Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Rogers’

The Mysterious Case of Sharmeka Moffitt

October 25, 2012

**** UPDATE – April 20, 2013 **** In the same month that saw convicted hate crime hoaxer Charlie Rogers sentenced to a week in jail and two years of probation, Sharmeka Moffitt was arrested on April 2 and booked on charges of terrorizing and false reporting.

Released on $20,000 bail,  Moffitt was appointed an indigent defender and her trial was scheduled for December 12, 2013. Stay tuned for updates as they become available.

**** UPDATE – December 20, 2012 **** After spending nearly two months in the hospital being treated for her severe burns, Sharmeka Moffitt was released from the hospital in good condition on December 20. Surprisingly, the article reports that “Fifth District Attorney Mack Lancaster has said Moffitt will likely face criminal charges.”

As reported earlier, Nebraska lesbian Charlie Rogers did face criminal charges in December and was found guilty of filing a false report. Rogers will face sentencing in February.

Unfortunately, neither woman has the resources or political connections of young Zachary Tennen, an alleged victim of “Nazi-Klan-Skinheads.” The impetuous youth walked away from his August hate crime “prank” scot-free.

Tennen’s daddy, who invoked the ADL and threatened to sue the city of East Lansing for incompetence, quietly asked the Prosecutor’s Office to “just drop the whole thing” once he found out that his boy got punched in the face for being drunk and feeling up girls at an off-campus party.

And for some reason, that Prosecutor said “Okay! It never happened. No harm No foul.” Sorry, ladies.

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[Original post] In what appears to be yet another hate crime hoax this year, police in Winnsboro, Louisiana, are reporting that all evidence in a gruesome burning incident now points to the victim herself.

20-year-old Sharmeka Moffitt told police that she was walking alone on a trail in a local park on Sunday, October 21, when she was approached by “three men wearing white hoodies” who “doused her with a flammable liquid and set her on fire.” Police also found the initials “KKK” and the infamous “N-word” scrawled on Ms. Moffitt’s car, in toothpaste(?)

Police responded to Ms. Moffitt’s 911 call in less than a minute and found no suspects matching her description. After completing their investigation, police report finding only Ms. Moffitt’s fingerprints on a cigarette lighter and lighter fluid container. The toothpaste was determined to contain evidence of female DNA only.

Ms. Moffitt suffered third-degree burns on at least 60% of her body, with some reports saying as much as 90%. Given the severe nature of her injuries and the record-breaking response of the police to the crime scene, it sure looks like Ms. Moffitt, or an accomplice, must have smeared the toothpaste smears on her car well before the alleged attack. This was premeditated.

Within hours of the report, the Blogosphere and social media were decrying yet another alleged attack by evil white men, once again, before the police had even had time to examine the evidence. Within hours, it was being reported that Ms. Moffitt had been raped and burned because she was wearing an Obama t-shirt, two claims that her family have declared to be completely unfounded.

This is the same pattern we’ve seen in the Zachary Tennen and Charlie Rogers hate crime hoaxes we’ve reported on in  just the past few months. Naturally, the Huffington Post reported unequivocally that “A Louisiana woman was the victim of a horrific attack during which she was reportedly set on fire and had her car defiled with the letters “KKK,” only to follow it up with a sheepish update regarding the dubious nature of Ms. Moffitt’s claims, just as they have done with both the Rogers and Tennen stories.

To his credit, even the Southern Poverty Law Center’s public relations chief, Mark Potok, has come out against Ms. Moffitt and several other hate crime hoaxers, claiming that lately, “Bogus hate crimes are all the rage.”

Of course, for Mr. Potok, these hoaxes are personal. When you work for an organization that takes in tens of millions of tax-free dollars a year claiming that “hate is everywhere,” false claims like these are bad for business.

Mr. Potok has a highly lucrative brand name to protect.

Unfortunately, neither Mr. Potok, nor the Anti-Defamation League (who were prepared to pull out all the stops over Mr. Tennen’s non-existent hate crime attack), nor any of the other Hate Industry major players are calling for stiffer legal penalties for these deliberate hoaxes.

Ms. Rogers is facing a misdemeanor charge, the Winnsboro police chief seems to feel that Ms. Moffitt’s severe burns are punishment enough and Mr. Tennen will walk away from his “boyish prank” scot-free.

We can expect to see more and more of these hoaxes, which needlessly inflame tensions and passions, while tying up valuable law enforcement resources, as long as the price for crying wolf is negligible. Hate crime charges are among the most serious that can be leveled in this country, and with that power comes the highest level of responsibility.

False hate crime charges should be met with federal repercussions. They won’t go away until the price becomes too high to pay.

