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October 24, 2008

What sentence would be just for a national crime hoax?

This CNN piece has the latest details on the "political attack" that has produced a lot of buzz in the last few days:

A Republican campaign worker who told police she was assaulted by a man angered by a John McCain sticker on her car admitted she made up the report, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, assistant police chief said Friday.

Police say Ashley Todd, 20, admitted making up the report she was attacked because of a McCain sticker. Ashley Todd, 20, of College Park, Texas, will be charged with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor, and may face more charges, said police spokeswoman Diane Richard at a news conference. "This has wasted so much time.... It's just a lot of wasted man hours," Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant said at the same briefing....

Bryant described Todd as "very cordial, polite, cooperating," and said the woman was surprised by all the media attention. Asked whether the false report was politically motivated, Bryant replied, "It's difficult to say."

"She is stating that she was in her vehicle driving around, and she came up with this idea," she said. "She said she has prior mental problems and doesn't know how the backward letter 'B' got on her face." However, Todd was the only one in the vehicle, and "when she saw the 'B' she thought she must have been the one who did it," Bryant said. "We're talking with the district attorney's office and conferring on just how we're going to handle it," she said. "It's been different stories through the night and this morning."

Other than being a sad tale, this story describes a crime.  The question for creative weekend fun is what kind of sentence should be considered in a case like this.  Should Todd be forced to put an Obama bumper sticker on her car?  Or required to make a donation to the DNC?  Or required to investigate allegations of voter fraud?  You make the call.

October 24, 2008 at 07:54 PM | Permalink


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I'm generally sympathetic towards non-violent defendants, but this is a very serious. Not due to the national element, or the campaign angle, but she falsey reported a serious crime. If the police had found someone, an innocent man would be facing a jail or more likely prison. I think that the penalty for false reporting should be the punishment that the perpertrator of the alleged crime would have recieved. I don't know what punishment robery, assault, and what ever the poltically motivated knifing would have warranted, but she deserves it all. 6 months or a year isn't enough.

Posted by: Monty | Oct 24, 2008 11:45:29 PM

Community service in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, working to get her soul back.

Posted by: Pete Guither | Oct 25, 2008 12:49:01 AM

The sentence that should be considered is whatever filing a false police report will get you in that jurisdiction. There's no need to come up with a special sentence, because this is a normal crime, with a normal punishment attached.

Posted by: Norm | Oct 25, 2008 2:19:54 AM

6 months or a year isn't enough.

That's ridiculous. Our prisons are bursting at the seams and we're going to put another mentally ill person in there? For 1 year? Lighten up. This is not an unusual crime. Mentally ill women file false reports everyday. The system can handle it. Let it.

If the police had found someone, an innocent man would be facing a jail or more likely prison.

And if pigs flew outta my butt we'd all have bacon everyday. If if if if if if.

On a lighter note, I'm going to a party tonight and Sweartogod that's going to be my Halloween costume. Too funny.

Posted by: babalu | Oct 25, 2008 6:38:29 AM

She should have to publicly apologize on national television to Barack Obama while carrying Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers on each shoulder and balancing on Joe the Plumber's bald head.

Posted by: Bababu | Oct 25, 2008 7:46:13 AM

On punishment, I'm with Pete - I don't want my tax dollars wasted on her jail cell. Odds are there's a mental illness component that's more important to treat. Imprisonment would benefit neither her nor society.

On the bright side, as this happened in College Station (not "College Park"), it will bring forth a font of new Aggie jokes - particularly given the B cut into her face was backwards, as though done in a mirror. The hoax was about as well-designed as an Aggie outhouse.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Oct 25, 2008 11:33:40 AM

psych evaluation with dismissal of false report charge conditioned on participation in mental health treatment if (as seems likely) this woman is suffering from a mental illness that prompted her behavior.

Posted by: pubdefender | Oct 25, 2008 2:34:15 PM

She should have to publicly apologize on national television to Barack Obama while carrying Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers on each shoulder and balancing on Joe the Plumber's bald head.

HEY! Looks like I've been hijacked and had my identity stolen! That wasn't me who wrote that. Dunno who it was but stop taking my name. It's insulting because frankly, I'm wittier than than this guy. C'mon dude, at least try to get my style of humor right. You're not even trying.

I would have said something like "The only one who robbed that woman at the ATM was Bank of America with their high ATM fees. She needs a B on one cheek and an A on the other."

Now that's the true babalu.

Posted by: babalu | Oct 25, 2008 6:05:39 PM

Make her spend an hour on Nancy Grace. Could end up being the death penalty due to suicide.

Posted by: | Oct 26, 2008 2:27:24 AM

I'm with Norm. The high-profile context shouldn't distort the garden-variety nature of the crime. It should be treated like any other false report, with the same allowance for the defendant's mental illness, if any, as in any other case.

Posted by: Def. Atty. | Oct 27, 2008 10:58:19 AM

Let me give you a prosecutor's perspective: Some false report cases are much more serious than this one. Those are the ones where you spend many hours working a case only to find out the victim made it all up. Those cases call (generally speaking) for more harsh treatment. The worst cases are where a person has caused an innocent person to be charged with a crime - they are committing a very serious offense and need to pay.

Here we have an obviously desperate individual who committed this offense in an unbelievably ham handed way. I'm sure the first officer who saw her realized that this was a hoax - as noted above the backwards "B" on her face was a dead giveaway. Also, were we supposed to believe this vicious Obama supporter was careful enough to just lightly and evenly carve her skin while she fought with him?

The police had to have known right away they were dealing with someone with a mental problem. This is the most mitigated kind of false report case. Assuming she's prepared to publicly apologize I'd recommend probation.

Posted by: Alan O | Oct 27, 2008 8:47:45 PM

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