HELENA — The state has sufficient grounds to charge a Billings woman with tampering with or fabricating evidence by falsely reporting her ex-boyfriend raped her in August 2012, the Montana Supreme Court has found.
The court's 5-0 ruling May 27 overturns a decision by District Judge G. Todd Baugh, who ordered the felony charge against Christina Nadia Nelson dismissed in July.
Nelson, 24, also is the subject of an arrest warrant in Flathead County, where she is charged with two counts of tampering with or fabricating evidence for falsely claiming that her prom date raped and assaulted her in Columbia Falls in 2009. Prosecutors say that was the first of five false rape claims she has made since arriving in the United States as an exchange student from Germany.
Nelson's attorney, Penelope Strong of Billings, did not return a phone call Friday from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Baugh found that while Nelson lied about being raped in August 2012, nothing in her forensic exam was false or inaccurate and there was no physical evidence of the rape she described.
Baugh told prosecutors there were more specific statutes that covered Nelson's conduct, such as perjury, false swearing or making a false report to law enforcement. He gave prosecutors 30 days to amend the charge.
The state appealed, arguing Baugh's decision violated the discretion prosecutors have in making charging decisions. Given the "extreme measures" Nelson used to mislead investigators, prosecutors should be able to charge her with a felony, the state argued.
On Aug. 10, 2012, Nelson went to the Billings Clinic and reported she had been raped earlier that evening by her former boyfriend. Nelson said she was attacked as she left work and was assaulted in his van.
Afterward, Nelson said she went to a bar, had a drink with a friend and went to the gym with her husband. Her husband told officers Nelson told him about the rape after they had unprotected sex, which she initiated.
Police interviewed Nelson's former boyfriend, who proved he was out of state that day. Officers also obtained surveillance video from Nelson's workplace, which showed her getting into her car after work and leaving, with no one approaching her.
Detectives learned about four earlier rape reports Nelson made and then declined to pursue, including the Columbia Falls case and another in 2009. Nelson, whose maiden name is Mark, also filed two false assault claims and two other false rape claims against the same former boyfriend she accused in the 2012 case, prosecutors said.
"Nelson's conduct not only placed (her ex-boyfriend) at serious risk of facing a rape charge, it made an already difficult road even more difficult for women who truly have been raped," the state argued in asking the Supreme Court to overturn Baugh's ruling.
Prosecutors charged Nelson in December 2012 with tampering or fabricating physical evidence for making a false report leading to the August 2012 rape exam in which evidence was collected.
Nelson's attorney argued the false statements could not be considered physical evidence.