Teen says rape claim was false
A former Bear River High School student has admitted her accusation of rape against a classmate in 2003 was false, and the young man she had claimed to have committed the crime said he still suffers from the incident.
Police reports and court statements show that Summer Pratt, now 18, changed her story after accusing Aaron Treas, now 20, of raping her in a bathroom of the high school on Oct. 28, 2003. Pratt originally accused Treas and another Bear River student, but told the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office several days later that she was mistaken, and named a third alleged accomplice.
Treas and the two other men passed voice stress tests about the allegations and a California Department of Justice investigation found none of their DNA on Pratt’s clothing. There was also no sign of semen found by the DOJ after Pratt was medically examined.
No one was ever arrested in the case, which is why The Union is withholding the names of the two other young men Pratt accused. In December 2003, Sheriff Keith Royal turned the case over to the District Attorney’s office, saying there was no physical evidence of a crime. The DA’s office then chose in the following February not to prosecute the case.
But that wasn’t the end for Treas, who said he was afraid to attend his 2004 graduation ceremonies because he thought his family would be harassed. He said he also now lives in the East Bay Area, partially to escape what happened.
Treas said he was dubbed “the Bear River rapist,” during his senior year, lost friends and even had the lug nuts loosened on a wheel of his vehicle in apparent harassment. Treas said he still gets harassed, pointed at and followed by people when he comes home to visit his mother, Valerie Anderson, who still fears for his safety.
“I don’t see him a lot,” Anderson said. “It got to the point where we worry any time he comes up.”
“I never even knew this girl before all this happened,” Treas said Tuesday. “I almost dropped out of high school twice,” because of the stigma created around him. “This is something that never should happen to anyone.”
Court documents suggest Summer Pratt’s then-boyfriend, Jesse Spenst, had broken up with her and she fabricated the story in order to win him back.
As part of a recent settlement with Treas and his mother, Pratt agreed her accusations against him were untrue according to her lawyer, Chuck Eckerman of Grass Valley. Those false accusations grew as the alleged case was investigated, and Pratt said at one point that Treas had sexually assaulted her 10 times. No evidence or charges ever came from those allegations.
When the case fell apart, Anderson went to attorney Stephen Munkelt of Nevada City, who filed a defamation of character suit against Summer Pratt, her mother, Saundra Pratt, and Spenst. The suit alleged they were still telling classmates and people in the community that Treas had assaulted her, despite the lack of prosecution.
Eckerman contacted the Pratts for The Union, but said they did not want to speak on the matter. The Union was unable to locate Spenst and his lawyer, Willard E. Stone of Walnut Creek, did not return a call for comment.
Spenst’s date of birth was not available in court documents, but Treas said he was a member of the 2004 graduation class.
Treas and Anderson said they could not divulge the details of the settlement, which included some money for them. But Treas did say, “I can tell you this, it didn’t pay all my lawyer fees, not even close … No money in the world could help take the pain away.”
Treas said he might have even dismissed the situation if the original allegation had come and gone quickly. But when the situation stretched throughout his senior year, Treas said it made it almost impossible to forgive the accusers.
“Don’t cry wolf,” Treas said. “I didn’t do anything. The community will now know this was a false accusation.”
“We stuck together knowing he was innocent,” Anderson said. “Her reputation will forever be tainted.”
Sheriff Keith Royal said the possibility of criminal action against Summer Pratt exists for filing false police reports. But Royal said no one has come forth asking for an arrest and he just learned of the lawsuit settlement.
“To our knowledge, we haven’t filed over false allegations in the past,” Royal said, adding that such charges often show up in child custody cases and other personal situations, the sheriff said.
A crime is more difficult to prove at the criminal level compared to civil suits, Royal said, and other factors have to be weighed before charges are filed, including statutes of limitations and the overall best interest of justice.
To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@the union.com or call 477-4237.
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