Looking back over the rising number of false allegations of sex crimes over the past decade, intentionally brought by those who enjoy inflicting pain of all varieties on others, one has to wonder, how did this happen? How did innocent people, who committed no crimes at all, end up being accused, jailed and even wrongfully convicted? The answer, albeit difficult to face, is a simple one: we as a society have fallen asleep at the switch in this matter, and by doing so, have allowed ourselves to become legally defenseless against anyone who is spiteful or vindictive enough to bring false criminal charges against us.
"The best defense is a good offense" is a saying that doesn't just apply to effective football strategy. Without the protection of a strong legal deterrent, in the form of a felony offense to use against someone who chooses either to falsely accuse one of us or a person we love or threaten to bring a criminal accusation, it is very difficult to defend ourselves. Even if some of us can hire a high-priced attorney, there is no guarantee we will not be wrongfully convicted of a crime we never committed. Our jails and prisons have many inmates who are there solely due to the ineffective assistance of counsel.
As a civilized society, we have two choices. Choice #1: continue to do nothing but complain about the situation as it exists now, which will serve no useful purpose other than to keep giving false accusers the upper hand and hold us hostage to physical, emotional and financial blackmail. Or we can go with choice #2: demand that our legislators, our elected officials, put one or more laws into effect that will give those innocent of crimes a legal and non-violent way to fight back against those who would or have falsely accused us or someone we love of a sex crime, or for that matter, any type of crime at all. One very effective "legal weapon" against false accusers would be a new felony offense, simply titled "Terrorism By Extortion."
What Is Terrorism?
My edition of Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines terrorism quite simply: "the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion." People who deliberately bring false accusations of crime against another, or threaten to do so, either out of spite, to satisfy a personal grudge or realize a financially-motivated agenda, are guilty of exactly that, even though they are not holding a gun or knife to our heads. Merely a threat to bring criminal action against us will be enough to cause terror in our hearts as to what that will actually involve.
Our first fear is the worry about the cost of having to hire a criminal defense attorney. Those with little or no discretionary income or those on the edge of poverty won't have that option at all. For anyone who cannot afford the services of either an attorney or investigator, the prospect of jail if a false accuser makes good on a threat to bring false charges to the police quickly becomes a terrifying reality. Anyone who has been falsely accused can and will personally attest that the personal consequences of a false allegation are nothing short of disastrous. He or she can be arrested and be put in the local jail until their preliminary hearing or trial, which could take one to several months.
Once in jail, the falsely accused person is at serious risk of being physically or sexually assaulted by violent inmates or correction officers. If the accused has a chronic medical condition such as a heart problem requiring regular medications to be taken daily, a poorly-trained and badly-equipped medical department at a jail significantly increases the risk to his physical health. Lapses in adequate medical care may contribute to an inmate's rapid decline in health, and at worst, premature death.
Even if the falsely accused defendant makes bail – either by posting a bond or being released on his or her own recognizance – and is released until trial, he or she could still be fired, and therefore be unable to work. Without an income, being evicted from an apartment or losing a home is a frightening, and very real, possibility. An innocent person falsely accused may have to go deeply into debt to pay legal expenses, a financial hole from which one may never be able to escape. In short, their lives can be physically or virtually destroyed, simply because an accusation of a crime was made, be it a sex crime or any other criminal act.
In view of these facts, it is entirely accurate to say that false accusers are guilty of depraved indifference to human life, even if the accused survives unjust arrest and incarceration. If the accused does not survive the brutal experience of incarceration whilst being held in jail awaiting trial, that false accuser becomes guilty of murder in the second degree. That is precisely why anyone who commits such a cruel offense against someone he or she knows to be innocent is no better than a terrorist, and by law, must be held criminally responsible as such. A felony offense of "terrorism by extortion" would finally make that accountability possible.
Defining The Felony Law
The definition of this proposed new felony offense doesn't have to be more complicated or difficult to understand than other criminal laws currently on the books. It simply spells out what the offense is, how it is committed, and the penalty for the offense. The terms and penalty for terrorism by extortion can read as follows:
Terrorism By Extortion; penalty
A. An accused shall be guilty of terrorism by extortion if he or she takes deliberate action against, or recklessly threatens any person regardless of age with, a known false accusation or allegation of a sex crime or any other criminal act, so as to inflict physical, emotional or financial injury to the person deliberately and falsely accused of such criminal activity.
1. The accused causes serious bodily or mental injury to the complaining witness by knowingly, intentionally, maliciously or recklessly making a false accusation or allegation of sex crime or other criminal act to police officer, police detective, prosecuting attorney, and/or any other member of law enforcement.
2. The act is accomplished against the complaining witness by knowingly, intentionally, maliciously or recklessly making an accusation against or threatening the complaining witness with a false accusation or allegation of a sex crime or other criminal act to police officer, police detective, prosecuting attorney, and/or any other member of law enforcement.
3. The offense is committed by a spouse, ex-spouse, son, daughter, granddaughter, friend, neighbor of or stranger unknown to the complaining witness threatened with a deliberate false accusation or allegation of a sex crime or other criminal act.
B. Terrorism by extortion is a felony punishable to confinement in a state correctional facility for a term of not less than five nor more than ten years and/or by a fine of not more than $100,000.
Common Examples of Terrorism By Extortion
Example 1: A couple with a child or children decide to divorce. The wife wants full custody of both children; the husband puts his foot down on this demand, insisting instead on having shared custody. She tells him that if he continues to refuse, she will bring charges of "sexual abuse" against him, although she knows he did nothing to harm the children, and will notify police to press those charges. The threat: cave in to wife's demands or face the consequences of a possible jail sentence.
Example 2: A divorced mother with two children says she feels "cheated" and demands the child's father give her more child support. He refuses, knowing she has more than enough money to meet her own needs and those of the children. A short time later, he receives a letter from her attorney, advising that his children have accused him of sexually molesting them, and she is thinking of contacting the authorities unless he will "be reasonable" and give her the extra funds she asked for. Same threat, different circumstances.
Example 3: A grown daughter with children and her father have an unpleasant quarrel about the disposition of a family home, which he has the legal right to sell. The father wanted to sell the home, and use the proceeds to set up a new life elsewhere. Daughter is angry, insisting he has no right to sell a home she believes herself to be entitled to. She threatens that he will "regret it" if he goes ahead with his plans to sell the home. A few days later, she accuses him of sexually molesting one of her children and calls the police to press charges. What better way to prevent someone from selling a piece of property; using the criminal justice system to knowingly, intentionally and maliciously put an innocent person in jail.
Example 4: An adolescent, angry and resentful over a disciplinary action, decided to "get even" with the principal who initiated the action. She went to the police and deliberately lied about an attempted rape by the principal. Within days of the accusation, the principal was arrested, and was forced to post a high bond to keep himself out of jail. The charges were later dropped, but the girl had no remorse about making the false accusation.
Each example provided was a real case, with the potential of destroying the life of the person falsely accused, even though no crime was ever committed. Without the safeguard of an appropriate felony offense enacted by law, more innocent people like those portrayed here will continue to be threatened, arrested, incarcerated and possibly convicted, instead of real sexual predators. It is long past the time for legislators to act immediately and pass this law, making it a felony offense to knowingly, intentionally, maliciously or recklessly bring a false accusation of a sex crime or other criminal act against another. Innocent people and their loved ones have been without a legal means of protection from terrorists by extortion for far too long as it is, and have suffered unjust criminal penalties without it.