White Woman Faces Almost No Consequence for Falsely Accusing Black Men of Gang-Raping Her

In March 2017, a white woman claimed she was attacked by three ski mask-clad black men in the woods of Denison, Texas. At the time, 19-year-old Breana Harmon's grisly story rattled readers throughout the United States with its graphic and disturbing details. On Monday, The Root reported that Harmon, who lied about the rape as a way to cover a breakup with her former fiance, would get exactly zero years in jail for deliberately misleading law enforcement agencies, staging her own kidnapping and wasting state resources on something that never took place.

Instead of prison, Harmon will face probation despite the fact that, as the Sherman Herald Democrat reported, she pleaded guilty to four counts involving deliberate manipulation of governmental records as well as tampering with physical evidence.

If Harmon received the exact punishment for her third-degree felonies, she would spend somewhere between two to 10 years in jail. Plus, she would have to find a way to pay a $10,000 fine. This estimated time in prison doesn’t even include the additional time she would have faced for her state-jail felony count; at least two years in state prison and another $10,000 penalty.

In a country where black Americans receive much harsher sentences for far less serious crimes compared to their white peers, Harmon’s sentence demonstrates the exceptionally unequal nature of the American justice system. Still, there may be some element of accountability. In addition to Harmon facing probation, the Denison Police Department seeks $8,000 from her in terms of restitution. But the social repercussions of her acts have left the local community shaken and disgusted.

Soon after Harmon's story went public in 2017, white supremacists used her claim to bolster virulently anti-black views online, according to the Herald Democrat. The danger of such fabrication wasn’t lost on the local police department. Denison police chief Jay Burch released a statement, saying, "Breana Harmon-Talbott’s hoax was also insulting to our community and especially offensive to the African-American community due to her description of the so-called suspects in her hoax. The anger and hurt caused from such a hoax are difficult and all so unnecessary."

Denison police lieutenant Mike Eppler said, "When people say a certain group of people, a certain race of people, did something—and of course at this point we don’t know what her motive for the whole thing was—it inflames relations. It inflames feelings and emotions whenever somebody blames a certain race of people for something that is just not true."

On Twitter, journalist and activist George Johnson commented on the Denison report, saying, "When white folk lie on black folks, the price can literally be death. Even when not death, we have seen wrongful imprisonment and the inability to reintegrate back into society. Add to that, that the white person lying is never held accountable. Black folk have no recourse.”

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