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Women who falsely accused Cape police officer sentenced to jail time, probation

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Two women who falsely accused a police officer of punching one of them were sentenced Monday to six days in jail and two years probation for filing a false report.

Diane Ray, 45, and LaSha Townsend, 30, pleaded guilty in March to the misdemeanor charge before Associate Circuit Judge Gary A. Kamp.

Both women claimed Cape Girardeau police officer David Valentine punched Townsend in the face while he was breaking up a fight between Ray's 15-year-old daughter and another teenage girl at a high school football game last October.

According to Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, Townsend was actually struck by her own purse when it swung around; the incident was captured on videotape.

At the defendants' sentencing hearing Monday, Kamp ordered both women to six days in the county jail, two years probation and 20 hours of community service.

Attorneys for both women argued against any jail time.

David Bryant, who represented Townsend, said his client believed she was struck in the face and filed the report because people told her she was punched.

"She's supposed to use the police department when someone harmed her, and that's what people told her," he said, adding there was never any intention to hurt Valentine's career.

Ray's attorney, Ben Campbell, said no real harm had been done.

"It's all come out fine," Campbell said. "No one was fired."

But Valentine, who addressed the court before Kamp handed down the women's sentence, said the defendants harmed the reputation of both himself and the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

"These allegations ... they do hurt," he said. "Words do hurt."

Swingle said jail time was needed to "show the seriousness of what was done and hope to deter others of making a false report."

Charges against a third woman in the case, Louquisha E. Heartfield, 33, were dropped when prosecutors learned she was mentally handicapped and was told what to say by Townsend, according to Swingle.

Kamp ordered both women to have no contact with Heartfield or each other, as law prohibits people on probation from having contact with one another.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127


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