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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ABC Weather Gal Admits Fake Rape Attempt Claim

A mentally-unstable former ABC weathercaster has pleaded guilty to filing a false report in falsely claiming she was sexually assaulted in New York's Central Park last fall.

Jones will avoid jail time under the plea deal, but remains subject to civil lawsuits from any of a variety of people who can claim to have been victimized -- and who could have been sent to jail -- by her lie.  (Crime, Politics and Policy has followed this case since it broke last December.)

Heidi Jones, formerly of WABC-TV, told cops last fall she was attacked by an assailant she described as short and Hispanic and in his 30s or 40s. The fake claim led cops to personally escort Jones around town and to look for people matching Jones' made-up description.  In fact, one innocent man was stopped and his photo placed in an identification lineup.  

Jones' plea to two misdemeanor counts should result (if accepted by the sentencing judge) in a three-year probationary sentence and 350 hours of community service -- or about the approximate amount of police manpower spent investigating her lie. This sentence pales in comparison to the years-long sentences that would be all but certain for any defendant who, matching her fake description, could have been wrongfully investigated, wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned.

It is reported that at least one man was stopped and photographed during the course of the police investigation.  It is likely that many men matching that description, and particularly those in Central Park -- in other words, people like me who train for marathons in that park -- came under unwarranted police surveillance or interrogation.

Here is what is troubling. Jones came up with a description of a criminal that she thought was plausible; in other words, being a short, middle-aged Hispanic man in New York made you a likely perp. Moreover, she had no regard for the all-but-certain outcome of totally innocent men being surveilled and perhaps arrested, or jailed.  No matter to Jones; you see, this is about her suffering (never mind the cause for that).  It's self-centeredness gone haywire, but narcissism threatening to deprive another innocent of his liberty is not a victimless crime. 

The implication is that men fitting that description are deserving, appropriate targets of a false accusation. In other words, according to this utterly dehumanizing concept, being a man makes you guilty...of something! But if you are a short, middle-aged Hispanic man, you are more guilty? This is irrational reasoning, and intolerable when it threatens to deprive innocent men of their freedom. It is a symptom of a mental dysfunction, but that does not negate the fact that this knowing, intentionally false allegation is also a crime. 

The concept that an innocent person deserves to be harmed is repugnant in our civil society. People who willingly, or with reckless indifference, harm or place in harm's way the innocent show pathological, narcissistic tendencies which cannot go unpunished.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office should be credited for not giving this media celebrity a pass on account of her journalistic status and her gender. This was a rightful prosecution that hopefully will have a deterrent effect.

As for Jones, her future looks very cloudy. Not only is she aging badly (she is only 37 but looks at least ten years older, see the photo in this article), she should subsequently be hit with a civil suit by any of a number of people who had encounters with the police (whose activities may have been entirely blameless) on account of her lie.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and veteran marathoner who runs in Central Park and fits the false description referenced above.

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