In this episode of Real Talk, KJK Student Defense Attorneys Susan Stone and Kristina Supler are joined by a parent who we will refer to as “Jane Doe,” who had to experience watching her son face prosecution for rape and kidnapping. After a long and agonizing trial, Jane Doe’s son was found not guilty by a jury after only 15 minutes of deliberation. The conversation includes how a fling turned into a criminal charge and years of distress, the realistic, negative impact of false accusations on victims and their families, and prevention and coping mechanisms for a defendant and their family during prosecution
Links Mentioned In the Show:
- How a casual relationship spiraled out of control (01:38)
- How the truth became overshadowed by the school, parents, the accuser, the police, and the justice system (03:07)
- The result of a criminal charge, indictment, 2 trials, and years of agony (03:38)
- Why parents need to discuss the dangers of hookup culture with their children (04:30)
- The role hookup and cancel culture has played in her son’s false rape accusation (06:22)
- The agony of witnessing your child’s life stop and become turned over to the justice system (07:46)
- The lack of support from the school administration and the impact this had on the child’s siblings at the same school (09:51)
- A remarkable turn of events: how good acquaintances turned into the best support system one could ask for (10:27)
- How one student’s false accusation instilled a fear on the entire student body (11:35)
- Navigating the unknown world of the justice system as a terrified parent (13:25)
- The living purgatory of waiting for a second trial (16:36)
- Juggling college and preparing for a new trial (17:27)
- The necessity and precautions of seeking external support to cope with the stress of an ongoing trial (18:44)
- What it’s really like for a family to deal with the tension of a trial (20:53)
- How Jane found solace in her community and other mothers going through what her family was experiencing (23:15)
- Finding some closure through filing and settling a defamation and malicious prosecution lawsuit after acquittal (26:50
Kristina Supler: Today’s episode is the epitome of real talk. We’re joined by a parent who will refer to as Jane Doe.
Kristina Supler: Jane sadly had to live through the experience of watching her son face prosecution for rape and kidnapping. And after a long trial, agonizing, her son was found not guilty by a jury after only 15 minutes of deliberation.
Kristina Supler: And, um, I’m sure those 15 minutes were the longest 15 minutes of her life. Jane has graciously agreed to talk to us today about her experience.
Susan Stone: And we thank you, Jane for coming today. And, Kristina, we deal every day in our practice with not just students going through title nine process, but sadly, we have had a lot of interplay between the national title nine process and the criminal justice system.
Susan Stone: And we privately have conversations and this is the first time. On our podcast, where we have had a parent tell their story. So thank you for coming. And our first question would be without revealing identities, because we want to be sensitive to your privacy and that of your child. But can you briefly describe Jane what the allegations were that were lodged against your son?
Susan Stone: Tell your story.
Jane Doe: I I’d be happy to. And thank you so much for inviting me here today. It’s an honor to talk about this, uh, process because of what our family has been through. Um, shortly after he graduated high school, my son was accused of rape and kidnapping by a girl with whom he had a casual relationship.
Jane Doe: They had had an interaction at a party, and again, they were known to each other, but they had interacted at a party and shortly after their interaction was over, she accused him of rape. And, uh, as I say at that moment, the train left the station. And from there. She reported the incident to her parents who then of course, as any parent would do took action, not knowing.
Jane Doe: Any facts, of course, but just what their daughter had told them. And they took action. She went through the process of going to the hospital and a number of events that occurred when you do that, when you make an accusation and from there forward, It just felt like a bomb dropped and there was no, no control over what was going to happen from there.
Jane Doe: And I interject that the truth from that moment forward did not seem to matter. And she went through these, these stages. And there were many interactions between the school and us as parents, the school and the, the girl, the accuser, the police of course became involved. And then of course the justice system does its thing in whatever way it does that.
Jane Doe: There began the Odyssey of this accusation that then turned into a criminal charge, which then turned into an indictment, which then turned into not one, but two trials due to a, um, I can’t think of the word right now. We miss, uh, miss trial and and then of course ultimately Him being found guilty, not guilty in very quick record time.
Jane Doe: In fact they, as a jury agreed within moments that of course he was not guilty and that, that of course would be the outcome. So we got through that, that took years.
Kristina Supler: It’s so important in our listeners. Hear your story, Jane, because Susan and I regularly speak across the country. On issues that essentially at the heart of it, legal issues tied to hookup culture.
