Criminal justice agencies in Stanislaus County work together to ensure that crime is investigated and, where appropriate, individuals are prosecuted. We are committed to protect public safety and to honor the rights of both defendants and crime victims.
Recently, a minor female reported being the victim of an attempted kidnapping. Modesto Police Department responded, investigated and determined she appeared to be credible. There was corroborating evidence to support her claim and an arrest was made and criminal charges were filed.
Subsequently, additional evidence was located that cast serious doubt on the minor’s truthfulness. Further investigation was completed and the alleged victim was re-interviewed by a detective and confronted with the new information. She then admitted she had lied and there was no attempted kidnapping.
While charges against the original suspect were immediately dropped, the impact on the man who was accused and subsequently arrested was profound: he had been arrested, had to post bail and he was subject to significant negative media attention.
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Not only was the man falsely accused, but future legitimate victims of such crimes might suffer consequences as well.
Frequently, victims are fearful of reporting crimes or testifying in court because they are embarrassed or think they won't be believed.
Jurors might recall hearing about prior incidents such as this and become less willing to rely on a victim's testimony in court.
Both negatively impact the pursuit of justice and compromise public safety. The damage done by this young girl's willingness to fabricate an allegation against an innocent man is something she might not currently understand, but we do.
The District Attorney's Office has taken the first step to correct the wrong done to the true victim in this case – the man falsely accused – by obtaining a legal ruling from the court that he was factually innocent of the crime.
There are other steps that can be taken, such as a referral to juvenile court. However, those proceedings are confidential and not subject to public disclosure. They are conducted with the goal of educating the young person as to the consequences of his or her actions and sometimes include the principles of "restorative justice" to include the victim in the process.
It is our hope this young girl will soon appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct. It is also our hope that this innocent man will not be judged by the false accusation made against him and that future victims will not be judged based on the actions of this one young girl.
Birgit Fladager is the Stanislaus County District Attorney. Galen Carroll is the Modesto chief of police.