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On False Rape Allegations, A Judge's Pious Words Are Not Enough

UPDATE: False Accuser Served No Jail Time (Details Below)

On March 19, 2008, the Seattle Times reported on a story whose ending could have been much worse but should have been much better. (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004291649_false19e.html) The story is of a woman, Katherine M. Clifton, who manufactured false evidence to frame a man and then lodged a false rape charge against him. As a result of the allegation, the man spent nine days in jail and was placed on leave from his teaching job at a college.

A March 21, 2008 article in London's Daily Mail illustrates just how much worse the ending to this story could have been. It reports on another innocent man, but in that case, the false accusation of rape drove him to suicide. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=541189&in_page_id=1766&ito=1490)

In the Seattle case, when Judge Peter Nault accepted the woman's guilty plea to the charge of making a false rape accusation, he stated: "That we hurry to castigate a person who turns out to be entirely innocent ... I don't know how it could be worse."

So, what was wrong with the Seattle story's ending? Consider how Judge Nault chose to punish Clifton's opprobrious actions. According to the article, he sentenced her to 365 days BUT suspended 357 days and he ordered her to pay a $5,000 fine BUT suspended $4,750.

Thus, an innocent man ends up in jail for nine days and the woman who made the false accusation, and clearly spent a lot of effort fabricating false evidence, will only have to serve eight days serves no jail time. (See update below.) The innocent man was placed on leave from his job. The woman who planned and carried out the crime has to pay $250.

Please contact the Seattle Times and ask for a follow up story regarding why Clifton only received a slap on the wrist for a crime that, after murder and rape, is about as heinous as they come. Please emphasize the following points:

  1. The innocent man served nine days in jail and faced the loss of his teaching career;
  2. Judge Peter Nault (please mention him by name) knew that the accuser had gone to some effort to fabricate phony email and a phony court order implicating the innocent man;
  3. Considering the egregious circumstances surrounding the case, Judge Nault's decision – to require the villain to serve less time than the innocent man served and to require her to pay only $250 for her crimes – means that his statement "That we hurry to castigate a person who turns out to be entirely innocent ... I don't know how it could be worse" turns out to be nothing more than empty piety.

Here's the contact information:

  1. Suki Dardarian
    Managing Editor, News Coverage and Enterprise
  2. Carole Carmichael
    Assistant Managing Editor, Features
  3. Letters to the Editor:
    Letters Editor
    The Seattle Times
    PO Box 70
    Seattle, WA 98111

    (Include your full name (no initials), home address and daytime and evening telephone numbers for verification)

Again, please mention Judge Peter Nault by name. If judges realize that they're going to be remembered by name, they may start making their actions fit their pious words.

Thanks to Bruce Miller for forwarding his correspondence with the King County Prosecutor's Office:

Subject: FW: KCDC #570162296
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2008 07:45:14 -0700
From: "Goodhew, Ian"

Dear Mr. Miller,

Thank for contacting the King County Prosecutor's Office regarding the prosecution of Ms. Clifton. As part of an agreed plea recommendation in Ms. Clifton's case, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney for Ms. Clifton recommended that the court sentence Ms. Clifton to 10 days in jail.

The court did not follow the agreed recommendation. Instead the court imposed its own sentence of 8 days of work crew.

I hope this information is helpful.


Ian Goodhew
King County Prosecutor's Office

Date of RADAR Release: March 24, 2008

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R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://www.mediaradar.org