The Volokh Conspiracy

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Criminal Justice

No Jail Sentence for Woman Who Falsely Claimed Rape by Three Unidentified Black Men

What should the proper punishment be in such cases?


Drew Smith (Sherman/Denison, Texas Herald Democrat) reports:

Breana Harmon, the [19-year-old] Denison woman who falsely claimed she was raped in March 2017, entered a plea of guilty Thursday to four felony charges of tampering with physical evidence and government documents…. Harmon told investigators three black men had approached her in a parking lot, forced her into an SUV and drove her to wooded area where two of the three men raped her.

Two weeks later, Harmon confessed that she had lied. Her motive was apparently that she had cut herself because she was upset about the likely breakup of her relationship with her fiancé, and then made up the rape because she was worried that "her family would be upset with the self-inflicted injuries."

Harmon and the prosecutors apparently agreed to a plea deal, under which she would either get probation, or get "deferred adjudication," which would mean the charges would be automatically erased if she stays out of trouble during the deferment period.

Now the offense does seem less egregious than one in which a specific person is falsely accused -- but it still strikes me as pretty serious.

Readers: What, generally speaking, do you think is the proper punishment in such cases? Should the punishment turn in part on the possibility that the false accusation, of three black men raping a white woman, would be especially likely to cause tension and hostility in the community, or should that be considered legally irrelevant?

Naturally, the sentence may well turn on the circumstances of the particular defendant, which we don't know. But assume there's nothing exceptionally unusual for a crime such as this, and assume no insanity or other delusion on the defendant's part.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) for the pointer.