Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

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Leovan
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Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Leovan » Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:01 pm UTC

https://www.dailywire.com/news/36917/five-teenage-mean-girls-falsely-accused-boy-sexual-ashe-schow
https://nypost.com/2018/10/08/school-under-fire-for-turning-blind-eye-to-female-students-false-sex-assault-allegations/

TLDR; Five high school girls accused a boy of sexual assault on two separate occasions, leading to his expulsion and detention in a juvenile facility, and subsequent house arrest. One girl admitted a month later that they made it up because "they didn't like him". The girls face no punishment and the boy's parents are now suing both the girl's parents as well as the school.

What I would like to discuss is whether not punishing the girls is the right move or not. I do think they deserve some punishment. Their actions not only got a boy expelled and in need of psychological care, but also undermine the #metoo movement by lending credence to claims of false accusations. Not punishing them could also embolden other false accusers because they know that even if the truth comes out they face no consequences. After all, the boy is now expelled as they wished, so the plan worked (the boy's parents are now homeschooling him).

On the other hand, I think the top priority should be to have cases like this cleared up, and facing major punishment will prevent false accusers from speaking up and admitting their lie. Severe punishment may also prevent victims of sexual assault from speaking up because they fear the repercussions if people believe they made it up. And aside form the lawsuit, I'm sure the girls in this case faced less official consequences both from their parents and from social repercussions at school.

Is there some middle ground? The 'snitch' gets away as a reward for speaking up while the other four face harsher punishment? Should there be reparations to the boy, and if so from whom?

So I'm wondering what you think? What possible consequence has the highest priority, or would a more balanced approach be reasonable? What could that look like?

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby ucim » Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:11 pm UTC

Leovan wrote:On the other hand, I think the top priority should be to have cases like this cleared up, and facing major punishment will prevent false accusers from speaking up and admitting their lie.
Isn't that true of all crimes? Sure, cases need to be "cleared up", but there's more to clearing something up than showing the facts of the case. If facts have no consequences, we raise an entire generation of Trumps.

Jose
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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Leovan » Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:34 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Leovan wrote:On the other hand, I think the top priority should be to have cases like this cleared up, and facing major punishment will prevent false accusers from speaking up and admitting their lie.
Isn't that true of all crimes? Sure, cases need to be "cleared up", but there's more to clearing something up than showing the facts of the case. If facts have no consequences, we raise an entire generation of Trumps.

Jose


What do you think would be an appropriate punishment? I would propose community service. The boy was sent to Juvy/house arrest because he was considered a threat to society, the girls are more of an indirect threat. Perhaps the girl's parents should cover the cost of the psychologist and the costs of homeschooling.

Or would you be in favor of equal punishment? Perhaps being registered as sex offenders?

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:03 pm UTC

Leovan wrote:What I would like to discuss is whether not punishing the girls is the right move or not.


I mean, yes. That seems fairly simple.

Wrongful imprisonment reparations and stuff already exist in principle. Yeah, they may be somewhat inadequate, but they ought to be made, and the criminal record expunged.

Leovan wrote:What do you think would be an appropriate punishment? I would propose community service. The boy was sent to Juvy/house arrest because he was considered a threat to society, the girls are more of an indirect threat. Perhaps the girl's parents should cover the cost of the psychologist and the costs of homeschooling.

Or would you be in favor of equal punishment? Perhaps being registered as sex offenders?


In general, I am a fan of punishment being roughly proportionate to the crime, possibly with an additional factor as a disincentive. There's a limit to how much more can have a meaningful disincentive effect. Higher than treble damages is probably unreasonable. But seeing as this lad went to jail as a result of their actions, sending them to jail in turn seems fair.

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ucim
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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby ucim » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:07 pm UTC

Oh, I'm hardly qualified to propose punishment, nor do I know enough about the details of the case to pass judgment. Things are often quite different in reality than they appear on the internet. But for the following, I'll assume things are as depicted.

However, I disagree that those falsely accusing somebody of sexual misconduct are "merely an indirect threat". The boy was considered a threat to society directly because of the accusations (and subsequent court proceedings). The harm to the innocent accused is real and direct, and extend beyond the cost of the psychologist and homeschool. The crime was premeditated. Pulling the trigger and getting somebody else to pull the trigger are equally deadly.

Part of the rationale of punishment is to make the crime definitely not worth it. For the girls, it might still have been worth it even after community service, if they really didn't like the kid. As a society, we need to decide whether this kind of behavior should be encouraged, tolerated (especially if we don't like the target), discouraged (wink wink nudge nudge), or outright forbidden.

