I was in a state of bewilderment the day my brother’s attorney explained why I needed to convince my brother to take a plea in the case against him. I didn’t understand why that was necessary because Rick hadn’t done anything. I tried to focus, but I felt like my heart was coming out of my chest. Parkinson’s disease was causing my brother to shake uncontrollably and he was struggling to walk. How could I tell him that he would have to take a plea? The lawyer made it clear that NO ONE ever wins in a court of law against an accusation of child molestation. I was informed that there was a 97% conviction rate and a jury never needed to hear anything other than the accusation. NO ONE can defend themselves in the light of such a charge because statistic show a jury doesn’t listen. The charge is so heinous all reason is set aside.
The plea offer was for Rick to go to federal prison for twenty years and be registered for life as a sex offender. If I didn’t take the deal Rick would go away for life. My tears flopped onto the book containing the sentencing guidelines the eager lawyer had set in front of me. A mandatory sentence is a court decision setting where judicial discretion is limited by law. Typically, people convicted of certain crimes must be punished with at least a minimum number of years in prison.
“Sale of a child by a parent or legal guardian for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a mandatory minimum of thirty years,” the lawyer read aloud. “Engaging in a sexual act with a child under the age of 12, or engaging in a sexual act by force with a child who is above the age of 12, but under the age of 16 is a mandatory minimum of thirty years. Purchasing a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a mandatory minimum of thirty years. Sex trafficking of children under the age of 14 by force, fraud or coercion is a mandatory minimum of thirty years. Sex trafficking of children, over the age of 14 but below the age of 18, by force, fraud or coercion is a mandatory minimum of ten years. Do you understand, Ms. Enss?” Do you understand, Ms. Enss? What do you want to do?”
I was terrified of the judicial system and made the wrong decision. The law is not about truth. It was and is about negotiation, amelioration, manipulation. I didn’t know that then. That fact was visited on me again this month when Jared Fogle, the former Subway pitchman, was sentenced to a mere fifteen years for engaging numerous children under the age of fourteen in sex and producing and distributing child pornography. That low sentence was given even though there were multiple witnesses and a taped confession. If I ever doubted the judicial system is rigged I don’t now.
If you are called a criminal in a lawsuit to which you aren’t a party, you may have no legal recourse to defend yourself. There is a gaping hole in our legal system that allows lawyers to bring irrelevant accusations against innocent nonparties in court papers that insulate them from any consequences, and to deny the falsely accused any opportunity to respond. My brother Rick falls into this category.
The law must be changed to shatter this hall of mirrors my brother and others who have been falsely accused are forced into. There must be serious, life-altering consequences for those who file accusations with no offer to prove them and no legal responsibility if they are categorically—and disprovably—false.
I will not rest until this gaping hole is filled with reasonable safeguards, so that what happened to my brother can never happen to another innocent person. I begin preproduction on a documentary about the issue of false accusations of child molestation in the fall of 2016. Through that documentary I will seek to make changes to the law as it stands and the entire proceeds from the project will go to benefit the Innocence Project.
You take a person’s life when you wrongly accuse them. The individual who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If they would take a man’s life, they owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.
But why? Why would anyone lie about such a thing?
People lie about rape to explain why they are looking at porn.
When Elizabeth Coast’s mother discovered her looking at porn on the internet, Coast explained that her actions were the result of sexual abuse she had experienced at the hand of a neighbor. Coast testified that when her neighbor was 14, and she was 10, he had sexually molested her. Her testimony was compelling enough to secure the man’s conviction. He was sentenced to seven years and served four of those until Coast’s guilty conscience became too much to bear and she admitted that she had lied about an innocent man. Coast was sentenced to two months in prison for her lie and must pay the man $90,000 restitution. Teenagers lie about rape to explain why they are looking at porn.
People lie about rape because they are mentally ill
Rosanne England scratched her face, tore her clothing and concocted a story about a man asking to use her telephone and then violently raping her. She gave police a detailed description that happened to match a 59-year-old father of two teenaged daughters who had no alibi as he had been walking his dog in the woods when the rape allegedly occurred. The man was arrested and held for 28 hours until DNA tests finally cleared him. He continues to face suspicion from his neighbors about his guilt. England gave no justification for the accusation other than she suffers from “mental illness.” People lie about rape because they are mentally ill.
People lie about rape because they feel guilty
Kelly Harwood had a few drinks and decided that sleeping with her friend’s son was a good idea. Upon reflection, she decided that she had betrayed her friend by doing so and reported her friend’s son for rape. She told police that she had been raped while sleeping, and her friend’s son was subjected to an “intrusive medical examination and interviewed under caution.” Two days later, Harwood relented and admitted that she had lied about the rape. She suffers from depressive illness, exacerbated by the amount of alcohol she had consumed. People lie about rape because they feel guilty.
People lie about rape when they fail school exams
Rhiannon Brooker knew her party lifestyle was catching up with her when the law student failed her bar exams. She told her exam committee that her performance was affected by “extenuating circumstances” and had her boyfriend charged with multiple counts of rape and assault, including punching her so hard in the stomach that she miscarried. She faked her own injuries to support the charges. The accused spent 36 days in jail before police confirmed that he was at work and had alibis for each of the alleged rapes. Brooker was sentenced to three and a half years for false allegations. People lie about rape when they fail school exams.
People lie about rape when they want attention
Gemma Gregory, desperate for attention from police officers, filed eight false rape charges, accusing seven different men over a period of six years. Former boyfriends were subjected to DNA tests and interviews and huge amounts of police time were wasted so that Gregory could have the attention she craved. After recording hundreds of calls with Gregory, the police arrested and charged her with false allegation offenses. People lie about rape when they want attention.
People lie about rape to get sympathy
Linsey Attridge was having some relationship problems with her boyfriend and needed to win some sympathy from him. She trolled Facebook and found a picture of a 26-year-old man and his 14-year-old brother whom she had never met and reported them both for a violent rape. To make her story more credible, she punched herself in the face, ripped her clothing and told police that the two men had broken into her house while her boyfriend was away and subjected her to a brutal attack. Both were arrested and had their lives turned upside down as word of the charges spread throughout the community. Attridge eventually admitted to making the whole thing up and was sentenced to 200 hours of community service. She has never apologized. Her boyfriend dumped her. People lie about rape to get sympathy.
To believe that every teenager who ever makes a claim of child molestation is telling the truth is ignorant. Each case deserves to be investigated thoroughly and the accused should have an opportunity to face the cowards who make such claims. They shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind the “rape-shield” laws and not be questioned.
If they would take a man’s life, they owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if they cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die. My brother doesn’t deserve to die. He especially doesn’t deserve to die a long, drawn out death.
Two weeks ago my parents traveled to see Rick to say goodbye. It was agonizing to watch. It’s a wound I believe will never heal.
If you have been falsely accused and are interested in being a part of the documentary, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Special Note to the Readers of The Plea in Roach, Missouri.
Thank you for continuing to read the book. I have a tracking devise on my system and can see all those who visit the site. Whether you’re at the bank or at home I know you are a follower. Hope those you share the sadness with rejoice. I’ll always remember how you called ME a cyber-stalker.