Kristina Supler: Right. And, you know, we say hookup culture without judgment, but we want students and families to understand, and we really encourage parents to speak with their children about, you know, possible consequences for various decisions. Students make, I mean, Susan, we sadly have seen many cases Not all that different from what Jane and her family had to go through.
Susan Stone: I’m just thinking about yesterday, Kristina, when we had a student who was going through a hearing saying that the number one learning lesson is to be careful about casual sex, because when you hook up with someone, you don’t really know, you don’t know what they’re thinking and how they feel during the whole sexual experience.
Susan Stone: And. Intimacy and mixed with the casual nature of the heck, the hookup, seeing them collide. Did you ever have a conversation about hookup culture?
Jane Doe: Uh, no, actually I didn’t. Um, and it isn’t that I shouldn’t have, it certainly would have would’ve made sense. This was a number of years ago.
Jane Doe: I think before hookup culture was, was more in our everyday vernacular
Kristina Supler: I think also. It’s probably. Year after year and with the rise of social media, because it correct me if I’m wrong, but when your family was going through this social media and cell phones and texting weren’t what it is now. And I think that hookup culture cancel culture, all of those cultural phenomenons that we experienced day in and day out.
Kristina Supler: It’s a little different now than when your son went through this, is that correct?
Jane Doe: Yes. Yes. It didn’t have the fervor that it does now. It was just at the forefront and there were the Duke lacrosse case and there was a lot of questions. There were a lot of articles, a lot of I think unknowns about this process because it was, it was a good number of years ago.
Jane Doe: And I think there’s some more understanding of it. And also, as you mentioned, the cancel culture is much more extreme now. It felt very strange then to be just sort of X-ing these children out of their lives. I mean, whether it was school or college or a team or any of those things, like we do that very quickly now, but not so much.
Kristina Supler: And to hear you mention or make reference to the Duke lacrosse case. Cause I think that was a case, not that long ago, but nevertheless, one of those massive cases that really brought to the forefront, the idea that false accusations happen
Susan Stone: first, I think that brought it into the public foray, but Jane, can you tell us what it was like as a parent watching your son go through this process, going through the criminal justice system, how did it feel?
Susan Stone: What were you going through?
Jane Doe: I so appreciate that question because I think we often don’t stop to wonder what it is like for the family and the parents. It was, and is the most agonizing thing I’ve ever, ever experienced. Mostly because watching my son go from a vibrant, functional, productive person who was at the forefront of his life, he had just graduated from high school, was, um, off to the next phase, which was going to be college.
Jane Doe: And it just turned on a dime. And he of course plummeted and mainly it was agonizing, because at the, at the moment at which this all happened, his life stopped. And all of the sudden he became what I say is the property of the justice system. And you have all very little freedom, then you, you can’t, you know, do anything other than they tell you, you can do.
Jane Doe: And
Kristina Supler: It was at that moment that he was launching into adulthood and starting his life, everything came crashing down. It sounds like,
Susan Stone: and it becomes, it defines you. And it’s hard to get out from that.
Kristina Supler: Can you tell us, I’m curious to hear looking back, what was your experience like for, for yourself and your family in terms of relationships with other friends and family people supporting you as you lived through the ordeal. Were people supportive? Or did you feel like people were distancing themselves from your family, your son.
Susan Stone: I love that question, Kristina. Cause I know myself, when my family went through trauma, there were stages. There’s the initial stage where people are very supportive and then there are people who, as I say, get off the train and then, you know, you go through different phases.
Susan Stone: Jane, can you relate to that?
Jane Doe: Yes, very much. It was interesting to watch because we were in a school environment and I still had other children in that same school, uh, and, and related schools, but in my son was in the same school. And so it was very interesting to watch most certainly the school administration n ot supportive in any way, shape or form, which was really distressing and frightening at times, again, because I had another child in school.
Jane Doe: And I did, I was heartened by the actions of friends. Not even my closest friends, because from them, of course, I would expect, support and kindness and love, but people with whom I was a good acquaintance, let’s say who and several of them who stepped up and almost literally walked with me every single step of the way, including.
Jane Doe: Every minute of the trials. And that to me was the most remarkable part of this. But then of course, on the other side, people that I would have hoped I could count on did not, they fell away because they were intimidated by society or by the school, the school’s behavior, or maybe other factors.
Kristina Supler: Did you feel, I’m curious to hear your observations where your other children on.
