SANTA CRUZ — A 20-year-old woman who falsely reported being sexually assaulted on the UC Santa Campus must perform 200 hours of community service and serve 60 days in jail.
Morgan Triplett did not appear in court Thursday, but her attorney entered her plea of no contest to a misdemeanor of falsely reporting a crime. Triplett had waived her appearance, authorizing public defender Jack Lamar to enter a plea for her.
Triplett will be placed on probation for three years, and was ordered to undergo 60 hours of mental health counseling. She must also do community service and serve a jail sentence, which will likely be served through a sheriff’s work-release program. She will likely complete both requirements in Santa Barbara County, where she resides.
Lamar was not reachable for comment Thursday.
Triplett told campus police she was severely beaten and sexually assaulted as she was walking on a path between the upper quarry amphitheater and the classroom unit buildings on the UCSC campus of Feb. 15. The report came in the wake of a number of violent incidents in Santa Cruz, and caused widespread fear on campus. Eventually, Triplett admitted to university police that she had lied.
Triplett, a UC Santa Barbara student, took out two advertisements on Craigslist requesting someone to beat her in exchange for sex, prosecutor Johanna Schonfeld said.
“Given the nature of this crime, she obviously has mental health issues,” she said.
Schonfeld sought to have Triplett banned from using any social media websites as part of her sentence, but Judge John Gallagher denied the broader request and instead prohibited Triplett from using the Internet to solicit or engage in criminal conduct.
Triplett must also write a letter to UCSC police, faculty, administration and students apologizing for her crime.
“I think the letter of apology is really significant,” Schonfeld said. “She caused total havoc and fear here.”
Schonfeld said the letter also will help set the record straight and put to rest any doubts about the thoroughness of the investigation by campus police.
Triplett must provide proof that she is following the terms of the sentence at a court date on Sept. 26. Her apology letter also must be pre-approved by Judge Gallagher and the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office. The county Probation Department will compile a pre-sentence report in advance of the next court date, as requested by Schonfeld, who said she believed it would help gain insight into Triplett’s crimes.
At his daughter’s arraignment in May, Richard Triplett told the Register-Pajaronian that she was sorry for any problems or chaos that she had caused.
“What we're dealing with is a very scared, very upset, very confused 20-year-old girl who has made some poor choices,” he said at the time. “This is the culmination of those choices.”
Schonfeld said she wanted to stress that false reports of sexual assaults are very rare and that the District Attorney’s Office takes reports of sex assaults very seriously.
“It’s a very unique situation,” she said, adding that she didn’t want the public to get misimpression that such reports were at all common.
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