I favor the latter treatment, for reasons above.

Jose
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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Leovan » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:23 pm UTC

ucim wrote:However, I disagree that those falsely accusing somebody of sexual misconduct are "merely an indirect threat". The boy was considered a threat to society directly because of the accusations (and subsequent court proceedings). The harm to the innocent accused is real and direct, and extend beyond the cost of the psychologist and homeschool. The crime was premeditated. Pulling the trigger and getting somebody else to pull the trigger are equally deadly.


I'm not saying they're not a threat. They are arguably the greater threat to society. What I mean is that in order to prevent a sexual predator from repeating the crime, the punishment is separation of that predator from society, in this case through jail and house arrest. The girls are already to a large degree prevented from repeating their crime by the fact that their last attempt is well known and people won't believe them anymore. The further punishment would be with the aim of preventing them from wanting to commit similar crimes. Community service, possibly in a victim's shelter, could be just as effective and cause more good to come of it than sending them to jail. Based on the story, he spent 9 days in jail and at least 28 days in house arrest. That's about 900 hours of community service.

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby asoban » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:25 pm UTC

Cases like one are among the reasons that I was skeptical of the Kavanaugh accusers and that multiple accusers made it more likely. The girls at a high school of perhaps a few thousand were motivated by mere "I don't like him." Thus when there are tens of millions who don't like someone and there is something on the line, like say a supreme court appointment that is going to shift the court for years, I think more skepticism and wanting evidence is warranted. Imagine for a moment if none of the girls had ever said anything about it? If this case came up before the court of public opinion, we would have unjustly convicted him all the same.

So what do we do about it? Well, this is why we require evidence. The problem in rape cases, is that most of the time, everyone agrees what the evidence is. These two people had sex, both agree it happened. Which means that things like rape kits aren't as useful of evidence that the two had sex because everyone agrees they did. The point of controversy is if they had sex consensually; It's damn near impossible to actually prove.

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Sableagle » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:44 pm UTC

Leovan wrote:Community service, possibly in a victim's shelter,
Community service in a young offenders' institution, cleaning the cells and cooking the dinners, would be funnier.

Leovan wrote:... the fact that their last attempt is well known and people won't believe them anymore.
At some point, someone's going to point out to them that they've given up forever their right to report a sexual assault and be believed, and everyone knows it. That's going to be quite a creepy revelation for them.

For example:
Spoiler:
At the heart of the successful appeal were fresh statements from two young men who described their sexual relations with the complainant, who was referred to in the crucial appeal court judgment as X, at around the time of the alleged rape in May 2011.

One, Y, actually came forward the day after Evans was found guilty in April 2012 to say she had had sex with him following the incident. He thought it “inconsistent” that she had slept with him a fortnight after she was attacked and – at a time when social media was alive with abuse about her – he came to the conclusion she was motivated by greed when she went to the police.

A man called Jack Higgins – who along with Evans’ younger brother Ryan voyeuristically peered in through the hotel window at the footballer and X – asked him to speak to Evans’ defence. He was briefly interviewed but his evidence was not used at that time.

In September 2015, the witness was re-interviewed by a private detective who was part of the new beefed-up Evans legal team. At this point he said X directed the sex and used the phrase: “Fuck me harder.” It was the first time he claimed she had used these words.

The explicit phrase is important because it chimes with what Evans claimed had happened in his encounter with X. He continues to insist she used exactly the same language.

A second man, Z, who was in a sexual relationship with X at the time of the alleged rape, had also made a rather bland statement back in September 2011.

In December 2015, he gave a much more detailed account to a member of Evans’ new legal team in which he said X had used the phrase “Go harder” with him.


They may find it a little harder to get tutoring, driving lessons, SCUBA partners, dates or jobs, too. Is it legal to refuse to employ someone on the grounds that she's a "known false accusation of sexual assault risk" these days?
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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Zohar » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:58 pm UTC

Leovan wrote: but also undermine the #metoo movement by lending credence to claims of false accusations.

Meh? There are enough calls of false accusations regardless of any facts to support them. I don't think this hurts #metoo simply because it's already suffering a constant barrage of attacks in this area completely independent of the truth.

Not punishing them could also embolden other false accusers because they know that even if the truth comes out they face no consequences.

It is clear you're not aware of the impact of accusing someone of sexual assault. They pretty much always face extremely negative consequences, regardless of the (overwhelming) veracity of the claims.

