Chances are, you’ve never heard of Katelyn Webster or Matthew Folino, but their story is one that needs to be told. It is the story of a terrible injustice that is sadly typical of hundreds we’ve related over the past five years. That this injustice could happen in the United States of America is truly horrifying; that few people have heard about it is downright depressing.
Matt Folino, a 20-something guy living in Western Pennsylvania, was literally hauled out of bed in the middle of the night by police who had come banging on his door with guns drawn and flashlights shining through his windows.
Exactly why was Matt being treated like Tamerlan Tsarnaev? Because a young woman named Katelyn Webster, 18, with whom Matt previously had a brief fling, had told police that Matt stalked, choked, and raped her, and she showed them neck bruises to prove it. Webster claimed that all this occurred in — of all places — the parking lot of a wave pool, and that Matt stopped assaulting her only when her two girlfriends came along.
Matt spent four days in jail and nine months on house arrest, and he faced the possibility of spending five to ten years in an awful place where young men falsely accused of rape often become victims of the very crime they did not commit. All on account of a he said/she said rape allegation.
Now police say that Webster lied. It turns out that the parties weren’t together that day after all, and none of them were at the wave pool. Webster and the two girlfriends had been at a dance club, and then they spent the night at Webster’s new boyfriend’s place. Webster concocted the rape claim so she wouldn’t get in trouble with her father because her new boyfriend gave her “sucker bites.”
For his part, Matt was home with his parents at the time he was supposedly raping Webster. I suppose their alibis weren’t enough for police.
How did police figure out the truth? Good old fashioned police work, right? Well, no, not really. Matt’s family shelled out $20,000 in attorney’s fees, and they retained a superstar criminal defense attorney in Western Pennsylvania. A few weeks before Matt’s criminal trial was supposed to start, the attorney’s investigator contacted Webster’s two girlfriends—the ones who supposedly interrupted the sexual assault. The attorney explained that the two women refuted the whole story, that they ratted out Webster about her new boyfriend and explained that she didn’t want her father to know. They said the “sucker bites” on Webster’s neck were courtesy of the new boyfriend. After interviewing the two girlfriends, County Police dropped the charges against Matt and arrested Webster.
The County Police Superintendent, whose name is Charles Moffatt, defended his detectives’ work on the case. “We had a girl at the hospital saying she was raped, she had marks around her neck,” he said. But wait, Moffatt’s explanation is about to enter the Twilight Zone. Moffatt said the detectives did try to corroborate Webster’s account, but she said she didn’t know the last names of the two other girls and couldn’t provide their phone numbers.
Excuse me while I bang my head against the wall.
That explanation wasn’t a red flag, Superintendent Moffatt? You allowed a young man to twist in a false rape hell for nine months on the basis of a story that doesn’t just strain credulity but breaks it into a thousand pieces?
Matt’s superstar defense counsel Bill Difenderfer correctly summed up Webster’s motivation: “Get out of trouble with my dad and let a kid go to jail for five or ten years.” He added this: “When it’s his word against her word, you have to pause: you need more.”
Amen, Mr. Difenderfer. You have to pause — not to protect rapists. No one cares about protecting rapists. You have to pause because the accused might just be Matt Folino or some other innocent, maybe even your son who was home with you at the time he was “raping” his accuser. You have to pause because it is “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” (Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765.)
Webster is scheduled to be arraigned June 10. She faces one count of perjury, one count of false reports to law enforcement authorities, and one count of false swearing.
As if Matt hadn’t suffered enough, the following comment appeared under the KDKA-TV Web site story about Matt’s ordeal: “While I sympathize with this young man plight, I find it disturbing that KDKA chose to run with this story in light of the recent events in nearby Steubenville.” The writer went on to cite the usual statistics about the prevalence of rape; the fact that false rape claims are supposedly rare; and that hardly any rapists spend any time in jail.
A lot of readers, me included, took offense at the suggestion that Matt’s story was not worth telling. I addressed the person who made the vile comment:
You have excluded yourself from the public discourse on a very serious issue with your shrill odium. Matt’s family and friends are reading these comments, as is Matt, I am sure, and your insistence that his story should be censored the way the Soviet Union used to censor news stories is hateful. Moreover, it smacks of “patriarchy”-smashing gender get-even-ism. Mature adults have no room for such silliness in 2013. Matt can’t help that he was born male, and that someone chose to victimize him in this fashion. Get over it.
Instead of sweeping problems like this, and Brian Banks’ false rape claim and a thousand others, under the rug, you would do well to tell young women not to make false rape claims. They destroy innocent young men and do a disservice to rape victims.
This story isn’t about “rape” or Steubenville or you. It’s about a young man who suffered a grievous wrong. So nice of you to have compassion!