I have previously discussed the pattern of prosecutors in either not charging false rape victims or seeking relatively light sentences despite the incarceration of innocent men. (here, here, here, here, here, and here). While I would never recommend a prison sentence for a rape victim who simply identified the wrong man by mistake, the most disturbing cases are those involving false rape claims. For an example of this problem, you need to go no further than the case of Elizabeth Paige Coast.
Coast, 26, accused Johnathan C. Montgomery, a former neighbor of raping her in 2000 when she was 10 years old and he was 14. She later admitted that she made up the story and lied on the witness stand at his June 23, 2008, trial.
Montgomery’s life was ruined and he spent four years in jail. Coast however was sentenced by Hampton Circuit Court Judge Bonnie L. Jones to just two months in jail and ordered to make $90,000 in restitution for perjury. Jones suspended the rest of the five-year sentence and even allowed Coast to serve the remainder on weekends so not to disrupt her life.
Coast blamed her crimes on her reading adult material on the Internet by her mother. When her strict religious mother caught her, the mother (Coast claims) suggested that she was viewing the material because she had been sexually assaulted. She said that the jumped at the excuse to get out of trouble. She said she gave her mother the name of Montgomery when pressed to identify the assailant. Her lawyer insisted that, because she came forward, any jailing would send the wrong message to others who lie about crimes.
Hopewell Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard K. Newman asked for a 10-year sentence with six years suspended so she would serve the same length of time as Montgomery.
I certainly agree that Coast should be credited with coming forward. However, she is now 26. That means that this man went to jail when she was 22. She was 17 when he made the allegations.
Sixty days on weekends sends a message of a different kind: that false rape victims are not subject to the same punishment afforded others who file false police reports, ruin lives, or commit perjury.
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.
Notably, there is no published review of the original case and the evidence against Montgomery. There appears only the evidence of the accuser in the case and it makes me wonder about the prosecutor’s role in the case.
Source: Times Dispatch