Female blogger, Susan Shannon, is ordered to pay US Army colonel she accused of rape $8.4million in damages after he claimed the false allegations cost him a sparkling military career
Shannon, 52, who now lives in Everett, Washington, first alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Army Colonel David ‘Wil’ Riggins in 1986
The ‘rape’ allegedly happened at West Point,when they were both cadets
She said she waited three decades to come forward about her experience because of the army’s ‘code of silence’
Shannon launched her accusation online, thirteen days after Col Riggins was nominated for promotion to General – Shannon claims she was unaware of his impending promotion
Riggins, also 52, who vehemently denied the claims, said the ‘false’ allegations had cost him a sparkling military career
Jury said the found the accuser’s testimony less than credible , finding that she wilfully made false statements
She is ordered to pay Riggins $3.4 million in compensatory damages for injury to his reputation and lost wages
She is also to $5 million in punitive damages, ‘to make sure nothing like this will ever happen again’
Susan Shannon [left], said she was unaware and Army Colonel Wil Riggins [right] had just been nominated for General when she launched her allegations of rape when they were cadets, 31 years ago
Retired Army colonel from Wil Riggins from Alexandria, Virginia just won a mega defamation lawsuit against one of his classmates from West Point in the 1980’s, claiming her recent allegations of a rape from 30 years ago cost him a military promotion.
A jury has ordered a female blogger to pay an Army colonel she accused of rape a total of $8.4million in damages.
Susan Shannon, 52, [left] who now lives in Everett, Washington, first alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Army Colonel David ‘Wil’ Riggins in 1986, while they were both cadets, on her blog in 2013.
She said she waited three decades to come forward about her experience because of the army’s ‘code of silence’.
But Riggins, also 52, who vehemently denied the claims,. He sued Shannon for defamation, claiming that every aspect of her rape claim on the West Point campus was “provably false,” further stating that the ‘false’ allegations had cost him a sparkling military career.
Shannon had written she wrote two blog posts and a Facebook post “to intentionally derail [his] promotion” to brigadier general. During a six-day trial that ended Aug. 1, a jury in Fairfax County, Va., heard from both Riggins and Shannon at length. And after 2½ hours of deliberation, they sided emphatically with Riggins, awarding him $8.4 million in damages, an extraordinary amount for a defamation case between two private citizens. The jury ordered Shannon to pay $3.4 million in compensatory damages for injury to his reputation and lost wages, and $5 million in punitive damages, “to make sure nothing like this will ever happen again,” according to one of the jurors.
Retired Army Colonel Wil Riggins [center, as a West Point cadet], sued his former West Point classmate Susan Shannon after he says her claims that he raped her 30 years earlier cost him a promotion
That blog is where Shannon talked about her own alleged rape in 1986 after reading about sex assaults in the military. It’s also a place where Shannon has written about controversial topics including whether the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut was a planned conspiracy.
But it was her 2013 post that’s now getting attention. The alleged rape Shannon wrote about is something she did not report before unexpectedly dropping out of West Point. She even denied it when asked during an exit interview.
“There was no way I was going to report that. The blame would fall squarely on me,” Shannon said.
Shannon, now a mother living on the West Coast as she fights an East Coast court battle, says she originally told friends and then kept silent, for decades. Her blog entry was published following the announcement that Colonel Riggins was nominated for general. Shannon maintains she was not aware of the nomination until contacted by Army officials following her post.
Cadet Susan Shannon [left] alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Army Colonel Wil Riggins [right] in 1986 while they were both cadets at West Point
The combat veteran from Alexandria had been on the cusp of being appointed to general in 2013, when Army leaders saw Shannon’s rape allegation on her blog.
His promotion was snatched away and Riggins says his name was dragged through the mud after ‘Susan Shannon decided to play judge and jury on her own.’
“It was euphoric,” Riggins said of the nomination, “Unlike any experience I’ve ever had.”
But euphoria quickly turned to fear when Riggins was summoned to Fort Myer in Arlington for questioning by the Army’s Criminal Investigations Division. He was fingerprinted and had DNA samples.
He said, “I went through the process like I had already been convicted.”
The official Army report shows investigators couldn’t prove or disprove Shannon’s allegation. But internal Army emails show Riggins’ promotion was pushed to what’s called a Promotion Review Board because of the investigation.