Mr. Potok claims his self-appointed group is “tracking domestic terrorists,” well, if the definition of “terrorist” is “one who employs illegal methods to affect political change” then these criminals should be at the top  of his list.

The Mysterious Case of Charlie Rogers

August 10, 2012

*** UPDATE *** 3/01/2015 – While we had hoped that our previous update had brought closure to this sad case, recent news reports indicate that Ms. Rogers was re-arrested in February for breaking the terms of her probation.

***  UPDATE*** 4/22/13 – Charlie Rogers was sentenced to one week in jail, two years of probation and 250 hours of community service in response to her hate crime hoax.

Lancaster County Judge Gale Porkorny also ordered Rogers to submit to a comprehensive psychological exam and allow her probation officer access to her medical records.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Charlie Rogers’ narrative of July 22, 2012, was an incredible and outrageous lie the second it passed her lips,” Pokorny said.”

With any luck, this will close out this bizarre, senseless story.

*** UPDATE ***12/19/12 – On December 10, Ms. Rogers entered a plea of “no contest” in regard to charges of filing a false police report and was found guilty of same. Sentencing to follow.

*** UPDATE ***11/29/12 – Ms. Rogers has withdrawn her request for a change of venue, to the consternation of the judge in the case, who had already rescheduled court business to hear the request.

“We set aside an entire afternoon,” [Judge Gale Pokorny] said to Rogers’ attorney, Brett McArthur.

Hopefully, Ms. Rogers isn’t paying for Mr. McArthur’s legal advice.

*** UPDATE ***11/20/12 – Ms. Rogers has requested a change of venue for her upcoming trial, citing concerns that the publicity surrounding her case could taint possible jurors.

*** UPDATE ***11/14/12 – Ms. Rogers released a YouTube video restating her claims that her story is true and that Lincoln police botched the investigation of her case.

Ms. Rogers urges her viewers to “be responsible.”

*** UPDATE ***9/30/12 – According to a report in the Omaha World-Herald, Ms. Rogers is sticking to her story and has waived her right to a speedy trial. A judge has set a November court date to review the status of the case. Ms. Rogers is facing a single misdemeanor charge for allegedly filing a false police report. Stay tuned for details as they emerge.

*** UPDATE ***8/22/12

Well, as mentioned, there really is no good outcome for this story. The media is reporting that Charlie Rogers turned herself in to Lincoln police on Tuesday in response to warrant issued for her arrest. The charge is filing a false police report and could carry fines and up to a year in prison.

Police listed a number of details they discovered in the course of their investigation that included some very damning evidence:

  • Rogers was identified as buying the zip ties, cotton gloves and box cutter used in the alleged attack, by a clerk at Ace hardware.
  • Rogers sent a photo of a cross-shaped cut on her chest to a friend a few days before the reported attack.
  • Rogers announced that she was planning a dramatic incident on Facebook, a few days before the attack: “So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me.”
  • Rogers said that the three men forced their way into her home and beat her, but there was no evidence of any forced entry and there were no bruises on Ms. Rogers.
  • Rogers said the men cut slurs into her stomach, arms and legs and then rolled her over on her bed in order to cut the backs of her legs, but police found no blood on the bed and described the bedspread as “undisturbed.”
  • Police say that the cut marks on Rogers’ body were too symmetrical to have been made during a violent struggle, all the cuts were made in areas Ms. Rogers could reach herself.
  • Media reports repeated used the term “carved” to describe the cuts on Ms. Rogers’ body, but police called the cuts “superficial” and believe that Ms. Rogers either made them herself or allowed an accomplice to make them.
  • The DNA found inside the white gloves belongs to Ms. Rogers. Rogers claimed that the gloves were worn by the men during the attack but no trace of male DNA was found. Rogers also said she had never seen the gloves before.

There are no “winners” here, beyond the Hate Industry vigilantes who claimed this attack actually happened before the police had even begun their investigation. Almost none of the media outlets carrying the story included the descriptor “alleged” in their reporting, and thus enjoyed a burst of lurid interest during the slow summer months.

A Lincoln tattoo shop was offering $50 dollar “NO H8” tattoos, with ten dollars from each sale going to the victim. At the time that story was written more than 50 people had gone under the needle in support of Ms. Rogers.

Now that news of the arrest is public, all reports on the case include “alleged” and the frothing comments that accompanied the early stories (and pilloried anyone who expressed doubts about the incident as a “homophobe” and “hater”) are now drinking deeply from the cognitive dissonance Kool-Aid.

“Well, if this is a hoax, she must have felt she had no other choice.”

“Things like this happen to LGBT people all the time, so she didn’t really do anything wrong.”

