Police were investigating the alleged rape of Sara Ylen by two men in her home in Lexington, Michigan when her attending physician noticed something odd: her bruises were wiping off clean. She is now being prosecuted for falsely claiming rape and tampering with evidence. The most chilling aspect of the story is that prosecutors convicted a man previously of raping Ylen. It is the role of the prosecutors that needs to be investigated in this bizarre story.
Ylen said that she was taking a nap when she was bound and raped. She went to police eight days after the alleged attack and was seen by Dr. William Starbird. He testified that he cleaned what appeared to be lacerations and bruises on her face with gauze. They wiped off. He then spotted a discarded makeup compact in the examining room.
In 2003, James Grissom was convicted of raping Ylen. He was released after 10 years for a new trial after it was discovered that Ylen had made false allegations of rape in California. Prosecutors never shared that with Grissom’s trial attorney. The prosecutors also prosecuted Grissom despite the fact that there was no evidence, no surveillance video, and no other witnesses supporting Ylen’s claim that in 2002 she was raped in broad daylight in a store parking lot of a Meijer store. Grissom worked there and had a prior sex-related crime. However, Ylen did not go to police for an entire year after the alleged attack. Police arrested Grissom based on the fact that Ylen said that the attacker had a skull tattoo. That was it. He was convicted and even given an enhanced sentence because she claimed that he gave her a sexually transmitted disease.
The rape case propelled Ylen into the spotlight where she was heralded for her bravery insisting that people consider her a “victor” rather than a victim. She was the subject of a newspaper’s award-winning 2003 series about surviving a rape. When she then announced that she had cancer, the public again turned out in droves. She was given gifts and auctions were held to raise money for her. An insurance company paid nearly $100,000 for hospice care. No one seemed to question her claim that she developed cancer from a disease transmitted during the assault.
No one looked closely at these claims. Indeed, her husband divorced her in 2011, after separating in 2007, on the basis that the marriage ‘broke down due to the wife’s complex lies and deceit involving fictitious rapes, kidnappings, pregnancies and illnesses – all attempts to control others by complaining of physical symptoms.”
Then this long history of false statements came crashing down. She was charged with fraud, false pretenses and using a computer to commit a crime.
My concerns however primarily concern the rape conviction and the prosecutor’s failure to look more closely at these claims. The victim was not just late in coming forward, but the virtual absence of supporting evidence should have given a prosecutor pause. You then add the failure to disclose the prior dishonesty. There is no indication of any investigation of the handling of the case by the prosecutors.
The question is whether Grissom will sue in tort for the ten years lost in this case. This recent information could be viewed as tolling the statute of limitations.
Prosecuting false rape claims remains rare. Perhaps the most infamous refusal to charge such a case involved Crystal Gale Mangum, 33, the stripper who falsely accused members of the Duke lacrosse team. She became a national celebrity as activists warned that anything but long criminal sentences would be proof of racism by the prosecutors. Durham D.A. Mike Nifong joined this lynch mob atmosphere despite the absence of forensic evidence to support the claim of rape. When he was removed and the lie was exposed however North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper refused to prosecute Mangum, who ruined the lives of these students and triggered racial tensions in the region. Cooper simply let her walk in a disgraceful but politically expedient decision.
At least Ylen will be prosecuted. However, there needs to be an investigation of the handling of the original rape case by the prosecutors and the police. The prosecution of Ylen will address her own culpability but there are others who facilitated these abuses and lies.