Michigan Woman Who Made False Rape Claim Is Given Five Year Sentence

article-2326336-19a6ae47000005dc-939_306x423We previously discussed the false rape allegation of Sara Ylen who fabricated a story that two men had entered her home about 80 miles from Detroit and raped her. She also lied about having cancer as a result of the rape. One man, James Grissom, served 10 years because of Ylen lies. She has now been sentenced to 5 years. What is disturbing however is that, as noted in the earlier posting, the role of prosecutors in the case was highly questionable and yet there is no indication of any discipline for those responsible for this case.

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.

St. Clair County Judge Daniel Kelly sentenced the 38-year-old Lexington woman to two to four years for filing a false felony report and three to ten years for tampering with evidence. The sentences will run consecutively with a five year minimum of two years for making a false rape report and a consecutive three-year sentence for the tampering charge. The latter offense dealt with that makeup used to look like bruises. What is notable about the sentence is that she was given more time for the makeup than the false rape charge.

There remains huge differences in how false rape charges are handled, including a number of cases that prosecutors decline any prosecution at all of the women. 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).
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.

This sentence seems well deserved. However, once again, the prosecutors appear able to walk away without the slightest responsibility for their role in bringing about this manifest injustice. Coverage of the case does not even raise the question of the responsibility of prosecutors, which only reinforces the sense of immunity for prosecutors in pushing for convictions with little evidence. Prosecutor Michael Wendling (who did not prosecute Gresham) refused to even have the office apologize for its role in the conviction. He stated that his office turned over the information from California undermining the conviction when it became known to them. He insisted ““The criminal justice process worked the way it’s supposed to. We followed the rules.” What rules are those? Putting aside the claim that this information only became known later, what about the virtual absence of evidence supporting the case. The judge referred to “air-tight alibis and doubts of police” when the case was first brought. The judge referred to “air-tight alibis and doubts of police” when the case was first brought. Wendling simply said that they did not have the evidence to secure an additional conviction and left it at that.

Given the appeals taken unsuccessfully by Grissom, the case also raises questions about the willingness of courts to seriously review such claims as well as the effort by prosecutors to preserve the conviction of an innocent man.

32 thoughts on “Michigan Woman Who Made False Rape Claim Is Given Five Year Sentence”

  1. In addition to stiff prison sentences, women who make false rape claims should be made to register with a “Lying Tramp / Dirtbag” registry, just like sex offenders, and punished the same way if they fail to register.

  2. Zipser,

    I’m willing to bet that there are more folks that have a CSC conviction on there record than don’t based upon false allegations and the potential for a life sentence if they are convicted if CSC1st degree…… Most will plea down…. To a max exposure of 10 or less…. As it’s better than a life long sentence at level 5 or 6 in Michigan which are max security….

  3. Anonymously yours –

    reasonable doubt ≠ false claim

    Most rape acquittals are because the jury had “reasonable doubt.” But most rape cases are not prosecuted and many that are end in acquittals. I am not saying that clear perjury should not be prosecuted, but that prosecutors don’t prosecute when there is an acquittal because: (a) it is not clear that there was any false allegation; and (b) it would scare victims off coming forward.

    In this case we have a transparently clear case of perjury – and a case that should never have been brought to trial – and a person who wrongly served 10 years in jail. Yes, throw the book at Sara Ylen and maybe the prosecutors. But also be concerned about the damage this type of case does for very real rape cases.

    1. “But also be concerned about the damage this type of case does for very real rape cases.”

      What about the concern for wrongly convicted men, 1/3 of whom had been innocent in rape cases, according to Barry Scheck? For women, the accusation cake walk should be over. No woman who has been raped needs to be concerned about any backlash from the legal community, unless the prosecutor is corrupt.

      1. The number of people who are being “diagnosed” as sexual offenders is also a growing problem and many of them are apparently not sexual offenders and based on erroneous allegations.

        A battle of the sexes? Pretty ugly and pretty scary as lives are literally being ruined on both sides of the fence.

  4. Zipser,

    Perjury is perjury…. Regardless of the basis for it…..sounds like she shouldn’t have made the claims…. Ya think…. If not…. Would she be in prison today for the underlying case…..

  5. I find cases like this one deeply worrying. Let’s be clear, a huge problem in securing rape convictions is the attack on the character of the accuser – the determined effort to show that the accuser is lying. This approach works for rapists – they get off because women refuse to testify and/or because the jury finds reasonably doubt. The data is pretty clear, most rapist get away with it, and most accusers are stigmatised as liars. If it were to become the case that most accusers were routinely prosecuted for perjury or making false claims, even more rapists would get away with it – or worse, we could end up doing what so many Islamic countries do – and charge the victim with adultery.

    That said – some, not many, women do bring false rape claims. Some men are convicted (and in the past even executed) based on those false claims. That this happens is a huge issue, not just because of the injustice done to the wrongly convicted, but because the the enormous difficulty that it creates in prosecuting rape cases, the huge question mark that these false cases raise over all accusers.

    The prosecutors and Sara Ylen have done enormous harm to women who are raped, but undermining their ability to be believed, in almost all instances unfairly.

  6. What this woman had going for her was she had already conducted a cancer scam….. And basically got away with it….. One thing about meijers grocery is they are privately owned and they will fight a case like Disney….. She was going after them for premise liability…. A friend of mine is head of loss prevention for meijers…..

    I think she got justice in this case as the cases are to run consecutive which means she has to finish the mandatory min before the next sentence starts…. Talking about a long way home…. She’ll be in prison for a good while…..

    I hope this sends a message to others…… About false rapes and allegations…..

  7. I find myself a little torn on this issue. Yes, the woman in this case should have been prosecuted. I believe that five year sentence was a gift for her. I think prosecutions of accusers are warranted any time a false rape accusation results in a trial and a sentence. However, I think that police and prosecutors need to be allowed some discretion while the investigation is ongoing.

    If police begin to doubt a woman’s claims and threaten her with prosecution, she may just double down in her accusations. Some women may give it up when called out on the lie, but others may be too disturbed, and convincing, to even consider admitting to lying. I can see where a strict policy of prosecuting all false allegations could end up in more false convictions, not fewer. This can happen when, as in this case, the prosecution goes forward with no evidence other than the testimony of the victim.

    I’m only talking about he said/she said situations here, not situations where the accused has an iron clad alibi or there is other evidence the accuser is lying. If there is strong evidence of lying, then yes, prosecute her. It may be the lesser of two evils, but if the police can get to the truth by agreeing not to prosecute the accuser, then they should be allowed to do so to keep an innocent person from going to trial.

  8. It is time for a serious discussion about limiting the immunity given to prosecutors. In addition, however, the evidence in this case should not have survived a motion for directed verdict. It is the duty of the court to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to submit a case to the jury.

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