Alleged hate crime victim charged with filing false report
Alta Merkling will be charged with false reporting after she allegedly lied about being assaulted on Saturday, Oct. 27.
“Alta Rae Merkling unlawfully made a report and knowingly caused the transmission of a report to law enforcement authorities of a crime within their official concern when defendant knew (the) crime did not occur,” said Chuck Heidel, Boulder Police Department detective in a police report on the incident.
Despite the statements made in the police report, Merkling, a freshman music education major, said that the alleged hate crime actually occurred.
“I was walking home Saturday morning and I got jumped by three guys,” Merkling said. “They didn’t say anything or beat me up — they just cut (an) X (into my face) and said ‘X marks the faggot.'”
Merkling, who identifies as gay, filed the police report about the alleged hate crime last Saturday night, almost 12 hours after the incident. Merkling said that it was fear that prevented her from filing the report earlier.
“I was scared,” Merkling said, “I just wanted to pretend it didn’t happen.”
The report was documented as a bias-motivated second degree assault.
Merkling said that police began to have their doubts about her report because Merkling could not exactly pinpoint her whereabouts Friday night and early Saturday morning.
According to the police report, Merkling had said to Officer Nicole Faivre, the officer on duty, that she had been helping a friend move on Friday night into Saturday morning. According to the police report, Merkling had told Heidel that she had only been at her friend’s house until midnight and went to several parties afterwards.
Merkling said that she did not want to disclose where she was specifically because there was underage drinking at the parties she was at.
“There was a lot of underage drinking that night and I didn’t want to bring it to police attention,” Merkling said.
Despite any alleged underage drinking, Merkling was told that it would not factor into the case.
“I told Merkling that (the underage drinking in this case) didn’t matter, and that I wasn’t going to be pursuing any underage drinking charges,” said Heidel in the police report.
The validity of Merkling’s report was further questioned after Heidel said in the police report that he received a phone call from Stephanie Wilenchek, director of the GLBT Resource Center.
According to the police report, Wilenchek said that she and others from the GLBT Resource Center had some doubts about the report, saying that it was similar to a story Merkling told on Oct. 11 during a National Coming Out Day event.
Wilenchek said that she doubted the validity of this statement, but chose not to further disclose specific information about the incident. Wilenchek said that what is important in situations like this is ensuring that there is support for the students involved and affected.
“Reports of hate crimes are always taken seriously with the best interest of the student and the community in mind,” Wilenchek said.
Merkling said that the alleged hate crime she reported and the incident she spoke about on Oct. 11 were two different situations. The incident she spoke about on National Coming Out Day occurred while she was in high school.
“I was assaulted when I was on a date with another girl,” Merkling said. “Some guys from my high school attacked me and carved ‘dyke’ into my back.”
Merkling said that she chose not to report this incident because she did not want people to know about her sexual orientation.
“I didn’t want (the incident) to be brought to attention,” Merkling said. “I didn’t want people to know that I’m a lesbian.”
However, Merkling said that she decided to report the alleged hate crime that occurred on Oct. 27 because since entering college, Merkling has been told of the importance in reporting hate crimes.
“People have been encouraging others to report hate crimes to authorities to prevent future incidents from happening,” Merkling said.
On Wednesday Oct. 31, according to the police report, Merkling admitted to causing the injuries to her face herself.
“When I asked Merkling how she had made the injuries, she advised that she had used a hookah cleaning stick to scratch the mark on her face,” said Heidel in the police report.
Merkling said that she eventually recanted her story because she was frustrated with the way the case was going.
“The way things started to come out looked like I had faked it,” Merkling said. “I pretty much just decided to give up.”
Julie Brooks, Boulder Police Department spokeswoman, said that when Merkling had filed a report on something police found to be false, she was charged with a class three misdemeanor for filing a false report under article 18-8-111 of the Colorado Revised Statues.
The statute declares that if someone “makes a report or knowingly causes the transmission of a report to law enforcement authorities” they are filing a false report.
Merkling said that she can handle the charge, but that she still remains a little apprehensive to people’s reaction to the incident.
“I guess I’m still a little wound up after that Daily Camera article came out,” Merkling said. “People don’t really know what to think about it because they only see what the Daily Camera wrote and not what I actually said.”
The Daily Camera ran the article on Thursday, Nov.1.
Despite her situation, Merkling said that people should not be afraid to report a hate crime.
“I’d like to say that my case doesn’t always happen,” Merkling said, “If (a hate crime) happens to you, get it reported, get it known, and find a friend to talk to you about it.”
Campus Press Staff Writer Aaron Musick contributed to this article.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Sara Fossum at firstname.lastname@example.org