegations must be treated as criminal matters.
What do you think?