And aside form the lawsuit, I'm sure the girls in this case faced less official consequences both from their parents and from social repercussions at school.

I'm not sure what you're basing this on. Being exposed as a liar and a fraud doesn't sound like it will follow particularly positive consequences. Not to mention that the vast majority of assaulters suffer zero repercussions - social, financial, or criminal - for their actions.
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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:01 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:
Leovan wrote:... the fact that their last attempt is well known and people won't believe them anymore.
At some point, someone's going to point out to them that they've given up forever their right to report a sexual assault and be believed, and everyone knows it. That's going to be quite a creepy revelation for them.


Yeah, that's not a great solution either. Sure, "crying wolf" is a thing, but someone could have made a false claim, and then later been assaulted for real. With five people, it's statistically reasonably likely. I don't think "society will ignore your future claims" is viable if we actually care about justice.

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby sardia » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:15 pm UTC

Leovan, Are you trying to prove a trend about false accusations? Because that's what everybody who's posting about it is doing. "Welp, Bill Clinton probably raped that intern but since Seneca valley had a false accusations, we should let it slide."?

ucim wrote:
Leovan wrote:On the other hand, I think the top priority should be to have cases like this cleared up, and facing major punishment will prevent false accusers from speaking up and admitting their lie.
Isn't that true of all crimes? Sure, cases need to be "cleared up", but there's more to clearing something up than showing the facts of the case. If facts have no consequences, we raise an entire generation of Trumps.

Jose

I disagree that it's the top priority. My question is why the attorney is letting the girls go. Are the girls related to someone powerful on the school board?

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Sableagle » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:21 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Sableagle wrote:
Leovan wrote:... the fact that their last attempt is well known and people won't believe them anymore.
At some point, someone's going to point out to them that they've given up forever their right to report a sexual assault and be believed, and everyone knows it. That's going to be quite a creepy revelation for them.


Yeah, that's not a great solution either. Sure, "crying wolf" is a thing, but someone could have made a false claim, and then later been assaulted for real. With five people, it's statistically reasonably likely. I don't think "society will ignore your future claims" is viable if we actually care about justice.

I wasn't proposing it as a formal punishment.
I was just thinking that they may have already punished themselves, like the teenager who tries to show off in front of his mates by slapping a lady and gets his arse handed to him because she's got black belts in three different martial arts. Sure, he *could* be charged with assault and fined £50 but the fact his mates all saw him get kicked five times round the park by a 130 lb "girl" and all his everything is going to ache for a week is going to hurt him way more than the fine would.
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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:56 pm UTC

In a sense, anyone who gets criminal activity outed is sort of punished in terms of reputational damage.

But that's not an actual punishment. The media fades quickly enough, and will everyone remember them in a year or two? Probably not. Or at least, no more so than they vaguely remember that so and so's boy was in prison for a while. So, probably no more negative impact on their lives than there is on the victims. Maybe less.

And the victim actually had to go to jail as well.

The "you've already punished yourself enough" is the sort of thing people say to excuse not doing their jobs, and letting folks off the hook.

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Leovan » Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:17 pm UTC

sardia wrote:Leovan, Are you trying to prove a trend about false accusations? Because that's what everybody who's posting about it is doing. "Welp, Bill Clinton probably raped that intern but since Seneca valley had a false accusations, we should let it slide."?

ucim wrote:
Leovan wrote:On the other hand, I think the top priority should be to have cases like this cleared up, and facing major punishment will prevent false accusers from speaking up and admitting their lie.
Isn't that true of all crimes? Sure, cases need to be "cleared up", but there's more to clearing something up than showing the facts of the case. If facts have no consequences, we raise an entire generation of Trumps.

Jose

I disagree that it's the top priority. My question is why the attorney is letting the girls go. Are the girls related to someone powerful on the school board?


I'm doing no such thing. I believe this has been the reaction of one poster so far, and I'm hoping the discussion can stay off that track. I'm not sure if you mean other posters about this story or in this thread, but I'm hoping XKCD isn't your standard internet forum. The fact that a false accusation happened has no impact on the veracity of any other claim, and I don't think anyone ever said that false accusations never happen. I'm merely using this occasion to kick off a discussion of what reaction would be appropriate when false accusations do happen.
My comment that clearing up the crime should be the top priority is because I feel like it's more important not to have an innocent person in jail than to punish false accusers. Basically the same rationale as for "innocent until proven guilty", but in this case not punishing the known guilty because that could cause other guilty not to help exonerate the innocent. But if you're saying that false accusations happen so rarely that it's not something we should worry about, then the punishment in this case should obviously be more draconian, in which case I echo your question.

