As we move past the one-year anniversary of press coverage of the case, the Liestoppers forum has been running remembrance threads, reproducing articles from the Herald-Sun, N&O, and New York Times. In this early period, the most significant piece was the March 25 N&O article, in which reporter Samiha Khanna portrayed the accuser as a courageous exotic dancer, an unquestioned “victim” of a heinous, racially motivated crime.
How would that story have played with the police photograph of the accuser from March 16, 2006, two days after the alleged “attack,” showing that she had no facial bruising or swollen eyes, as her father and Sgt. Mark Gottlieb would repeatedly claim? I suspect that most N&O readers would have looked skeptically on the accuser’s recollection that “my father came to see me in the hospital. I knew if I didn't report it that he would have that hurt forever, knowing that someone hurt his baby and got away with it.”
They probably would have looked even more skeptically on this recollection had they known—as we know now—that no evidence exists of the father coming to visit the accuser in the hospital.
Of course, neither Khanna nor the early reporters for either the Times or H-S could obtain access to the police photos. Duff Wilson, on the other hand, could and—according to his claim that he read all 1850 pages of the then-discovery file—did for his August story. For reasons that remain unclear, he decided that these police photographs showing the accuser with no bruises was not a significant item to mention in his August 25 story.
But all early reporters on the case could have ferreted out the accuser’s police record. Try reconsidering any of the one-sided March 2006 articles with a sentence that included a mention that the accuser was well-known to law enforcement, since in June 2002 she was indicted for “willfully and feloniously” assaulting a sheriff’s deputy by attempting to strike him with a motor vehicle. Such a sentence would have made it impossible to portray the accuser as a virtuous college student, moonlighting as a dancer to put food in the mouths of her children.
Now, imagine any of these March 2006 articles with any of the details below from the publicly available police report, prepared by Deputy John Carroll, of the accuser’s 2002 activity:
The suspect was driving a blue taxi cab [which she had stolen]. She was completely left of center within my sight without any lights on the vehicle. She then crossed back right and off the road into the shoulder and turning up dirt. [After traveling 70mph in a 55mph zone,] the suspect was then traveling south in the northbound lane . . . She traveled east until it came to a dead end. She then attempted to turn left and run through a fence but was unable to and it appeared that she was not going to go any further. I put my vehicle in park and exited it, and approached the suspect—telling her to turn the car off and get out.
When she saw me approach, she was laughing and put the vehicle in reverse and backed across the road and into the woods. It appeared that she was stuck. I had to run around my vehicle to get back to the driver’s side door, and as I began to approach the vehicle she put it in drive and drove towards me. I jumped out of the way to the right and she missed me. The suspect then struck the right rear quarter of my patrol vehicle . . . and then proceeded west on
Briar Creek Parkway, almost striking Deputy Goss in his patrol vehicle.
After eventually being boxed in by pursuing police vehicles, the suspect
was boxed in. Deputy Goss and I approached the vehicle with our guns drawn, pointing at the suspect, giving verbal commands to exit the car. She refused until we were directly next to the car.
She then opened the door and would not get out, with her hand on the steering wheel and leaning out to the rear of the car. She finally got out of the car and laid down on the ground. She was taken into custody at that time. I put her in the back seat of my vehicle. She kept attempting to lay down but was advised to sit up. [Does this behavior sound familiar?] She was given an alcosensor and submitted, giving a 0.19 reading, and at the same time, while getting all the information together, the suspect passed out and was unresponsive. [Does this behavior sound familiar?]
Of course, publicizing this information in March would have prompted cries from Wendy Murphy that, as women never lie about rape, the accuser’s past record was irrelevant. But even the Group of 88 might have thought long and hard about linking their agenda to such a figure. The transformation of the case into a metanarrative might have been slowed.
The accuser ultimately pled guilty to two counts of driving while impaired, one count of assaulting a government official, and two misdemeanor accounts of fleeing arrest. In the sentencing guidelines, the accuser had four aggravating factors and no mitigating factors. The report noted that her aggravating factors “substantially outweigh” her mitigating factors.
Imagine any of the March 2006 articles with this material, coupled with a mention of the accuser’s ultimate sentence: two weekends in jail and probation. Such a seemingly mild sentence for the offenses in question might have led some people to ask whether
The accuser’s criminal record was first reported on April 7. By then, Mike Nifong’s pre-primary publicity barrage had crested, and the outcry over the McFadyen e-mail and the cancellation of the lacrosse season minimized the impact of the information. The press, eager for new stories, never really returned to the item, and the accuser's record passed into the background as one of the many items in the case that should have caused people to, at the very least, slow the rush to judgment.