Police say McCain worker admits she made up attack story
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Pittsburgh police say a McCain campaign volunteer made up a story of being robbed, pinned to the ground and having the letter "B" scratched on her face in a politically inspired attack.
Maurita Bryant, the assistant chief of the police department's investigations division, said Ashley Todd is being charged with making a false report to police.
Chief Bryant said Ms. Todd admitted today that the story was false.
Ms. Todd, who is white, told police she was attacked by a 6-foot-4 black man in Bloomfield Wednesday night.
Chief Bryant said Todd can't explain why she invented the story or explain how the backward "B" was scratched onto her face.
Ms. Todd had told police the robber carved a "B" on her cheek with a knife when he saw a McCain sticker on her car.
Police said "Ms. Todd indicated that she has had prior mental problems" and she does not remember how the "B" got on her face. "She stated that she thinks she may have done it herself because she was the only one in the car. When she looked in the rearview mirror and saw the "B" on her face she said she thought of Barack Obama. Once she told her friend the story and once the police were called she had to stick with it."
Ms. Todd, 20, of College Station, Texas, spent more than five hours with robbery detectives last night at police headquarters, giving investigators details that differed from the initial police report after the incident -- including that she was sexually assaulted and lost consciousness during the attack.
Because of the inconsistencies, Ms. Todd agreed to take a polygraph test, police said.
Ms. Todd originally said she was robbed after she went to an ATM machine at Pearl Street and Liberty Avenue, but later told police she was accosted as she approached the machine. Police said they had received photos from the Citizens Bank ATM at the location and verified that the victim did not make a transaction around 9 p.m. Wednesday as she had claimed.
Ms. Todd originally said she was robbed at knifepoint. But yesterday she said she was struck from behind and lost consciousness. She originally said the attacker used the knife to carve a backwards "B" on her cheek. But in the later version she said that she awoke after the attack and felt a stinging sensation on her face, and only realized that she had been cut when she went to a friend's apartment and looked in a mirror. She did not tell police initially that she had been assaulted but later said she had been groped during the attack.
According to police, her version of the story yesterday was that she said the attacker approached her from behind and demanded money as she went to the ATM machine around 9 p.m. Wednesday. She pushed him away and ran to her car; then she was struck on the head from behind.
Ms. Todd told police she then fell to the ground, landing on her back. Her attacker then climbed on top of her and hit her face. He then reached under her shirt and fondled her breast.
Ms. Todd also said she passed out during the attack. When she regained consciousness, she got in her car and drove to a friend's house nearby and called police. She also was missing $60, although she doesn't remember giving her attacker any money.
On Wednesday night -- immediately after the incident -- Ms. Todd had told police the robber became agitated when he saw a McCain sticker on her car. He then punched her in the back of the head, pushed her to the ground and carved the letter into her face.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
First Published October 24, 2008 10:48 am