A Columbus, Ohio man asks, how can I defend against a false claim that I had sex with a minor?

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a Columbus man who said one of his daughter’s friends told another girl at school that he attempted to molest her. The police became involved and asked him to “give his side of the story.” He asked two questions.

First, he asked whether he should talk to the police. The answer was easy: Absolutely Not!

Any experienced criminal defense attorney (in Ohio or elsewhere) will tell you the same thing: Under no circumstances should you talk to law enforcement or anyone else without first consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Experienced criminal defense lawyers will always emphasize the importance of not discussing the allegations with anyone other than their criminal defense attorney. I advised the Columbus man to immediately hire a lawyer with experience defending sex cases, and to request the lawyer to promptly call the detective, inform him that you desperately want to give your side of the story, but the lawyer has (as any good attorney would) advised him not to. The lawyer will then take the blame for you exercising your right not to talk to the police, and will let the detective know the lawyer will call back soon to discuss the case further.

The second question posed by the Columbus man was this: “How can I defend myself against false allegations that I attempted to molest a minor?”

Attorneys in our Columbus, Ohio law firm see cases over and over again where a young woman or girl (often a stepdaughter, girlfriend’s daughter, or daughter of a friend) has falsely accused an otherwise law abiding man of criminal sexual misconduct, including false charges of rape, attempted rape, sexual battery, or gross sexual imposition. These clients are generally hard-working men with good reputations.

The facts given by the caller reminded me of my first experience defending a sex case involving false allegations made by young teenage girls. This was in the late 1980s when a recently retired Worthington, Ohio man was accused by two teenage girls of attempted rape. The two teenagers, who were close friends, lived near our client and walked with each other to and from school each day. They were familiar with our client simply from living in the same neighborhood. Our client was well-known and well-respected in the Columbus community; and he adamantly denied the charges. Despite his denials, the case proceeded to trial.

When jury selection began, our client, who was understandably under severe distress, collapsed in the courtroom. He was rushed to the hospital and found to have suffered a heart attack. At our request, the Judge declared a mistrial.

A second trial proceeded much better, and resulted in a verdict of “not guilty” on all charges.

Our defense was that the two young women (the “accusers”) were talking about sex on their way home from school, when one falsely but innocently bragged about being approached by the neighbor, and the other said it happened to her too. A third overheard the discussion, told her mother after arriving home, and the police were called. The two girls, having already innocently made the false allegations, simply repeated the lies to the police, not realizing the potential consequences of their statements. They were then caught up in a lie that they could not escape, and repeated it at trial.

At trial we presented evidence that both accusers had reputations for false gossip, exaggeration, and less than truthful statements. In contrast, we presented character witnesses on behalf of our client, all of whom testified about his reputation as a truthful, honest, law-abiding citizen.

In closing argument, we suggested to the jury that the worst thing they could do would be to convict our client, because then these two young women would have to live with the consequences of their lies for the rest of their lives.

The jury deliberated for a few short hours before unanimously returning a verdict of “not guilty” on all charges.

This was not an unusual case. We see what we believe to be false allegations of sexual misconduct made by minors on a regular basis. Interestingly, we have seen a pattern to these types of false allegations by minors, and see them occur in five different situations:

TYPE 1: Our attorneys see (particularly with young adolescents) youngsters who know what they are saying is not true, but nevertheless make false statements in order to further an agenda, such as one parent’s position in a divorce, separation, or argument. As an example, a young teenage daughter might make false allegations against her stepfather in order to do her mother’s bidding in an ugly breakup or divorce with her stepfather). Our lawyers have found this type of false sexual allegation to occur in turbulent family situations. There is significant scientific research on the moral development of adolescence which provides a scientific basis for why adolescents often resort to this tactic. An expert witness who can testify about this research is often critical if criminal charges are eventually filed, and the case proceeds to trial.

TYPE 2: Our lawyers see cases where a young woman, particularly a former girlfriend, now past the age of consent (age 16 in Ohio); has an ax to grind with the accused, and now, for the first time, makes false allegations about sexual conduct they claim occurred before she turned 16 years old. This type of false allegation requires a complete investigation into the young woman’s background, reputation for honesty and truthfulness by those who are familiar with her, as well as any possible motives for lying.

TYPE 3: Our attorneys see false allegations made against young men who have sex with a young lady they met at a party or bar, where they young woman, most often the next day, claims that the sex was unwanted or forced on her. Often either alcohol or drugs are involved. In this situation, it is critical that the accused person not discuss the situation with anyone, especially the accuser and law enforcement. It is also critical that nothing is stated by the accused on social media. This can be a difficult time for the accused, but we have been successful time and time again of avoiding the filing of criminal charges against clients of ours who have faced this situation. Again, it is critical that the accused immediately hire an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing this type of allegation.

TYPE 4: Our lawyers see false sex allegations made by young children, often 5 years or younger, who actually believe their false statements are true, when they are actually false. With this type of allegation, it is critical to obtain an expert in interviewing alleged victims of child sex abuse, because scientific research now shows that the method of questioning used when interviewing a child who has accused another of sexual misconduct is critical to the reliability and truthfulness of the statements made by the child during the interview, and thereafter, including at trial.

TYPE 5: Our attorneys see false sex allegations in cases where older children, and even young adults, falsely believe they have now, through “recovered memory,” recalled events involving sexual molestation they claim were earlier blocked out. This is the less frequent of the five types, but nevertheless, I have seen it fairly regularly in my career. This type of case requires an experienced forensic expert knowledgeable in the science of recovered memories.

Lawyers in our Columbus law firm are experienced in defending against each of these five types of cases. If you, a loved one, relative, or close friend is the victim of allegations of sexual misconduct, please feel free to contact one of our Columbus, Ohio attorneys for a free initial consultation. Our lawyers are experienced in representing the accused against all types of sex crimes, including charges of child rape, attempted rape, sexual battery, and gross sexual imposition in Columbus and throughout Ohio.

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