The coalition of Nebraska Gay Rights groups that originally called for the most severe charges possible to be brought against the three white monsters who committed this crime are saying that now is not the time to concentrate on the actions of any one person.

Again, it is important to recognize that Ms. Rogers has only been charged with a misdemeanor, and that she is presumed innocent until after she has her day in court.

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[Original post — 8/10/12]

Several weeks ago, a very disturbing news story broke reporting a violent attack on a lesbian in Lincoln, Nebraska. The way the media has reported this story, the wording of these reports and certain details and conclusions make this a story of interest to those of us who study hate in America and the Hate Industry in particular.

According to police reports, in the early morning hours of July 22, three men wearing ski masks allegedly entered the home of the 33 year old woman, pulled her from her bed, stripped her naked and bound her hands and feet with zip ties. The men then allegedly proceeded to “carve” anti-gay slurs into the woman’s arms and stomach, spray-paint the same slurs on her basement walls and then poured a small amount of gasoline on her kitchen floor, which they ignited.

Because the woman was allegedly attacked because of her sexual orientation, Lincoln police are reportedly investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

NOTE: All violent crimes are attacks on the safety and liberties of individuals, and hate crimes are among the most serious, and so it is the job of law enforcement officials to investigate all claims thoroughly. As of this writing the Lincoln report is still being investigated by the Lincoln police and the FBI and no definite conclusions have yet been reached.

And while the benefit of the doubt always should go to the person reporting such incidents, the law enforcement agencies investigating this report have not ruled out the possibility of a false report, or hoax, as is the standard operating procedure in all criminal investigations.

As Will Rogers used to say, “All I know is what I read in the papers,” and in the 21st century news appears online simultaneously and in addition to being printed in the newspapers. All we really know is what has been reported on the Internet and in the Blogosphere and it’s these reports that warrant closer inspection.

One of the most striking features in the news reports of this case is the lack of the use of the standard qualifier “alleged” when describing events that have yet to be proven. You might expect this from bloggers, who are not professionally trained and some tend to have partisan views, but so-called Mainstream Media outlets ought to know better.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the consensus of the Associated Press and New York Times style books is that the modifier “alleged” should never be applied to an accused person, but to an event that has yet to be proven to have taken place.

The Lincoln Journal Star made no such qualifying comments in its early reporting of the story:

Hundreds of people gathered with rainbow flags and candles outside the Capitol for a nighttime vigil sparked by a woman’s account of a violent, hate-fueled attack that spread rapidly over the Internet on Sunday.

The paper’s account gives the impression that events happened as described and that the motive was undoubtedly anti-gay hatred. The paper also left no room for the very plausible possibility that the report was false.

Omaha TV station WOWT responded likewise:

Police are looking for three men who bound and beat a woman, before setting her home on fire. It’s an attack that many in Lincoln are calling a hate crime; they say it was because of the victim’s sexual orientation.

It wasn’t until several days later, when the Lincoln police announced that they would be looking into the possibility of a false report, as a matter of course, that the media began to qualify its statements on the story, and even then it referred to the woman as “the victim of an alleged attack.”

Well, as the CJR and the aforementioned style guides point out, calling her an alleged victim is inaccurate, but can one be a victim of an attack that has yet to be proven? The choice of language leads the consumer to foregone conclusions. The media is leading the witness, your Honor.

Several stories describe the three men as “possibly white,” but otherwise police have no leads on them. It’s definitely unusual for the media to release such sketchy details regarding race, and it can be legitimately questioned if they would have done so if the perps had been of any other racial group. How many times have you read of police seeking a dangerous killer or rapist on the loose only to be given the useless information that “the suspect was last seen in blue pants and a dark cap”?

Another curious gaffe in the reporting of this story was that, while the woman requested anonymity and went into hiding after making her report to police, the local media gave all kinds of reckless information about the woman’s identity.

While WOWT had the common sense to limit its report on the location of the alleged attack as “the 1000 block of South 22nd Street,” the folks at the Journal Star blurted out that “officers were called to 22nd and E streets.”

If the woman was indeed in fear for her safety, thanks to the Journal Star, any boob with access to Google Maps could pinpoint her neighborhood and even obtain street view photos of the homes there.

Click image to enlarge

CNN went one better by reporting the name of the next-door neighbor to whom the bleeding, naked woman turned to for help after the alleged incident.

After the attack, the woman made her way to the home of a neighbor, Linda Rappl…

Other sources identified several close friends of the woman by name. So much for protecting the woman’s identity, or those who would help her. Doesn’t this kind of information invite copy-cat attacks on the woman and retribution attacks on her friends?