Zohar wrote:
Leovan wrote:Not punishing them could also embolden other false accusers because they know that even if the truth comes out they face no consequences.

It is clear you're not aware of the impact of accusing someone of sexual assault. They pretty much always face extremely negative consequences, regardless of the (overwhelming) veracity of the claims.

And aside form the lawsuit, I'm sure the girls in this case faced less official consequences both from their parents and from social repercussions at school.

I'm not sure what you're basing this on. Being exposed as a liar and a fraud doesn't sound like it will follow particularly positive consequences. Not to mention that the vast majority of assaulters suffer zero repercussions - social, financial, or criminal - for their actions.


As far as I could tell from the story (which I'm aware is far from everything) the girls faced no negative reaction to their accusations until they were proven false. And I think you're interpreting the second part wrongly. I'm saying the girls DID face negative consequences upon being shown as liars. Not officially from the school or the law, but that they are most likely already being punished by their parents and other students. Plus the whole "crying wolf" thing that could have a negative impact on the believability of any further sexual assault testimonies they may make in the future.
The question is whether this is enough consequence to deter future false accusations and whether a further reaction by the school or from the legal system is warranted. So far the school hasn't even apologized for expelling the student.

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby ucim » Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:30 pm UTC

Leovan wrote:The question is whether this is enough consequence to deter future false accusations and whether a further reaction by the school or from the legal system is warranted. So far the school hasn't even apologized for expelling the student.
You answer your own question right here. The school has decided (at least for now) that this kind of thing is of little consequence. When society decides that some wrong is of little consequence, it encourages evildoers to commit more such acts, because there is a benefit to being and acting evil. Look at our own president to see this in action.

Now, this whole thing raises the question of how it was that the boy was found guilty in the first place. Was there evidence beyond hearsay? Should there be, and if so, under what circumstances? (e.g. job interview, court case, letting one's daughter go on a date with him...)

That's the bigger question.

Jose
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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:41 pm UTC

If you're putting people in prison, a bit of evidence is a good idea.

Yeah, there's a lower bar when deciding if you want to trust some dude, but the actual legal system ought to stick to that innocent until proven guilty thing.

Witnesses can be evidence, but they're often quite unreliable.

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby Leovan » Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:49 pm UTC

He was put on probation after the first accusation July 2017 (one girl and her friend corroborated) and then put in jail after the second accusation this March (a third girl and her two friends corroborating). I haven't found an article that mentioned whether the girl who came forward was involved in the first or second accusation.
I'm assuming the first time they considered an accusation + corroboration not enough evidence to convict, hence the deal of "not guilty but on probation". By the second accusation (breaking and entering and sexual assault) it's serious enough that three witness statements and the history were enough to convict, although I'm not sure if it ever got to a conviction or if jail/house arrest were basically leading up to the actual trial. If I wasn't aware that the five girls were friends, I would consider five statements from two occasions to be pretty damning too.

Edit:
Seems it was actually three girls that came forward in May, although it didn't state if that was a mix of accusers on the first charge or the three from the second. Also, for some reason it took until August 30/September 10 to drop the charges of the second/first accusation.

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Re: Seneca Valley - False accusations and how to handle them

Postby ucim » Fri Oct 19, 2018 9:11 pm UTC

What's the penalty for perjury? (answer, from https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/c ... erjury.htm
"A person convicted of perjury under federal law may face up to five years in prison and fines. The punishment for perjury under state law varies from state to state, but perjury is a felony and carries a possible prison sentence of at least one year, plus fines and probation. Penalties are increased in relation to how much the perjury interfered with the proceeding. When the perjurer was a witness in his own criminal trial, his sentence for the underlying conviction may also be increased, on the grounds that a lying defendant is one who has a bad character and is not likely to be rehabilitated quickly."
)

Lying under oath is "indirectly harmful", yet it carries a hefty penalty, (presumably) because it undermines the very idea of justice. Certainly they should be charged with this. (And if the statements that put the boy behind bars weren't under oath, that itself is a miscarriage of justice.)

Leovan wrote:By the second accusation (breaking and entering and sexual assault) it's serious enough that three witness statements and the history were enough to convict...
Uh.... a serious crime should require more stringent evidence to convict. But in any case, was there any evidence of the breaking and entering? Without that, the case is still weak, IMHO.

Jose
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