New York weather forecaster admits making up attempted-rape claim
A former New York City meteorologist for WABC-TV pleaded guilty Wednesday to making up a tale about a Hispanic man who grabbed her while she was jogging in Central Park and dragged her into the bushes in an attempt to rape her, then later followed her to her apartment and tried to attack her a second time.
Heidi Jones' story led the New York Police Department to offer her around-the-clock protection. When her story began to unravel, she broke down and told police the truth. "I made it up for attention. I have so much stress at work, with my personal life and with my family," she said in court documents, according to CBS News.
Jones' actions might have destroyed the very career she was trying to bolster. She was once named the No. 1 weatherwoman in Texas. And she was an occasional fill-in on ABC's "Good Morning America." Now, she's a former WABC employee.
"This has been a tragic case for Heidi Jones. She was at the pinnacle of the broadcast industry at ABC and 'Good Morning America' and her life has really been destroyed, her professional life, by this incident, and Heidi, from the moment I first met with her, she wanted to accept personal responsibility for what she had done," her defense attorney, Paul Callan, said in published reports.
Jones also earned the wrath of many women -- New York Daily News staff writer Joanna Molloy among them -- for playing off ugly, racial stereotypes and undermining the work of women who have struggled for decades to get courts, police and the media to take rape charges seriously.
The New York Police Department provided Jones with personal protection for three weeks last December after she told them of the attack -- which, according to the New York Post, she said had happened in September -- and authorities invested dozens of personnel hours searching for clues.
But the investigation kept turning up empty. When authorities began pressing Jones for more details, she cracked, according to the Daily News.
Under the plea agreement, Jones admitted to two misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting a crime and will be sentenced to probation and 350 hours of community service, which is the same amount of time that authorites say police spent investigating her bogus allegations.
-- Rene Lynch
twitter / renelynch
Photo: Heidi Jones was jogging through New York City's Central Park, shown here in a July aerial photo, where she said she was assaulted. Jones pleaded guilty Wednesday to making up the story. Credit: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press