With the recent firing of Bill O'Reilly, the sordid tales of Bill Cosby and the "punishment" of the Stanford swimmer, the media has drawn massive attention to those accused of sexual misconduct and painted a terrible picture of these men, perhaps justifiably. We here at Varghese & Associates wish, however, to highlight the plight of the many men whose lives have been devastated by false allegations of sexual misconduct. Unless they have us defending them, these men are at risk of becoming an endangered species. We highlight the problems men face by telling you about how we recently prevented the arrest of a client accused of sexual assault who we shall call "John." As you read this, remember that John could be your son, your brother, or your friend.
John is a successful, single man in his early 30's. John met a young woman about his age through his participation in a ballroom dancing league here in the City and they began a three-night sexual relationship in December. Despite never calling her his "girlfriend," the woman began texting John at all hours of the night. One night, she showed up at his apartment unannounced at 3 am. John shared the apartment with two female roommates. After the woman woke everyone up by repeatedly ringing the bell, John's roommates told her to leave John alone or they would call the police. After that episode, he made it clear to the woman that he never wanted to see her again.
Despite ending their "relationship," the woman continued to text him telling John of her unyielding affection for him. When they would run into each other at ballroom dancing events, she made it extremely uncomfortable for him. At one event, she bumped into him, spilling wine all over his shirt. At another one, she followed John into the men's room screaming at him over how he had broken her heart. At a third, when John wanted to leave after seeing her, she followed him for several blocks until he eluded her by running into a subway station. Finally, John, despite loving ballroom dancing, stopped attending these events.
The woman then took to disparaging him on Facebook, including on their group ballroom dancing page. On her personal Facebook page, she started tagging John and linking him to articles about rape, including a New York Times article called "When a Rapist's Weapon is a Drug."
After he didn't respond, she sought a restraining order in New York County Family Court against him. In her petition, she claimed that John had raped her multiple times and listed dates of these alleged rapes. On Facebook, she posted pictures of her inside the Family Court along with a photo of her petition.
You may ask why Family Court? Several years ago, New York State legislators expanded the jurisdiction of the Family Court to allow those who had been in an "intimate relationship" to file for orders of protection aka restraining orders.
Despite our client's innocence, his reputation suffered due to her Facebook posts, and her public berating of him at the ballroom dancing events. John was forced into social isolation. His word was no match for the weight of the woman's very public claims. Then, John hired us.
As an initial matter, we had to deal with the NYC Sheriff. The Sheriff had contacted John and wanted to personally serve him with the petition. Our client, who had never been in trouble with the law, understandably, was nervous about dealing directly with law enforcement. We made sure that it went smoothly by contacting the Sheriff and allowing them to serve him in our presence at our office.
We then attacked the allegations in court against our client both on procedural grounds and on the merits. A critical fact here was that this woman had never gone to the police to report a rape before seeking her restraining order in Family Court.
The Family Court is not where allegations of violent sexual assaults are to be heard, instead they must be brought in Criminal Court. So on procedural grounds, we filed a motion to have the petition dismissed.
Then, we attacked her petition on the merits. Fortunately, because our client had backed up his iPhone to iTunes, we were able to restore his text message history. Then we were able to supply the texts along with the woman's Facebook posts to the Court.
We provided the court with the woman's text messages, written after he had supposedly raped her, proclaiming her undying love for him. In these texts,written after the rape was alleged to have occurred, the woman said she wanted to see John. One of the messages said that she was waiting in the park across from his apartment at 11 pm. The woman also had sent him a topless photo of herself, which we also provided to the judge with the time stamp of when she had sent it-again after the alleged rape.
After reviewing our papers, the Court agreed with us that the Family Court had no jurisdiction. The judge dismissed her petition for the restraining order.
You may wonder what the big deal would be for our client to abide by a no-contact restraining order if he wanted nothing to do with her. Well, we told you about the time after a ballroom dancing event when the woman followed John for several blocks until he was able to elude her in the subway. She claimed in court that John had violated the order of protection during this incident. Due to the order of protection, John was subject to criminal felony contempt charges facing up to seven years in prison -- solely due to her word. The woman used the restraining order not as a shield but as a sword, but we thwarted her efforts in court.
Dismayed, the accuser attempted to take her allegations to the police, and the Special Victims Unit (SVU) contacted our client, who then contacted us. On his behalf, we provided the SVU detective a complete history of their relationship as well as the papers she had filed in Family Court, our response, and exhibits with her text history, FB posts, and topless photo. SVU decided not to bring a case, make an arrest, or alert the DA. Our client was cleared.
With his name cleared, our client has returned to life as usual without the heavy burden of these allegations following him in his future endeavors. Fortunately, John has returned to ballroom dancing. The woman has stopped posting slander and no longer attends classes. Most men are not so lucky. An incredible number of men are falsely accused of sexual assault each year, hence why they are an endangered species. Without proper defense, their reputations will forever be tarnished and their lives destroyed.
We hope that what John went through will help you understand the importance of criminal defense work. Remember, John could be your son, your brother, or your friend.
Here at Varghese & Associates, we will continue to fight for our clients and defend them to make sure that the bedrock principal of our criminal justice system is followed: innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.