Saturday, October 25, 2008

McCain Campaign Volunteer Admits Alleged Attack Was a Hoax

A woman who lied about being attacked because of the McCain bumper sticker on her car will face charges of filing a false report.

Ashley Todd, a 20-year-old volunteer for the McCain campaign, admitted she lied in reporting a politically motivated attack that did not occur, according to police. (College Republicans)

PITTSBURGH -- Police now have the answer to the most important question behind a 20-year-old McCain campaign volunteer's claim that she was attacked by a robber who carved a "B" into her cheek when he saw a McCain bumper sticker on her car.

It was a hoax.

Ashley Todd, 20, of College Station, Tex., confessed to lying, Pittsburgh police said Friday, and she will be charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor.

But questions remain about why Todd lied, and even she doesn't seem to know how she received the markings on her face.

"She told lie after lie, and the situation compounded to where we are right now," Lt. Kevin Kraus, head of major crimes for the Pittsburgh police, said Friday.

She remained at police headquarters on Friday afternoon, because police "have concern for her well-being," Kraus said. He said officials are trying to determine whether she needs psychiatric evaluation.

"She hasn't really shown any obvious remorse," Kraus said. "She's certainly surprised that it snowballed to where it is today."

Todd, who is white, had told police that on Wednesday night a black man robbed her of $60 at an ATM in Bloomfield, Pa.

She said the robber then noticed the McCain bumper sticker on her car, punched her in the back of her head, knocked her down and beat her, saying "you are going to be a Barack supporter." He pinned her down and scratched the "B" on the right side of her face before fleeing, according to her original story.

On Friday, officials said they had found several "inconsistencies" in Todd's statements. She was brought back to police headquarters, where she finally confessed that she had made the entire story up.

"After a while, she just simply stated that she wanted to tell the truth," said Maurita Bryant, assistant chief for investigations.

Todd confessed to police that she was driving alone, looked in the mirror, saw her black eye and the "B" on her face, and didn't know how they got there.

She assumed she could have done it herself, she said, and then she made up the story about the attacker.

"She saw the 'B' on her face, and she immediately thought about Barack," Bryant said.

Kraus said the "B" was what first led him to suspect Todd's story. He said he was struck by how neatly the letter was etched on her face.

Police had been working on the case since it broke Thursday, Bryant said, and "it's been a huge waste of time and man hours."

Police said Todd did not have a lawyer, and that her none of her family were in Pittsburgh.

Earlier in the day, Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said bank surveillance footage did not show Todd at the Citizens Bank ATM where she claimed the assault took place. Richard told FOX News that Todd had been staying with a male friend who lives down the street from the ATM.

A woman named Liz who answered the door at the residence where Todd arrived after her purported attack told that her roommate is friends with Todd, and he told Liz not to discuss any details about the incident. A Ford Taurus with a Texas license plate and a McCain-Palin sticker was parked outside.

Richard said Todd later added to her tale, saying she was groped by the robber and lost consciousness during the assault. Neither of those details was in the original report.

Richard said that after a second interview, Todd was not as definitive about the assault or the motives behind it, nor could she say for certain whether the robber took $60 from her, as she initially reported and still maintained was missing.

Todd took a polygraph test late Thursday or early Friday after police heard the inconsistencies, Richard said.

'There were major changes in her story" before and after the polygraph test, Richard said. As for the wound on her cheek, "it's very shallow, it's more of a scratch."

Before Todd's admission, Richard had said the police department was taking the report "very seriously" and considered Todd a "victim" while the investigation was ongoing.

The area at Liberty Avenue and Pearl Street where Todd had said the attack took place is heavily traveled in the daytime, full of traffic, pedestrians, restaurants and stores. On Friday, Pittsburgh detectives canvassed the area looking for witnesses.

Doug Graham, a neighbor of the residence where Todd's friend lives, told it's unlikely an assault at the bank would go unnoticed.

"There ain't no way nobody saw that," said Graham, whose home -- where he has lived for a decade -- sports a Barack Obama sign. "It's always hopping up there. Something fishy, I knew the first second I saw [her story]. Something fishy."

Ethan Eilon, executive director of the College Republicans National Committee, told FOX News that Todd was volunteering as a field representative through his organization and that she had taken a year off from her studies at Blinn College to work on the campaign.

Todd received a call from the Republican presidential nominee on Thursday night. Barack Obama's local campaign team also issued well-wishes and said it hoped her assailant would be caught and brought to justice.

FOX News' Judson Berger and Carl Cameron and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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