McCain Campaign Volunteer Admits Alleged Attack Was a Hoax
A woman who lied about being attacked because of the McCain bumper sticker on her car will face charges of filing a false report.
Friday, October 24, 2008
PITTSBURGH -- A 20-year-old volunteer for John McCain's campaign has admitted that she lied when she said she was attacked by a robber who carved a "B" into her cheek when he saw a McCain bumper sticker on her car, Pittsburgh police said Friday.
Ashley Todd, 20, of College Station, Tex., will be charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor, police said.
"She told lie after lie, and the situation compounded to where we are right now," Lt. Kevin Kraus, head of major crimes for the Pittsburgh police, said Friday.
Todd had told police that on Wednesday night at 9 o'clock ET, a 6-foot-4 black male in dark jeans and a black tank top held her up at an ATM machine in Bloomfield, Pa. Todd said the robber put a knife to her neck and demanded money. She said she gave him $60, according to the police report.
Todd, who is white, said the robber then noticed the McCain bumper sticker on her car, punched her in the back of her head, knocked her down and continued to punch and kick her while threatening to teach her a lesson.
"You are going to be a Barack supporter," she said the robber told her before he sat on her chest, pinned her hands down with his knees and scratched the letter "B" on the right side of her face, using what she believed to be a very dull knife. The robber then fled, Todd said in the police report.
On Friday, officials said they had found several "inconsistencies" in Todd's statements. She was brought back to police headquarters, where she finally confessed that she had made the entire story up.
"After a while, she just simply stated that she wanted to tell the truth," said Maurita Bryant, assistant chief for investigations.
Todd confessed to police that she was driving alone, looked in the mirror, saw her black eye and the "B" on her face, and didn't know how they got there. She assumed she could have done it herself, she said, and then she made up the story about the attacker.
"She saw the 'B' on her face, and she immediately thought about Barack," Bryant said.
Kraus said the 'B' was what first led him to suspect Todd's story. He said he was struck by how neatly the letter was etched on her face.
Police suspect Todd's wounds were self-inflicted. She remained at police headquarters on Friday afternoon, because police "have concern for her well-being," Kraus said. He said officials are trying to determine whether she needs psychiatric evaluation.
"She hasn't really shown any obvious remorse," Kraus said. "She's certainly surprised that it snowballed to where it is today."
"It's been a huge waste of time and man hours," said Bryant, adding that police had been working on the story since it broke Thursday.
Police said Todd did not have a lawyer, and that her none of her family were in Pittsburgh.
Earlier in the day, Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard would not say whether police doubted Todd's story, but bank surveillance footage did not show Todd at the Citizens Bank ATM where she claimed the assault took place.
Richard told FOX News that Todd had been staying with a male friend who lives down the street from the ATM.;
A woman named Liz who answered the door at the residence where Todd arrived after her purported attack told FOXNews.com that her roommate is friends with Todd, and he told Liz not to discuss any details about the incident. A Ford Taurus with a Texas license plate and a McCain-Palin sticker was parked outside.
Richard said Todd later added to her tale, saying she was groped by the robber and lost consciousness during the assault. Neither of those details was in the original report.
Richard said that after a second interview, Todd was not as definitive about the assault or the motives behind it, nor could she say for certain whether the robber took $60 from her, as she initially reported and still maintained was missing.
Todd took a polygraph test late Thursday or early Friday after police heard the inconsistencies, Richard said.
'There were major changes in her story" before and after the polygraph test, Richard said. As for the wound on her cheek, "it's very shallow, it's more of a scratch."
Before Todd's admission, Richard had said the police department was taking the report "very seriously" and considered Todd a "victim" while the investigation was ongoing.
The area at Liberty Avenue and Pearl Street where Todd had said the attack took place is heavily traveled in the daytime, full of traffic, pedestrians, restaurants and stores. On Friday, Pittsburgh detectives canvassed the area looking for witnesses.
Doug Graham, a neighbor of the residence where Todd's friend lives, told FOXNews.com it's unlikely an assault at the bank would go unnoticed.
"There ain't no way nobody saw that," said Graham, whose home -- where he has lived for a decade -- sports a Barack Obama sign. "It's always hopping up there. Something fishy, I knew the first second I saw [her story]. Something fishy."
Ethan Eilon, executive director of the College Republicans National Committee, told FOX News that Todd was volunteering as a field representative through his organization and that she had taken a year off from her studies at Blinn College to work on the campaign.
Todd received a call from the Republican presidential nominee on Thursday night. Barack Obama's local campaign team also issued well-wishes and said it hoped her assailant would be caught and brought to justice.
FOX News' Judson Berger and Carl Cameron and The Associated Press contributed to this report.