We 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.