Prosecutor wants to keep KU student from being called rape victim in false report case

Douglas County prosecutors are seeking to place limits on evidence and the conduct of defense attorneys ahead of the trial for a KU student charged with falsely reporting a rape.

The prosecutors’ requests were outlined in a motion filed Thursday in Douglas County District Court by Chief Assistant District Attorney Eve Kemple.

The motion asks the judge to prohibit those in the courtroom from referring to the woman as a victim of sexual assault or rape.

Kemple also wants to keep the defense attorneys from making statements that suggest police “set up” the woman to make additional false reports or state their opinions on the credibility of witnesses.

District Attorney Charles Branson said he was unable to comment on the motion Thursday but said he did not expect it to delay the trial.

The case, which was brought in January, is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 28. The woman faces up to 23 months in prison for three felony counts of making a false report.

Her attorneys say she is innocent and the case has been mishandled by the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office after she reported being raped by a friend of her ex-boyfriend in September 2018.

Branson says she fabricated the story out of regret and to get back at her ex-boyfriend. Text messages the woman sent the night of the incident indicated to police that the sex had been consensual, according to court documents.

The woman said in the court documents that the text messages were making light of the incident because she was not able to admit at that point that she had been raped.

The Star generally does not name possible victims of sexual assault. The Star also does not generally name people accused of sexual assault if they have not been criminally charged.

Limits sought

Kemple, the prosecutor, also wants the judge to issue a “’gag’ order” on the woman and her attorneys, preventing them from speaking with media or publishing information about the trial prior to its conclusion.

The motion said this is because “the state has a right to a fair trial” and the defense has an ethical obligation to stop speaking to the media.

The woman’s defense attorneys, Cheryl Pilate and Branden Bell, said there is no basis for such an order.

“Our client has a right to respond to allegations that the prosecutor has publicly aired, including the accusation that she fabricated the allegation of rape,” the attorneys said in a statement.

“Our client never wanted her privacy violated in this way.”

The prosecutor is also seeking to limit the evidence and witnesses used by the defense in the trial.

The motion asks that all evidence relating to the accused man’s character and reputation or past allegations of crimes that don’t address the question of honesty be barred from introduction.

The accused man’s “character is not in issue,” the motion says. “What is in issue is specific conduct of (the accused man) on September 27-28, 2018, that the defendant has falsely alleged was criminal.

The motion also asks that:

  • The judge bar “any evidence of speculation” regarding the events of the crime, the allegation, the defendants level of intoxication and ability to remember the events of the evening of the alleged assault. The motion does not specify what constitutes “evidence of speculation.”
  • Witnesses, including a physician for the defendant, an expert witness on the effects of alcohol and an outside witness who reviewed records from the man and the woman’s ex-boyfriend’s phone, be prevented from testifying.
  • Opinion from expert witnesses not be admitted without a pretrial hearing to determine whether those witnesses are qualified.
  • The judge prevent the defense from making statements referring to facts not already in evidence or presenting documents or other tangible evidence that hasn’t already been turned over to the state.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Oct. 23.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.