Homeless man jailed 8 months on preteens' bogus attack allegation
GARDEN GROVE, California, U.S.A., Associated Press (AP), January 28, 2004
Eight months after he was locked up for allegedly attacking three preteen girls in a park, a homeless man was freed after the girls admitted making up the story so one of them wouldn't be punished for being late to school.
Eric Nordmark, 36, a self-described nomad who hitchhikes around the country, had stopped in Orange County last spring when the three 11-year-olds told police they were stalked and attacked by a transient in Woodbury Park in Garden Grove. Nordmark was jailed on seven felony and misdemeanor counts of assault and child molestation.
On Monday, one of his accusers admitted she and her friends made up the story to cover for her tardiness at school.
The charges were dropped and Nordmark was released from jail that night.
A spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office said the girls would be referred to juvenile court.
Spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder said Wednesday the district attorney's office went forward with the charges because "based upon what we had, we had no reason to think it wasn't true."
The moment officials discovered the accusations were false they dismissed the charges, Schroeder said.
"This was not a case where we found out weeks ago. We acted immediately," she said.
Garden Grove police said they may have erred in showing all three the same lineup of suspect photos, inadvertently helping them conspire to identify the same person.
Nordmark, who maintained his innocence during his months in jail, called his incarceration a "very terrifying experience."
"My civil rights were severely trashed. How could this happen if I didn't do this?" he said.
He said he hadn't decided if he would sue the girls or the city, but indicated he didn't hold a grudge against the girls.
"(The girls) probably didn't think this would be a big issue," Nordmark said. "It turned into a big issue. There were real lives at stake, real consequences of people on this."
2004 Associated Press