The Power of a Lie

Originally posted on July 21, 2011

False accusations of sexual abuse occur more often than people think. However, the biggest problem is not their frequency, but the inability to prove they are false.

Most sexual abuse allegations rely on one person’s word against another. Many people believe that no one would lie about sexual violence. This is particularly true when it comes to sex crimes against children. People refuse to believe a child would lie about abuse or could be coached into lying. Even when the child’s story makes no sense or contradicts available evidence, juries will still convict the accused.

A recent article by Alan Prendergast highlights a particular case:

In 2002 an Arapahoe County jury found [Charles Farrar] guilty of multiple counts of sexual assault on a child after hearing the horrific story told by his oldest stepdaughter, Sacha. She testified that Farrar, often assisted by her own mother, had subjected her to more than a hundred instances of molestation, rape and sexual abuse from the age of eleven until she was fifteen. Judge John P. Leopold sentenced Farrar to 145 years to life — the kind of time usually reserved for serial killers, terrorists or Bernie Madoff. […] Shortly after Farrar’s trial, prosecutors dropped similar charges against Sacha’s mother, Debbie, because Sacha refused to testify against her. A few months later, after Sacha turned eighteen, she went back to court and told a very different story.

She said that she’d lied, that she’d fabricated the allegations against Debbie and Charles so she could live with her grandparents in Oklahoma. That she’d made fools out of the cops, the social workers, the prosecutors, who not only swallowed her preposterous tale, but coached her on how to tell it better on the stand. And when she tried to call the whole thing off, two caseworkers and a prosecutor pressured her into sticking to her story and ignored her assertions that it wasn’t true.

The article goes on to detail the mess Sacha caused. It appears that Sacha was a troubled child prone to misbehaving and lying. In an effort to get away from her mother and avoid telling her mother about her pregnancy (she later discovered she was not pregnant), the girl claimed Farrar abused her. Her allegations were far from tame. Sacha claimed that her mother would suck Farrar’s semen out of her vagina. She claimed that Farrar prostituted her to his friends. She claimed that he made “kink video” of the abuse. Yet police found no evidence supporting the claims.

Worse, the police did not interview any of Farrar’s friends, any of Sacha’s boyfriends, or the other children and adults in the home. According to the article, the home was under renovation at the time the abused supposedly occurred. There was no door on Sacha’s room, and she and the other children constantly hung out together. If anyone would know about abuse it would be the children and the two other adults in the home, yet the police never questioned them.

Instead, the other children were placed in foster care where, in one of the most brutal twists of irony, one of Sacha’s brothers was raped by a teen with a prior history of sex crimes. However, all anyone did was move the offending boy to another home. No charges were filed.

All this based on one person’s accusations, accusations that apparently no one tried to verify.

The situation led to a bizarre prosecutorial tactic:

Colorado’s victim-rights laws prohibit subjecting alleged victims to a polygraph test. But few questions were asked of Sacha after her initial interview with police. She repeated the story a week later, in a videotaped interview at the SunGate child-advocacy center, explaining that she was unable to provide specific dates of the assaults because it was all “one long nightmare.” She had no further conversations with police or prosecutors until shortly before Farrar’s trial, two years later. This peculiar lack of followup would later be explained in court as a desire, on the part of the investigators, not to “retraumatize” the victim.

While I am not versed in prosecutorial tactics, this is the first I have ever heard of a prosecutor deliberately avoiding contact with a witness until trial. It seems idiotic to do that, if for no other reason than failing to keep the witness informed about state of the case.

The jury convicted Farrar despite not believing aspects of Sacha’s story. The prosecutors readied to take Sacha’s mother to trial, but they hit a road bump when Sacha refused to testify. The state dropped the charges against Sacha’s mother, but once Sacha turned eighteen she recanted  her prior accusations against Farrar while accusing the state of prosecutorial misconduct:

According to Sacha, she’d told several people that the story wasn’t true even before Farrar’s trial. She’d asked one of her caseworkers what would happen if she’d made it all up — and never heard back from her. Another told her she would likely be committed to an institution. Her therapist, she added, also dismissed her efforts to recant to her.

She said she tried to tell Schober it was all a lie the morning that the trial started — the first time the two had actually met in person. Schober, she claimed, replied that any change in her story would lead to a mistrial and that Sacha might be deemed mentally unstable and locked up.

The state rigorously defended against the accusations, ironically stating the same things that Farrar did during his defense: they had limited contact with Sacha. The special prosecutor also put on evidence turned against him. The claim about Sacha’s mother buying her a car in exchange for recanting could not be proven, and the ex-boyfriend he summoned testified that Sacha lied about being pregnant and threatened to make false accusations against him.

All of this supported the defense’s position that Farrar should get a retrial, yet the judge disagreed. Despite finding that Sacha had clear credibility problems, the judge ruled against a new trial. That ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court.

Farrar still remains in prison for a crime he and the apparent victim claims never happened. The courts refuse to acknowledge Sasha’s recantation even though the courts believe she is prone to lying. There is no evidence supporting any of her accusations, yet plenty of evidence that the state made no real effort to investigate the case. A likely innocent man will spend the rest of his life in prison while his children have had their lives destroyed.

