Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


99% of False Accusations Go Unpunished. Center for Prosecutor Integrity Asks, ‘Why?’

WASHINGTON / September 6, 2022 – Nikki Yovino of New York falsely accused two football players at Sacred Heart University of rape. The woman later admitted that she had lied to gain the sympathy of a prospective boyfriend. As a result, Yovino was sentenced to one year in prison, plus two years of probation (1).

Prosecutor Tatiana Messina explained her decision to prosecute this way: “Many true victims of sexual assault are often disbelieved, but that is because of cases like this and the impact they have on public perceptions. Miss Yovino’s actions are a disservice to those true victims, in addition to the two young men whose lives were greatly affected, and that was not something that could have been ignored.”

One of the falsely accused men, Malik St. Hilaire, sadly recounted, “I went from being a college student, to sitting at home being expelled, with no way to clear my name. I just hope she knows what she has done to me. My life will never be the same. I did nothing wrong, but everything has been altered because of this.”

But the punishment placed on Yovino stands in sharp exception to the rule. Even though all states have laws that prohibit false allegations and false swearing, prosecutors often ignore these violations of the law.

False allegations are widespread in the United States. A national survey sponsored by the Center for Prosecutor Integrity found that 8% of Americans — 11% of men and 6% of women — report being falsely accused of sexual assault, domestic violence, or child abuse. The 8% figure represents 20.4 million adults (2).

False allegations can have devastating consequences, including loss of family ties, social stigmatization, impairment of career opportunities, mental health problems, and wrongful convictions (3).

Since 1989, nearly 2,000 Americans have been wrongfully convicted of a crime as a result of a false allegation or perjury. False allegations and perjury have been found to be common contributors for the following types of cases (4):

  • Child sex abuse: 85% of wrongful convictions
  • Homicide: 72%
  • Drug Possession of Sale: 63%
  • Sexual assault: 45%

Falsely Accused Day will be observed on Friday, September 9 (5). The global observance will be marked by events held in the United States (6), United Kingdom (7), and elsewhere.

False allegations are not mere “name-calling.” A false allegation involves an accusation made in bad faith with the intention of maligning and harming the victim. Because of their long-term and pernicious effects, false allegations can be more harmful than physical abuse.

Given these facts, the Center for Prosecutor Integrity asks, Do prosecutors not view false allegations to be a “real” crime?