Kristina Supler: Did they experience fallout from it as well? In terms of friends and peer relationships, or were they able to maintain some sense of normalcy in their life as this was unfolding?
Jane Doe: Peer relationships, I would say remained stable for the most part. I think it created a lot of fear among the student body as a whole.
Jane Doe: Just that something like this could happen, that you don’t know, you’re sort of living life one way. And then somebody does something that doesn’t seem like it has any merit. But then there’s a lot of questions. Well, if it doesn’t have merit, then why is all this happening? So there was a lot of fear sowed among the student body, by the administration.
Jane Doe: And that deeply, deeply affected, um, my, my son who remained at the school, but I would say his peer group was. Was supportive and helpful to the extent that they could be. I think there were also some parental limitations placed on, on those kids just because parents were also afraid. Wow.
Susan Stone: I want to circle back briefly to the both trials. And of course you have to emphasize while you were so integral, it really was your child that was the dependent. But as a minor strategic decisions and calls need to be made by a parent or as your child, I don’t know if your child was a minor or not at the time.
Jane Doe: No, he was not.
Susan Stone: Were there difficult decisions that you had to make, or did you leave it all up to your child?
Kristina Supler: Susan? Are you talking legal decisions or what type of decisions.
Susan Stone: I’m going to ask you, Jane, what decisions could you have to make if at all, or did you just defer to your legal team and student?
Jane Doe: Sure. I, because I am definitely a mama bear and I was going to protect my child and my other children at all costs.
Jane Doe: And so of course I was integral into greatly involved in the, in the process. I trusted our attorneys, which were not our first attorneys, but, um, we finally found the ones that were definitely right for us. I trusted them and I trust them to this day. Not that I need them and I hope I don’t, but I trust them with our lives.
Jane Doe: But the decision, ultimately, as you guys both know, comes down to the person who is the defendant and they have to make the ultimate call about whether a plea is accepted, uh, that sort of thing. And I’ll tell you the most frightening moment of my life was the beginning of the very first trial before the mistrial, when, and I had no idea how the justice system worked, no idea at all.
Kristina Supler: You’d never really had contact with it before. So would you and you never in your wildest dreams would imagine that you’d be involved with much less your child, right,
Jane Doe: exactly. Right. Didn’t know where the courthouse was. Didn’t know anything about it. And what happened is it’s again, I’m sure you both know very well all too well right in the beginning of the very first day the prosecution comes in and tries to make a deal, which evidently happens all the time.
Jane Doe: I did not know that. And we were faced and then faced again the next day and the next day with how about we give you this, how bad he takes this plea? How bout, how about, you know, we make this all go away and he just pleads to a felony. I don’t even remember what the numbers are. And it was paralyzing terrifying because you are faced with a decision that feels like life or death.
Jane Doe: And we understood very well that if for some reason, this trial did not go our way there was a minimum mandatory sentence for rape and kidnapping
Susan Stone: Twelve and a half years, kristina. How long?
Kristina Supler: Yeah. I mean, it can get complicated under, under the laws in Ohio, but certainly the decision to go forward to trial by your son was a massive decision that would take a lot of thoughts and reflection and, and bravery as well because the penalties are so high.
Kristina Supler: And if. The jury doesn’t see it the way you hope it’s, you know, I can’t imagine what it’s like for a parent to have to, sit and watch because of course as you pointed out Jane, Susan, and I see this regularly in our practice, being a lawyer and going through it in our professional capacity is, is very different from the experience of parents and loved ones.
Susan Stone: After the first mistrial was an offer for a plea renewal.
Jane Doe: No. Wow. I don’t think so. I can’t remember to tell you the truth.
Susan Stone: So did you have to go through an entire trial the second time?
Jane Doe: Oh, yes. Oh yes, yes. Start to finish. To the right, right through the jury selection, everything. Oh yeah. And, and it didn’t occur of course for several months because the first trial ended in that Ms.
Jane Doe: Child just a few days or maybe even two days after it began. And then. I again, I don’t even really, to this day, understand how their justice system works in an intricate way, but then it was several months of living in purgatory until the next trial began. And it was him having, you know, my son having to live every day as if everything is okay.
Jane Doe: And then at the same time preparing for, for the next trial.
Susan Stone: Was there a college acceptance that had to be delayed?
Jane Doe: Well, not delayed. Uh, he, he went, but they made the school was very accommodating and very understanding and they figured out ways for him to miss weeks, for the trial and even have time off for preparation and that sort of thing.
