Seattle Times Eastside bureau
RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Katherine M. Clifton,
left, listens with her attorney, Kelly Faoro, as Judge Peter Nault hands down
her sentence in King County District Court in Redmond.
A 22-year-old former
Woodinville woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to making a false rape accusation against
a local college professor last June.
District Court Judge Peter Nault called the case one of the "saddest"
he'd ever seen in court and one that is likely to have long-term impact on future
"That we hurry to castigate
a person who turns out to be entirely innocent ... I don't know how it could be
worse," said Nault, saying the incident will make it harder for real sexual
victims to bring their cases forward.
a guilty plea from Katherine M. Clifton, accused of making false statements to
a public servant.
Those statements led to the rape
charge last summer against the professor who subsequently spent nine days in jail
and was placed on leave from his job.
to comment at the hearing but filed a detailed statement saying that she had been
sexually abused by her grandfather, who was convicted of rape of a child in 1994.
order to understand why, I have to explain what has happened to me in my past
that has forever affected me," she wrote.
who now lives in Ellensburg, was sentenced to serve 365 days in jail, with 357
days suspended, and to pay a $5,000 fine, with $4,750 suspended, plus other conditions
that include probation and community service. Nault also ordered her to pay the
professor's attorney fees.
The professor declined
to discuss the charges, saying he wants to put the past behind him, and asked
not to be identified.
The King County Prosecutor's
Office concedes a mistake was made in the original prosecution but said it was
acting on the best information available at the time.
hindsight, what was presented to us was an allegation of a violent rape,"
said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff. "That doesn't mean the investigation
Clifton was "an extremely articulate
and credible victim," said Sgt. John Urquhart, Sheriff's Office spokesman.
"There was no reason to suspect she wasn't telling the truth."
investigation started July 9, when Clifton met with a detective, according to
She described a series of contacts
with the professor beginning the previous March. She showed police e-mail messages
she said were from the professor which said he had "romantic feelings"
and seemed to promise to raise her grade if she agreed "to a few conditions."
also told detectives the professor "randomly showed up at locations she frequented"
at least 15 times.
She said that at 7 a.m. on July
5 the professor went into her Woodinville house and raped her.
July 10, detectives contacted the professor, who denied all the charges and said
he'd never seen Clifton off the school campus. He acknowledged exchanging e-mails
with her but said the ones she provided to police had been altered.
professor was charged with first-degree rape and burglary on July 12. The Prosecutor's
Office asked for $500,000 bail, describing the professor as "an extreme threat
to the victim and the community."
But as detectives
continued working, it became clear that the text in the e-mails had been changed.
None of the professor's fingerprints were found at Clifton's house. A sexual-assault
examination found no evidence of rape.
also checked on a supposed court order shown by Clifton to people at the college
that seemed to bear the heading "In the Superior Court of Washington State
for King County" and apparently ordered her not to talk about the professor.
the judge's signature was illegible and the case number didn't match any King
On July 25, Clifton told detectives
she had forged a judge's signature and made up a legal document on her computer.
July 26 the charges were dismissed, and a day later Clifton was charged with making
false statements to a public servant.
Kelly Faoro, said her client has "extremely deep remorse" for the false
statements and realizes that "none of this makes it any better" for
The professor now has his job back,
but said in court documents that the experience would stay with him.
though I did absolutely nothing wrong ... my rape and burglary with sexual-motivation
charges, albeit false, will remain in the court records forever," he swore
in one filing.
King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
Shelby Smith said Clifton's actions will also "harm the community of sexual-assault
victims," who will find their cases more difficult to pursue.
victims will be treated with more scrutiny," she said.
Whitely: 206-464-2259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 The Seattle Times Company