A False Accusation Can Still Ruin your Reputation: Jeremy’s Story
Jeremy was a bright young man who was active in his high school, had lots of friends and potential for the future. He had won a number of academic awards and was just finishing his junior year of high school. However, Jeremy was shy. He liked a girl called Kathy who was a senior at his high school. They were very good friends who spoke, hung out and texted often. He was not sure if she felt the same. He was not sure how to express this.
One day, Kathy agreed to meet him after school. They were alone. They talked for a bit. Eventually, Jeremy touched Kathy’s leg and moved closer to her. She did not move away or object to this. He began to kiss Kathy, and she kissed him back. She did not object or tell him that she was not interested or that any of it was not appropriate. They continued to make out, which led to touching other areas. Kathy did not tell Jeremy, “no” or otherwise communicate to him that this was non-consensual. After this encounter the two left school together and went on their separate ways. They texted one another later that evening. Jeremy thought everything was fine.
A few days later, Jeremy’s parents received a call from the police. They were informed that Kathy said that what occurred was not consensual and that Jeremy had sexually assaulted her and that he was being charged with several felonies. This was an enormous blow to both Jeremy and his family. Although Jeremy was still considered a juvenile, the penalties for such crimes can still be severe and can include Sex Offender Registration.
Further, even though he had only been charged and not convicted of doing anything, Jeremy’s school suspended him while the case was pending. This is typical if a student is charged with a felony. If he lost the case, it could have resulted in permanent expulsion. The charges alone caused significant damage to Jeremy and his reputation.
Jeremy’s parents hired us to help Jeremy through this difficult process. We met on several occasions and developed a game plan for how to proceed. Jeremy steadfastly stood by his innocence. From Kathy’s words and actions, both during and after the encounter, it appeared to Jeremy that she had consented. I truly believed him as well. His story never wavered or changed in any way during the many times we spoke about the incident.
Through the discovery process and investigation, we learned that Kathy’s story had changed in a number of significant ways. The plan was to illustrate to a jury that the encounter was consensual. Many of Kathy’s own words supported this.
The matter was tried before a jury in Lawrence. Kathy’s story at trial changed in some significant ways from her earlier stories. We were able to help illustrate this for the jury. However, it was also apparent from much of her testimony that she never communicated to Jeremy that she did not consent to the encounter, and that it would have appeared to him that what was happening was with her consent.
Jeremy chose to testify on his own behalf. He was understandably anxious; he was a shy kid, who had already lost so much. We helped him to prepare to testify by reviewing with him the story he had told all along and practicing until he felt comfortable enough to tell the jury what happened. He testified in a confident manner and was able to communicate effectively to the jury about what occurred that day.
Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and acquitted him of all charges. Although he ultimately won his case and he can return to school and continue to pursue his college plans, the effect that such an accusation can have on a person is often irreparable.