As it turns out, once the word came out that the police were investigating the false report angle, the woman came forward and revealed her identity as Charlie Rogers, a former women’s basketball star for the University of Nebraska.

Click image to enlarge

It’s at this point that other aspects of the story become mysterious.

According to media reports, the three perpetrators “barged in,” “burst in,” or even “broke down the door,” yet police could find no evidence of a forced entry.

The woman’s hands and ankles were bound with zip ties, which would be a fast way of doing it for three thugs in a hurry. It’s also a fairly easy way for Ms. Rogers to do it herself, even binding her own hands behind her back.

Police report that anti-lesbian slurs were found cut into the skin on Ms. Rogers arms and stomach, although the word “carved” is the most common descriptor. While “carve” is a relatively ambiguous term, it tends to imply cutting that is somewhat deeper than, say, scratches.

Carved implies that the flesh was cut through to the muscle, or possibly through the muscle itself. To date, no descriptions of the weapon have been given, or photos of the wounds, but there is evidence to suggest that carved is a bit inaccurate.

For one thing, as the photo of Ms. Rogers above shows, (as does the KETV interview footage), she’s sitting on a tall chair or stool and not showing any signs of discomfort for one who may have received deep cuts and possible stitches on her stomach and arms just days earlier.

Another factor that seems strange is that while Ms. Rogers claims she was stripped naked during the attack, and the “carving” of the slurs was seemingly meant to disfigure her, the perpetrators chose areas that were easily covered by clothing, rather than, say, her face, and did not disfigure her chest area, which seems incongruous with the nature of the attack.

Ms. Rogers’ arms and stomach are also areas she could easily reach herself. Her neighbor, Ms. Rappl, also states that Ms. Rogers was bleeding from the forehead after the incident, but close-ups of Ms. Rogers’ face show no scars or cuts on her forehead.

The key anti-lesbian slur referred to in the story is “dyke,” which can be a disparaging name for lesbians, but not necessarily between lesbians, just as certain unutterable racial slurs are frequently exchanged between members of certain groups.

The term “dyke” also turns up in the next phase of the attack, where at least one of the perpetrators spray painted the term and other remarks on the wall of her basementGiven the violent nature of the described incidents, wouldn’t the perpetrators choose a far more visible site for their hate slurs? Say, the living room walls or even an outside wall?

It just seems unusual that three men would commit to undertaking this crime, which almost certainly would carry the most severe penalties if they were caught, only to hide their dirty work where no one would see it.

Hopefully, police officials are also considering the actual writing itself to see if there are similarities between the lettering and the handwriting of known criminals, or even of Ms. Rogers herself.

And the final mystery is the use of a small amount of gasoline to start a fire in Ms. Rogers’ kitchen. Allegedly, the gasoline was poured on the kitchen floor and soon burned itself out, doing about $200 dollars in damage.

Why bother? For a lousy five bucks the perps could have pumped enough gas into an everyday, ordinary lawnmower gas can to set the entire house on fire, while attracting exactly zero attention at the gas pumps.

And why just a piddling puddle in the middle of the floor? If the intent was to burn the house down, and presumably kill Ms. Rogers in the process, why not pour it on the bed, the couch or anything that would maintain and spread the flames? Why not, God forbid, on the victim herself?

As hate crimes go, this one seems to have been designed to maximize outrage while causing the victim a minimum of discomfort in the aftermath. It certainly seems like an awful lot of risk for such little actual damage to Ms. Rogers and her property.

So what is the aftermath of this story? As the numerous media accounts cited show there was a large anti-hate rally held on the grounds of the state capitol building in Lincoln, with hundreds of people attending.

Several fundraising efforts have been made on behalf of Ms. Rogers, including dozens of people who got “NO H8” tattoos because a portion of the proceeds would go to the victim. Ms. Rogers says she will not accept a dime until police definitely rule out the possibility of a hoax.

And of course, all of the usual non-profits and special interest groups, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, jumped to denounce this crime before police have even determined that there was a crime committed. The legal brains at the SPLC did at least have the common sense to go back and add a proviso to their earlier statements, however:

Editor’s Note: Police subsequently said they had not ruled out the possibility that the attack was staged.

Perhaps even the SPLC has learned that, while hate crimes are all too real, there are some who make false claims to further their own agendas, as seen here, here, here and here.

Sadly, it’s because of craven hoaxers like these that there is a need to examine Ms. Rogers’ story. Several bloggers have performed statement analyses on Ms. Rogers’ interview statements and found them suspicious, though the accuracy of these analysts is anyone’s guess. Until the final police report comes out we have no way of knowing exactly what happened that night.

All we do know is that a crime was committed. Now it’s up to the police to determine who the victim or victims turn out to be.


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