A federal judge today sentenced three people who concocted a bizarre scheme to stage a sexual assault in Waldo to boost the payoff of a civil lawsuit.
Agreeing that the scheme was “harebrained” and “ridiculous,” U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith sentenced Gordon F. Reabe, 52, Julie R. Bernet, 40, and Lindsey D. Crawford, 24, to a year and a day, 10 months and probation, respectively.
He also ordered each defendant to reimburse the Kansas City Police Department $5,259.37 for the costs of investigating the choreographed assault.
“The three of you attempted to pervert justice by injecting false facts into a civil case,” Smith said during Reabe’s hearing. “That could have resulted in an injustice. (Judges) take that quite seriously.”
Last fall, Crawford and Bernet were pursuing a sexual harassment lawsuit against an auto dealership where they formerly worked. They recruited Reabe to help stage the attack in hopes they could make it appear the attack was retaliation for their suit and would help them obtain more money in a settlement.
On the night of Nov. 25, 2008, Reabe met the women in Crawford’s garage in Waldo. He duct-taped both women and struck them with a metal tool and a beer bottle. He also used a bottle, a “metal object” and a rose stem to sexually assault Crawford, according to court documents.
Leaving the garage, Reabe also started the car and left it running to make it appear as if an attempted murder had taken place.
Bernet later told police that two masked men attacked them, and both women told investigators they thought the assault was related to their pending suit.
A few weeks later, when it appeared that the staged assault wasn’t forcing the auto dealer to settle, Bernet and Reabe arranged for another man to make a call to Bernet’s phone from a courtesy phone at the dealership. Bernet then reported to police that she had received a threatening call from a man who said, "Next time you won’t be so lucky."
But the man had used his own cell phone to make the call instead of the dealer phone, as Reabe had instructed, so police traced the call to him, unraveling the scheme.
A Jackson County judge dismissed the civil suit last month.
Reabe declined to post bond in February and has served about nine months of his sentence. In his statement to the court, Reabe apologized and said he was prepared to accept any sentence.
“By agreeing to participate in this scheme I crossed the line between right and wrong,” Reabe said. “I really screwed up. My actions were indefensible.”
At her hearing, Bernet said she was anguished by the fear that the scheme stirred in the Waldo area.
“I should never have engaged in the wrongful actions that bring us here today,” Bernet said. “I didn’t even consider that our actions would frighten the community as it did.”
Smith recommended to the federal Bureau of Prisons that Bernet serve five months of her sentence in a halfway house and five months in home confinement.
Crawford cooperated with investigators and thus received the lightest sentence, though she must serve six months of home confinement. She choked up as she made a brief statement.
“I would like to apologize to everybody involved for the stress that it caused,” Crawford said.