Lots of Lucre in False Claims of Abuse

By: Carey Roberts

This is a tale of four women who made phony allegations of abuse. All the accused men had to pay dearly to clear their good names. And all four women got away pretty much scot-free.

The first woman was married to John Dias of California. Sometimes the two fell into intense arguments, but never came to blows. But during one heated tiff she threatened to “make me pay.” Twenty minutes later the police knocked on the door. Dias relates:

“So when I read what she was accusing me of, I nearly fell on the floor. She fabricated all kinds of stories. Some were based on harmless events in which she added totally fictional details claiming that I had abused her in the past. Other stories in the restraining order didn’t even resemble any past event. They were just made up out of thin air.” [source]

Dias, but not his wife, was ordered to attend a year-long anger management course that laid the blame for the marital conflict on him. He was lucky, his legal expenses came out to only $6,500.

Trudy Jackson (not her real name) of West Virginia is serial false accuser. According to sworn affidavits, Mrs. Jackson often neglected their children, sometimes locking them in their rooms. Once her 2-year-old daughter was allowed to wander outside in the winter, the feet of her pajamas quickly freezing to the sidewalk. On another occasion she assaulted her husband, leaving scratches on his arm.

To win custody of the children, she repeatedly accused him of ill-treatment over a three-year period. Not even a divorce decree would quench her ire – afterwards she called her ex-husband’s employer, claiming he was calling her during work hours to harass her, and demanding he be fired.

The judge eventually dismissed all charges against the man. And she was found guilty of contempt of court for failing to return the house to her ex-husband and for vandalizing the premises. “Words really can’t explain what the house looked like,” Mr. Jackson later explained.

He paid over $15,000 in legal bills – and that was after his lawyer’s pro bono help.

Wendy Flanders of Pennsylvania is a repeat false accuser. Beginning in 2002 she began to make a variety of allegations against boyfriend Ben Vonderheide. The claims included – get ready for this — one charge of kidnapping, 2 trespassing charges, 3 charges of domestic abuse, 3 counts of harassment, and 25 accusations of indirect criminal contempt.

The allegations culminated in November 2004, when she claimed that Vonderheide assaulted her. That night the police came to Vonderheide’s house and put him in the pokey.

Problem was, the whole incident was caught on videotape, which proved that she was the aggressor in a conniving attempt to provoke him: source.

Recently Vonderheide was expunged on many of the charges. And two weeks ago a jury in Lancaster County found Wendy Flanders guilty of making false statements to police officials. The punishment? A slap-on-the-wrist $250 fine and one year of probation.

Mr. Vonderheide spent about $350,000 defending himself. “The only reason I’m out of jail is because I filmed, published on my own, and I engaged the ‘underground’ press to expose my case,” he later told me.

Crystal Gail Mangum of North Carolina is another serial false accuser. In 1993 she claimed to have been raped by three men. For reasons unknown she didn’t get around to filing the police report until three years later. And then she got cold feet and dropped the claim.

Thirteen years later Crystal Gail Mangum again claimed to be a victim of rape, but this time she was more choosy, naming three well-to-do Duke University lacrosse players as the attackers.

After prosecutor Michael Nifong steped down from the case, North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper pronounced the players innocent on all charges. Yet Cooper does not plan to prosecute Ms. Mangum for perjury. The reason? Mangum “may actually believe” her allegations to be true.

Each of the lacrosse players spent an estimated $1 million in legal defense fees.

In a country that prides itself on the “innocent until proven guilty” principle, how do we account for these legal travesties?

In some cases, the false accusers were emotionally unstable. Other times the women acted out of spite and vindictiveness.

But most of all we should cast the finger of blame on the Violence Against Women Act, the federal law that allows $65 million a year for the legal fees for women who claim to be victims of abuse, but not a red cent for those who are falsely accused.

Carey Roberts is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. (www.thenma.org). The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.

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