Jane Doe: And to do the work just, you know, when he could, they were very accommodating. So that was very lucky. And he did end up graduating on time, which felt like a miracle in a lot of ways.
Kristina Supler: So Jane, your son of course it was found not guilty thing. Thank goodness. But so often, no matter what the outcome is, criminal cases, they just take a toll on everyone involved the defendants, the family. And we try to remind our clients that no, no matter what the circumstances, a criminal case, a campus title IX case, even a regular student misconduct case because Susan and I work in, in all those, um, settings, what type of supports should, based on your experience, do you think parents really need to be mindful about providing for their child as their child goes through any type of processing.
Jane Doe: I very much appreciate that question. I, and I have thoughts about it as much as one might feel. And I did feel this way that I could manage it all my own. Intense deep fear and stress manage my other children and certainly support my son. It’s impossible to do it yourself.
Jane Doe: And so what I did was get him some outside support through the psychological community. Get him. A therapist with whom he could work. And I would offer a word of caution about that only that the psychologist or whomever is the mental health practitioner needs to understand deeply and fully that this is a criminal matter.
Jane Doe: And. You know that person, that practitioner may well end up in the middle of the case because of course the other side subpoenas everything. And, and so that is just a word of caution about how to work with your mental health practitioner while supporting cause that did, uh, that was an interesting turn that, that it took.
Jane Doe: Uh, but it was, it was good for him to have outside support somebody. Um, and, and because you’re so immersed in this process, your family is just sucked down a rabbit hole that is very hard to get out of and see the light of day. It’s important to have that outside support and, um, and, and for me as well, and the rest of our family, my other kids were deeply, deeply impacted by this. And even today, many years later my, my other kids we’ll talk about what that was like for them, particularly my daughter, who’s a bit of a chatty Cathy, and she will to this day talk about what it was like for her to be in, in school and trying to live as.
Jane Doe: Every day was just a normal day and it wasn’t
Kristina Supler: How do you tell the kids when they wake up in the morning, you know, just get out of bed. We got to eat breakfast, go to school, put one foot in front of the other. Cause they can only imagine at a certain point. They’re just say I can’t handle this. I can’t do it, mom.
Kristina Supler: How did, how did you keep everyone going?
Jane Doe: Lots of lots of talking about it. Even to the extent that my, my daughter would say, I can’t talk about it anymore, mom, I’m fine for now. You know, let’s take it up later or. Inviting my children to just be open and honest about their feelings. But I have to say I did have a, an emotional limit because I was so overwhelmed and terrified that I think my stress definitely inhibited their ability to function as well as they could have my older
Susan Stone: Domino’s, you know, it you’re the first domino.
Jane Doe: Yes. And my son who remained at the school of course, because he was a senior, so he wasn’t going to change schools. And he had a great support group there, but he had as boys often do more than girls had sematic symptoms that were very strong and. Uh, terrible backache that did not leave for months despite, you know, treatment and trying to work it through and understanding that it was sematic but it was really hard to watch because he was an athlete and.
Jane Doe: It’s gonna come out somewhere and that’s where it impacted him. So it’s sort of another word of caution to be watchful about the impact of this on the other children, not only your, your child who’s in, in harm’s way, but the other children, and to watch for smaller, more subtle signs of impact on them, they might not voice it, but they might have a chronic stomach ache headache. Backache
Susan Stone: Grades slipping, friend change, change group. But you know, I want to switch gears because we always forget mom. Mothers are always the last to get attention. So how did you heal and what would you tell? Because you know everything at the end of the day, no offense dads, uh, no offense at all. You guys you’re rock to the let’s face.
Susan Stone: Mom, you’re numero UNO. And if you fall, everything happened. So what did you do to keep yourself up and how did you heal afterwards?
Jane Doe: I relied heavily on my friends all the way through and my family, of course but all the way through, from the beginning, really to this moment, I mean, really I’ve had many hours and hours and hours of just conversation and sort of unloading, if you will, about the topic. I also connected accidentally at first and then purposely with other mothers and really parents who have been through this or were going through it at the same time. So I was accidentally connected at first with at least two other families.
Jane Doe: And through that, my being able to support them because I was a little bit ahead in the process. It was a wonderful feeling for me that it wasn’t right.
