Law Professor Wins Record Defamation Verdict For False Rape Claim

downloadUniversity of Minnesota Law School Professor Francesco Parisi has won almost $1.2 million in a defamation case against a woman who accused him falsely of rape.  It might be the largest defamation verdict in history for Minnesota. It is a rare such verdict in a rape case. However, the defendant was never charged with a false charge, a common practice of police even in some of the most notorious false rape cases like the Duke Lacrosse Case.  At the time, Morgan Wright’s false charge destroyed Parisi’s life, including a three-week incarceration which led to his not being with his mother when she died.

Parisi and Wright had a romantic relationship but, when they separated, Parisi sought to cancel an agreement to purchase a condo.  On the same day, Wright filed for a protective order.  The two fought over the condo for months until a court ruled for Parisi.  After that ruling, Wright accused Parisi of sexual assault.

download-2The criminal case collapsed but not until after Parisi was arrested and incarcerated.

The judge in the Hennepin County District Court ruled for Parisi after a bench trial in September, finding Wright’s “plethora of allegations against Parisi lack credibility.” Judge Daniel Moreno further concluded that her “accusations were false, made with malice. [She] injured Parisi as a direct result of her untruthful narrative crusade.”

Parisi received more than $800,000 of the award for economic losses and $325,000 to cover emotional, punitive and reputational damages.

The Parisi case is a rare example of civil liability.  As noted earlier, police rarely charge in these cases or individuals received relatively light sentences (here and here and here and here  and here and here and here and here) despite often ruining the lives of the falsely accused. There are exceptions of longer sentences.

Obviously, such charges could deter victims in coming forward, an important consideration for prosecutors. I have struggled with that dilemma through the years. However, these false allegations often result in the loss of liberty, employment, scholarship, and prospects for the accused.  Those are real harms and the civil litigation is often not a real option due to the lack of assets or other barriers. That often leaves the victims of false accusations with no remedy.

That is clearly not the case with Professor Parisi but even this large award does not cover the cost of his arrest and absence from his mother at her death. Yet, this is an important verdict in seeking to deter such false accusations.

Professor Parisi is a very distinguished academic who is teaching as both a Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School and a Professor of Economics at the University of Bologna, Department of Economics. He previously held a chair in Private Law at the University of Milan (Statale) and was appointed Professore Ordinario per Chiara Fama. He received his D.Jur. degree from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, an LL.M. and a J.S.D. and an M.A. degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Ph.D in Economics from George Mason University.

61 thoughts on “Law Professor Wins Record Defamation Verdict For False Rape Claim”

  1. “Obviously, such charges could deter victims in coming forward, an important consideration for prosecutors. I have struggled with that dilemma through the years.”

    Here is how you solve that problem. You prosecute cases that you can prove were fabricated. That is different than a rape case you simply couldn’t prove. It should be rare to be able to prosecute a malicious false rape accusation, because it would require a high level of evidence.

    Fabricating a rape accusation should be considered a form of assault.

    Injustice to the victims of a false and malicious accusations is not justice for the real victims of rape. This should not be a moral dilemma. If a woman struck out at a man with a maliciously false rape allegation, she was trying to send him to prison, ruin his life, end his career, sever friendships, and perhaps get him sexually assaulted in prison. Of course, that’s a crime, and should be prosecuted just like any other crime. Not doing so is a form of gender discrimination, both in favor of females, and biased against male victims.

    Real rape victims don’t want to come forward because they are ashamed and embarrassed. They don’t want to be grilled on the witness stand. Or perhaps they have no proof and think, what’s the point? They have to prove someone assaulted them, rather than had a consensual encounter, so the questions are going to be pointed and unpleasant. Justice requires that you prove your case and do your part.

    I have been called as a witness in a case before, against a notorious animal abuser. I was grilled for the entire day. It sure wasn’t fun, and the case didn’t even have anything to do with me, personally. Even if malicious false rape accusations were never tried, true rape victims would still be hesitant to come forward.

    Perhaps this will open some people’s eyes that neither guilt nor valor exists in anyone’s gender or ethnicity. Women can lie, and men can tell the truth.

    I recall someone I knew broke up with a girl who swore she’d get revenge. She threatened that she’d harm herself, and tell the police he assaulted her. He couldn’t be alone for weeks. He couch surfed, and had to have an alibi for his whereabouts, 24/7, for weeks. We all had to make sure one of us was with him at all times. He was terrified. He said she could do this at any time in the future, and if he didn’t have an alibi, he’d be doomed. It was a form of terrorizing.

    Another man I knew, when he told his wife he wanted a divorce, she said she was going to throw herself through a window and have him arrested.

    I also know more than one woman who stupidly got pregnant on purpose, in order to trap a boyfriend who wanted to leave. They lied and said they were on birth control.

    Women and men have the same capacity for good or evil. It is ignorant of human nature to claim that either is morally superior to the other.

    1. Real rape victims don’t want to come forward because they are ashamed and embarrassed.

      No, that’s the line promoted by dubious characters like Marilyn French et al. Polemicists like French had to reconcile their dystopian conception of ordinary human relations with actual crime statistics, so promoted this idea that vast numbers of felonies went unreported. (In the version favored by French, because prosecutors did not care).

  2. Interesting, though, that the guy to get off is a lawyer. You always have to wonder if you are being, perhaps unwittingly, fed false information–that the story has been manipulated–in these articles. Who knows–one way or another?

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