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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Falsely Accuse Someone, Go To Jail

Be careful what you wish for.

A New York weathercaster who allegedly made up an attempted rape accusation and described her attacker as a middle-aged Hispanic man is getting more attention than she wanted.

WABC weathercaster Heidi Jones was charged Wednesday with a misdemeanor for filing a false report. The bottled-blond, 37-year-old Jones told police she fought off an attacker while running in Central Park. Jones allegedly confessed to the false report when confronted by investigators at the WABC-TV studios.

Jones entered a plea of not guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court Wednesday.

According to prosecutors, Jones' motive was to get attention. Mission accomplished.

Lost in the press reports is that the police investigated and, based on the false accusation and report, could have stopped and arrested innocent men fitting her fake description. Implicit in her accusation is the belief that a pedigree of a middle-aged Hispanic man would constitute a believable lie. (For further analysis of this theme, see the previous Crime, Politics and Policy commentary.)

It is hard to view this accusation as anything less than ethnic prejudice. Worse, the context jeopardized the freedom and rights of innocent men who could have been wrongfully accused, wrongfully charged and wrongfully convicted based on the say-so, the lies, of a high-profile news media star.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and strategic analyst who engages in crisis management and other matters. Mr. Dixon cautions readers that this article is not legal advice.  Mr. Dixon may be contacted for further comment through, or at 917-696-2442.

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