This is the power of a lie. There is no telling how many Farrars there are in prison. There is no telling how many men and boys paid the price for a crime that never happened. This is not to say that people should not believe children who say they were abused. It simply that we ought to check, double check, and triple check because no other crime carries the stigma that a sex crime against a child does. We need to be right on this because if we are wrong the innocent have little recourse to prove their innocence.

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11 thoughts on “The Power of a Lie

  1. I hadn’t heard of this. Injustices like this infuriate me.

    My wife’s little brother (6 years old), my wife, and I were riding bikes with him one day. He was sliding the back tire on the bike on the cement and making smoke in the gravel. I said “Look at you! You’re smoking!”

    Later, my wife and I were having dinner with her entire family. Her brother blurted out “[My name] told me I should smoke marijuana!”
    The whole family looked at me.
    Immediately my wife said “You are lying! I heard what he said to you! He said you were “smoking” when you were riding your bike! Do not make up lies!”
    He just laughed.

    After that I told my wife I will never be alone with her little brother. Period – I’m not going to do it. Every time that I read a story like this – I get a pit in my stomach – knowing that a child’s fantasy could put me in jail if I’m alone with them for a moment.

  2. Women bear most of the burden of war and false accusations.

    The poor girl has been deprived of additional income,you see how it is.

  3. My son, a disabled American veteran, went through a very similar situation, related to the divorce from hell. He was just released on Good Friday, 2011, after serving 7 years. He is still trying to clear his name. He endured prosecutorial misconduct, jury tampering, witness tampering (from the prosecution), ineffective assistance of counsel, an attorney with early dementia who failed to file evidence that would have freed him, etc, etc.

    Now that he is out, he has trouble finding work, renting a house, etc. Thank God, he is able to support himself writing.

    While he was incarcerated, he lost two grandfathers and one grandmother. Two inmates whom he had befriended died when the medical clinic withheld their heart medications. Both died within 6 weeks of the medication hi-jack. Any kind of mental health counseling might have helped him grieve these losses.

    He was beaten up more than once. His medical care was close to nothing.

    Our family pitched in to hire an attorney. We spent our life’s savings…and he still lost 7 years of his life.

    The 14 year old (our granddaughter) who made the accusation has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. (Look it up if you don’t know about it. It may very well be what makes Casey Anthony behave as she does).

    For the many people, primarily men, who have to endure false accusations, my heart and prayers are with you.

    May we find peace and justice!

  4. When I took legal occupation in highschool, my teacher part time instructor, full time lawyer, reminded us over and over again about accusations, the power of the judge, and rape cases.
    What these three subjects had in common in that class was the case of Mike Tyson and a women who accused him of rape. He told the story so often that I still remember all the details. Tyson meets women at beauty contest, they hook up, they are seen making out throughout the day in question; in the limo, in front of a hotel. But when they got to Tysons room for “intimacy” she left claiming rape.
    My teacher’s intent was to teach us the specifics of this case, the judge in the rape trial made the contriversal decision to ignore all testimony from what happened before they entered Tysons room. This made the case “he said, she said”.

    If the prosecution and the judge are actively working against the defence than are “innocent until proven guilt” means nothing. There was no proof in the case either for or against the accuser in this case because the judges decision made everything before the situation in the room irrelavent (which is stupid and ignorant of the judge) but still Tyson was forced to settle with the women to make it all go away because nobody believed him.
    The case would have been dramaticly different if evidence of their actions before entirimg the room. Mike Tyson could have proven his innocence with more than just testimony.

    There is a proverb about putting something into words gives it power. This is definately true.

  5. I know of several people, all men, who have been victimized by the lies of “twisted” and dishonest women, and knowing some of the accused, did not for a moment believe their accusers.

    I am always skeptical whenever I hear of allegations against others relative to sexcual abuse and also see the system gear up against men who are going through nasty divorces, and being defamed and lied about by their wives.

    All this will eventually cause problems down the road for the women who were/are accurately honest about abuse committed against them by guilty men.

  6. Men can find themselves in a precarious position when society is quick to judge. I have a niece that lied about her husband sexually abusing their 3 yr old daughter. Luckily, the case was investigated and dismissed as unfounded. At the time I thought the situation was terrible until I spent more time with my adult niece and came to realize she was mentally ill and a pathological liar. It saddens me when women lie about sexual abuse and it is particularly sad when kids are used as pawns. After this situation I know my own adult sons are loath to spend time alone with young children after seeing the lies their female cousin was capable of spinning. Also, these kinds of false allegations make it that much harder for true abuse victims to get justice.

  7. Everyone complains about the Governmt doing nothing, but in reality it’s us doing nothing. If the people of this homeland would make a stand and make a demand for what is right then things would finally change. It’s tiring hearing about what’s wrong with our land without action. Stand up for what you believe in.

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  10. As I have not hit court yet, I still feel varry twisted even though the charges against me are not real and never took place just the thought that my neice at 8 may be able to put me away on a lie. I’m Shure that her mom put her up to thees lies but can’t prove this can’t prove this or even that nothing happend and realy hope that appon cross exam that the lie fAlls apart realy scar rite there is no way to prove innocence the only saulus I think I can get is if I get convicted of thees things that my neice knows that thay did not occur and that she will also remember the lie she is 8 and this is a prety big lie

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