On January 17, Sara Ylen was sentenced to serve five years in prison for fabricating claims of rape against two Michigan men and for tampering with evidence in the ensuing investigation. Fortunately, neither man was charged, arrested, tried or sent to prison. The purpose of this article is to give a detailed example of how easy it is for a man to be convicted of a sex crime.
To put it modestly, Sara Ylen is a serial liar, a fact Judge Daniel Kelly alluded to in sentencing her when he said it would be a “travesty of justice” to sentence her to anything less than five years, which exceeds statutory guidelines. Ylen lied about the two men raping her. We know she did because both had airtight alibis for the time she claimed she was assaulted.
If this were Ylen’s only false claim to the police, it would be bad enough, but it’s far from the only one. In fact, going back to 2001, she’s falsely accused her father of rape once, her brother twice, some unspecified friends of her brother once and an unknown assailant once. She’s also made one false claim of kidnapping and pleaded guilty in her cash-for-cancer scam in which she bilked unsuspecting donors out of thousands of dollars on her false claim to be suffering from the disease. She’ll be sentenced for that in February.
Finally there’s the false rape claim I want to discuss in this piece – the one that sent James Eugene Grissom to prison for ten years. He was sentenced to two concurrent 15-35 year sentences, but was released by order of a Michigan Circuit Court due to post-conviction discovery of Ylen’s multiple lies.
The awful facts of Ylen’s efforts to put innocent men in prison, waste the time of the police, medical and court personnel are all contained here in her lawyer’s brief to the Michigan Supreme Court that ultimately succeeded in springing Grissom from prison. It makes for shocking reading, but is not the focus of my piece today.
One of the standard tropes of feminism is that, for a number of reasons, it’s too difficult to convict men of rape and therefore steps must be taken to make it easier. Unsurprisingly, we find a certain lack of intellectual rigor to that feminist assertion. So, for example, British feminists are given to citing the number of claims of rape, the number of convictions for the crime and shouting “See how few rapists are convicted and imprisoned!”
Needless to say, they neglect a few things. One is that the rate of conviction for rape is about the same as it is for other crimes of violence. The simple facts are that (a) with rape as with few other crimes, there occur a substantial number of false claims and (b) even when the crime occurs, there’s not always sufficient evidence with which to charge or convict the accused. Another is that feminist discourse, at least in the U.K. routinely confuses the rate of acquittal with the rate of attrition, i.e. those claims that are actually false or for which there’s too little evidence to file a charge. That the two are not the same for rape or any other crime escapes feminist commentary on the subject.
Then of course there’s the fact that, almost alone among criminal acts, rape can be proved by the word of the accuser without more. Imagine, for example, proving car theft solely by the allegations of the accuser. Try it. Call up the police and tell them your car was stolen and tell them the name of the person you claim did the deed. One thing the police are sure to do is to locate the accused and see if he/she has your car. They may stop around to the local chop shops to see if there’s evidence your car has come to their attention. And, if they don’t find your car in the possession of Mr./Ms. Accused or a fence, they’re not going to file charges. The reason? No evidence. Yes, they have your word for it, but they require more, i.e. corroboration.
But, as we’ll see in the James Eugene Grissom case, when it comes to rape, there need be no corroboration to bring charges or obtain a conviction. Indeed, there need be no objective evidence at all. A man can be convicted on the word of a woman alone, even one that’s directly contradicted by objective evidence and brought into question otherwise.
So it’s no surprise that, in fact, the crime of rape, far from being difficult to prove is in fact one of the easiest of prosecutions for the state to get a conviction. That fact is powerfully supported by the results of a little study I did. I went to the website for the Innocence Project and counted the number of exonerations they’d gotten and how many of them involved allegations of one or more sex offenses. At the time I did this, the Innocence Project had achieved the release of 287 people from prison because they’d been proven to be innocent of the crime(s) charged. Of those 287, an astonishing 237 had been convicted of at least one sex offense. That’s a whopping 82% of all cases in which innocent people had been imprisoned.
The question for feminists then becomes “If sex crimes are so difficult to prove, how is it that so many of the innocent are convicted of them?”
To put real faces on that rather impersonal concept, let’s examine the James Eugene Grissom case.
On May 12, 2001, Sara Ylen came home and told her husband James that a man had approached her in the parking lot of the Meijer store in Fort Gratiot, Michigan, and struck her several times. The two didn’t feel the need to report the matter to the police right away, so they went to a wedding rehearsal dinner instead. The next day Ylen went to the police. She mentioned nothing about a sexual attack to them.
She also went to an emergency room where she once again told the doctor she had been struck, but never mentioned any form of sexual encounter. On May 16, four days after the alleged incident, Ylen called her gynecologist, reported she had been sexually assaulted and demanded an examination. The gynecologist said she’d be better off seeing an ER doctor, so she returned to the emergency room.