Susan Stone: You didn’t feel alone. Yeah. And just to be able, sometimes we get out of our own head helping others. And also, I just have to interject, I mean, you’re talking to someone, Jane, who obviously worked very closely in her practice with a female partner who supports me every day of my life and my own circle of friends. I just, every woman needs a close community of good girlfriends. It can’t be, I mean, I’m sh the hard part of saying it’s always your spouse, the spouse is going through it to.
Jane Doe: Exactly. Yes, exactly. Right.
Susan Stone: Shout out to girlfriend’s right?
Jane Doe: Yes. Yes. And to those who had the good sense to say to these other families, gosh, you need support. And I just happened to know somebody who is some steps forward or at this point, You know, all the way forward in the process.
Jane Doe: It was, it was wonderful to be connected, not just for them, but as you said to, to give back and feel like, okay, the focus isn’t just about us. There are lots of other terrible things happening and, and I can help.
Jane Doe: And that was a wonderful, wonderful feeling.
Kristina Supler: So I think that. It’s so great to hear you talk about that, Jane, your, your ability to connect with others, going through the process because Susan and I, when, when we’re working with families in various stages of crisis, because of campus or legal proceedings, uh, albeit criminal or civil, because let’s face it, civil litigation takes a huge toll on, on parties and families as well.
Kristina Supler: It’s just essential that people find others. And when possible we try to connect in our experience. We, because as you know, we, in addition to doing criminal work, we file lawsuits on behalf of students. Um, particularly in the title nine landscape, when things don’t quite turn out the way we believe they should.
Kristina Supler: And in our lawsuits we often find ourselves suing parties and individuals for defamation and other claims along those lines. And unfortunately, I think your family had the experience just when you thought the criminal chapter was closed and you’re done with court. You found yourself back in court, uh, in, in the civil context.
Kristina Supler: So based on that experience, What advice would you give to parents and families who are contemplating civil litigation?
Susan Stone: I just want to interject you had a positive outcome, correct?
Jane Doe: Yes, very much. And it was the civil portion of this story was facilitated by my son and me. We fell. So I did, honestly, I felt so strongly and I I had such clarity about his innocence and about the injustice in this process that I knew from the beginning that I was going to at least try to have a balance brought at the end of the nightmare.
Jane Doe: And so once the, the criminal portion concluded, uh, with his, you know, being found, not guilty, I got to work and I gathered the resources that I felt I needed.
Jane Doe: It was not easy. I’ll tell you to gather the resources in the legal community to take this case to civil. So civil trial, if possible. And so we filed a lawsuit of defamation and miss prosec prosecutor helped me, uh, or
Kristina Supler: Malicious prosecution.
Jane Doe: Malicious prosecution. Thank you. Uh, I filed that in a way back file cabinet in my brain.
Jane Doe: And so we filed that and. And we got very far in fact, all the way to the end of the process, which we’ve been told many times is a miracle because that is not an easy process. And those are not easy charges to, or if you say charges to to. Claims a to level and to be, I guess, triumphant in the end, but we were because the merits of the case were seen by those who were examining it on, on the other side.
Jane Doe: And they at the 11th hour, of course came forward with within a settlement offer and. It did, in some ways, I think we had some sort of fantasy as it were that a civil trial would really get to tell the other side, the real story, the lies that were perpetrated, but short of that, yes, it did bring closure, in the settlement portion.
Jane Doe: Of course, it’s just under, it’s just in a courtroom. I don’t know, with the judge and then it’s done. Right there.
Susan Stone: I mean, we could talk to for forever and ever about this, but, and we’re running out of time. So I’m just have one last question before Kristina concludes. If you had one quick piece of advice for parents, what would that be?
Jane Doe: Find your strength from wherever you can get it. Rely on whomever you need, but, but be careful, you know, really examine where that, where that support is coming from and stay the course. Stay the course. Because your, your child needs you needs you. And not only at that moment, but for the rest of his or her life as this impact, you know, will take its toll.
Jane Doe: So, so find your strength and stay the course, and don’t be afraid. It is a terrifying situation. And I understand that, and you can indulge that, but, but you gotta stay strong because the outcome is could be terrifying and, and you need to, to have perspective and stay strong.
Kristina Supler: Jane, thanks for joining us today.
Kristina Supler: Really, really appreciate you opening up and speaking to us and our listeners about some very personal and painful things that your family has gone through, but you you’re, you’re here now. You made it through. And I think that’s, that’s really important, uh, to our listeners.