The review board ultimately decided Riggins was “fully qualified for promotion”, but then Secretary of the Army John McHugh chose to pull Riggins’ name from the promotion list.
“When the Secretary of the Army had to put his name on the line, he wasn’t willing to expend his political capital to defend the process” Riggins told a news outlet.
Riggins went to court defending his honor forcing Susan Shannon honors to defend what she calls her duty to women that have kept silent.
“I didn’t ask for this day. I’m being forced into a courtroom,” Shannon said as the case commenced, “It’s costing me and my family pretty much all that we have saved. I knew that risk when I wrote it and I don’t regret it a day.”
Riggins denied the rape occurred, saying, “I did not rape Susan Shannon. Reading into her blog, every aspect of that story is verifiably false.” he told ABC 7 On Your Side.
Both parties disagree on many things in this case, ranging from whether the sex was consensual, what year the act happened, even whether beer was served the night Shannon claims the alleged rape happened.
The jury agreed with Riggins and has now ordered Shannon to pay $3.4 million in compensatory damages for injury to his reputation and lost wages, and $5 million in punitive damages, ‘to make sure nothing like this will ever happen again,’ according to the Washington Post.
Shannon [left] alleges she was raped by her former cadet classmate at the United States Military Academy in New York. Jury didn’t believe her rape case and she has to pay $8.4million in damages
Shannon said at the time she had finally been inspired to speak about her alleged experience after reading about several high profile convictions for sexual assaults in the military.
Shannon alleged she was raped by her former cadet classmate at the United States Military Academy in New York in 1986. She dropped out shortly afterwards.
Now a jewelry designer and a mother living on the West Coast, she added that the pressure in the army to keep quiet and not turn in her peers meant that she did not even report the alleged rape at her exit interview.
She made the claims on her blog Short Little Rebel in 2013 – which followed the announcement that Colonel Riggins had been nominated for general.
Shannon denied having any knowledge of his nomination until she was contacted by Army officials investigating her blog post.
However, at the end of the trial which began July 24, jurors found her story lessthan credible.
The Washington Post quotes a juror as saying “Honestly,” said juror Marshall Reinsdorf, “we thought who was telling the truth was too obvious to be discussing. We held a vote, and everybody believed the colonel. The only argument was how big the damages were going to be.” Of the four women and three men on the jury, two other jurors declined to comment, two jurors did not return messages and two could not be reached.
Jurors it turned out, had numerous problems with Shannon’s testimony.
“Her story had so many details in it that couldn’t have been true,” he said. “They started questioning her about the [pedestrian] tunnel, she kind of backed off. … She was so evasive. It was unbelievable,” was the view of a juror.
PresidingCourt Judge Daniel E. Ortiz had not suggested a dollar figure for damages, so the jury came up with roughly $3 million for his compensatory damages, Reinsdorf said. For punitive damages, the jury decided, “We need to make sure nothing like this will ever happen again,” Reinsdorf said. He said one juror suggested that as the rationale for the $5 million figure, and “basically got unanimous support for that.” Reinsdorf said the jury agreed that Shannon’s accusation derailed Riggins’s promotion. “There was no doubt in anybody’s mind the colonel had made his case,” Reinsdorf said. “He was believable.”
On the verdict form, the jury was asked whether Shannon made her statements knowing they were false or reckless or negligent, and checked “yes” for every one.
Holding fast to her story “The bottom line,” Shannon said, “is when the judge struck the [Army] CID findings at the beginning of trial” and prevented her witnesses from testifying about Riggins’s character, “we could not switch gears and defend me in a certain way.”
She acknowledged that her blog post sparked an investigation which otherwise wouldn’t have happened, but that Riggins had the burden of proof to show that the investigation stopped his promotion.
A satisfied plaintiff said“I think the jury’s verdict, not only that they found her statements were false and defamatory, but the amount of the damages they assessed, speaks volumes,”” Riggins said.
Although Shannon had claimed, on a GoFundMe page seeking help with her legal bills, that Riggins’s suit would discourage sex assault victims from making reports, Riggins responded that “this will discourage other false accusations but would not discourage legitimate accusations of sexual assault.”.