Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must have heard about the 80+ women alleging that Harvey Weinstein harassed and/or assaulted them in some way. Additionally, numerous other similar troubling allegations have been made about other high profile folks like Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Brett Ratner, Charlie Rose and Jeremy Pivens, amongst others. Especially in light of the current climate, many believe with 100% certainty that all allegations made are 100% true and correct. That may be the case. Like most people, I tend to believe that most of the allegations made are true. My heart goes out to every man and woman who suffers any type of harassment and/or abuse. What I am also certain of is that not every allegation is always worthy of belief. After 25 years of practice in the criminal arena as both a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, I know that people lie. Why they do it isn’t always known. It happens, albeit not often. For those who are falsely accused, I have one word to describe what they go through, “Nightmare.” I’ve been asked, “What can you do if you’ve been falsely accused of sexual harassment/misconduct and/or assault?”
The first thing I would encourage you to is pray. Seriously. The climate is so challenging right now for those accused of any harassment/misconduct and/or assault that you will likely be immediately presumed guilty, at least in the court of public opinion. That’s not as troubling of a scenario if we are speaking about someone who really is guilty. If you are actually innocent though, it’s going to be a rough ride.
I would encourage you to immediately contact an attorney. They are the best ones to help you navigate through this process. The right attorney can unemotionally guide you through what you need to do after a false allegation is made.
The first thing I would tell a potential client to do is to write down, in detail, their version of events. I would instruct them to be honest and include even the stuff that is bad. For example, if you violated office policy by dating a staff member, come clean with it. The worst thing to happen is that you get caught lying about some policy violation which could cause the trier of fact to think you’re erroneously guilty of everything being alleged. The next thing I would tell you to do is write down your potential alibi, assuming one exists. In conjunction with that, I would want a detailed listing of all potential witnesses who might support your defense. In addition, I’d want a “This is your life” memo, detailing your track record with the company as well as a description of your personal life.
After armed with all of that, I would attempt to work something out with human resources, assuming they can’t be persuaded to let the matter go. My clients typically lose to some extent once things go public, even if ultimately exonerated. I would take the same action with the prosecutor, assuming it’s a potential criminal matter. Often, prosecutors may conclude that while there was sufficient evidence to arrest (“Probable cause”), there isn’t sufficient evidence to file charges (“Proof beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.”)
I don’t want this article to be viewed as a knock against any courageous victim who is coming forward with true allegations. On the contrary, to those mean and women, I applaud you. It’s not easy and change will only happen in the future, in large part, because of you and the fact that you’re willing to come forward.
Still, I can’t help think of the one person who may be falsely accused in light of this climate, where people are presumed guilty first. If this article appears like I’m hard selling you on hiring an attorney, well, I am. If an accusation has been made, especially in this climate, immediately contact me or some other competent attorney you feel more comfortable with. By no means attempt to handle this matter by yourself. You would, without question, have a fool for a client.