The doctor there noted signs of minor trauma to the cervix, but stated it could be the result of penetration by a foreign object or simply normal but rough sex. Because Ylen had waited more than 72 hours to make her first claim of sexual abuse, no rape kit was obtained. Ylen told the ER doctor a man had penetrated her with his finger on which there was a gold nugget ring, but made no mention of penile penetration.
Eleven days later, on May 27, Ylen went to her gynecologist who noted scratches on her labia and bruising to her legs.
During September of the same year, Ylen and her husband traveled to Lamont, California to visit her parents. It was there that she engaged in a series of lies to her friends, her family and law enforcement officers about a variety of sexual assaults that never happened and one kidnapping that likewise hadn’t occurred. The police reports are clear that they understood Ylen to be lying, but no action was taken against her.
None of the several incidents of lying by Ylen to California authorities was known to Michigan police or prosecutors at the time of Grissom’s trial.
In June, 2002, 13 months after the alleged incident in the Meijer parking lot in Michigan, Ylen began calling the St. Clair police, in their words, “quite a lot.” Now she was claiming penile rape in addition to everything else. She also claimed she’d seen her assailant, but soon admitted that too was a lie.
In October, 2002, the St. Clair police had her in to view photo arrays of possible suspects in her, by then, 17-month-old allegations. She eventually picked out a photo of James Eugene Grissom. On November 7 she attended a police lineup that included Grissom among several other men. She picked someone else. At the time, police noted that Grissom was 13 years younger than the age given by Ylen of the man she claimed had assaulted her.
Grissom was employed at the Meijer store and, shortly after the alleged incident, had pawned a gold nugget ring at a local pawn shop. He denied doing so to police, but later admitted he’d pawned the ring.
Three years after the alleged incident, Ylen “remembered” that the man whom she claimed assaulted her had a tattoo of a skull on his upper right arm. Grissom in fact had such a tattoo.
On the basis of that, Grissom was charged with two counts of sexual assault of Sara Ylen.
At trial, the state’s case consisted of essentially nothing more than Ylen’s allegations. She claimed she’d been raped in the parking lot of the Meijer store by James Eugene Grissom. There was no rape kit and no DNA. There was no semen that could be analyzed and she’d washed her clothing. There was no confession by the accused and no one had witnessed the alleged incident. The videotape from the Meijer security camera in the parking lot showed, at the time of the alleged incident, no rape, no crime and that neither Ylen nor Grissom was present. Ylen’s injuries were medically inconclusive.
Ylen had made no allegation of sexual assault of any kind for four days following the alleged incident, and when she finally did, made no mention of penile penetration. She later did so.
In addition, Ylen had been, on May 12, 2001, a participant for over a year in an organization that provided support to rape victims. As such, she surely knew the importance of the 72-hour period for preserving DNA samples and knew the importance of not bathing or washing her clothes for the same reason. And yet Ylen waited over 72 hours before claiming sexual abuse and bathed and washed her clothing before police could obtain the evidence.
James Eugene Grissom worked at the Meijer store. Sara Ylen knew that because she shopped there. She’d doubtless seen him and made a note of his ring. Many months after the alleged incident, she probably saw his tattoo as well and was able to add it to her short list of facts she hoped would incriminate him.
In the final analysis, the jury had but a single thing on which to rely in convicting James Eugene Grissom – Sara Ylen’s word. Without that, neither police nor prosecutors nor the judge and jury would have had even a scintilla of evidence that (a) a crime had occurred or (b) James Eugene Grissom had committed it. But for Sara Ylen’s word, no one – neither Grissom nor anyone else – would have been charged, tried, convicted or sent to prison.
But Sara Ylen gave her word and, shaky as it obviously was, the police and prosecutors went along with her claims. Even without the multiple lies she told in California and even without her cancer fraud, Ylen’s claim that someone assaulted her in the Meijer parking lot on May 12, 2001, should have appeared questionable at best.
But, questionable as it was, it was sufficient to send James Eugene Grissom to prison for what must have looked to him like the rest of his life. And let’s be clear; he’d be there till yet were it not for the spree of lying Ylen went on in California and later in her cancer scam. Just months after Grissom’s conviction, police in Fresno and Bakersfield forwarded their files in Ylen’s multiple rape fabrications to prosecutors in Michigan who duly sent them on to Grissom’s lawyers. It took them over seven years to get him a new trial and three more to get him released based on actual innocence.
They were able to do so for one reason only – that the conviction of James Eugene Grissom rested entirely on the credibility of his accuser, Sara Ylen, and that her credibility was non-existent.
Grissom was present at Ylen’s sentencing for her false claims of rape against the two Michigan men. On hearing that she was to serve only five years, Grissom understandably called it “a tap on the wrist.”
Whatever becomes of Sara Ylen, she teaches a valuable lesson – if a woman like her with claims like hers can send an innocent man to prison for a rape that never happened, no man is safe.
It’s a lesson that must make many feminists smile.