A false accusation can destroy someone’s career, even worse his entire life. This is what happens to an Army colonel causing a storm of media scrutiny of the prominence of sexual assault in the military.
Sadly, retired army Colonel David “Wil” Riggins was denied a promotion due to a rape accusation. But a Fairfax County jury said that 52-year-old blogger Susan Shannon is lying and awarded $8.4 million in defamation lawsuit to Riggins.
Shannon, living in Everett, Washington was a former West Point cadet who claimed that she’d been raped by a fellow cadet in 1986 while they were at the military academy.
According to the lawsuit:
“The allegations of rape were investigated by U.S. Army [Criminal Investigation Command], and it was determined that there was no testimonial or physical evidence to corroborate Defendant Susan Shannon‘s statements concern Colonel David W. Riggins.”
The blog post, titled “Short Little Rebel,” claimed that Riggins raped her after she’d blacked out on campus after drinking beer at Eisenhower Hall.
“I felt the need to tell the story about a rape of a soldier I personally know: that soldier is me,” the post read. “The man who raped me, Will riggings [sic], class of 1987, is now a Colonel in the Army. The rape is the reason I left West Point. So, while his military career is soaring, I left mine far behind.”
Riggins poked holes in Shannon’s story, stating in the lawsuit that cadets are never served beer on campus and, at the time, were not allowed to drink at all. He added that he did not own a car and couldn’t have had one on campus to drive her home that night, as per her allegations.
The lawsuit stated:
“When pressed on the details as to what happened, Susan Shannon does not state that she actually recalls the alleged rape by David W. Riggins. Rather, she only asserts that she woke up the next morning and concluded that she had sexual intercourse with someone the night before.”
According to Daily Mail report:
Almost immediately, Riggins’ successful military career was turned upside down by the claims. The combat veteran from Alexandria, whose career included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was on the cusp of being appointed to brigadier general when Army leaders saw Shannon’s rape allegation on her blog. Riggins’ promotion was quickly snatched away as his name was dragged through the mud.
Riggins contested his innocence and denied all of the accusations, told in ABC7:
“I did not rape Susan Shannon. I did not sexually assault Susan Shannon. Every aspect of (her) story is verifiably false.”
Taphaps noted in their report:
The military launched an investigation and found insufficient evidence to pursue rape charges against Riggins, but the damage was already done. The investigation effectively destroyed his military career, forcing him to retire from the Army
After the allegations cost him his career, he decided to fight back. According to Riggins, Shannon had decided to play judge and jury, all on her own, when she posted the false allegations in her blog, and he wasn’t going to let her get away with ruining his life. So, Army Colonel Wil Riggins sued Susan Shannon for defamation, saying her claims cost him his promotion.
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In reality, the lawsuit stated, Riggins maintained that they had dated briefly before she left West Point to pursue medical school. The jury ruled that Shannon’s post had defamed Riggins, damaging his career and livelihood.
She was ordered to pay him $3.4 million in compensation and $5 million in punitive damages.
However, under Virginia law, the actual damages she’ll pay will probably top out at $2.3 million. Her attorneys are planning an appeal.