Former Stanford University employee arraigned on charges of lying about rapes that shook campus

A former Stanford University employee was arraigned Monday on charges that she repeatedly lied about being viciously raped as part of a revenge plot against a co-worker — fabricated claims that sparked widespread panic about a sexual predator stalking women across the campus.

Jennifer Ann Gries, of Santa Clara, appeared solemn and did not speak Monday while making her first appearance in court on two felony counts of perjury and two misdemeanor counts of making a false crime report. She was ordered to return to enter a plea on June 21; in the meantime, she allowed to remain free on supervised release.

Prosecutors say Gries, who worked for housing services at the university, lied about being raped to in a vendetta against a co-worker, who she felt had romantically spurned her.

The first report came on Aug. 9, when Gries claimed she was in a parking lot near the Munger Residence Hall when an unknown man grabbed her, took her into a bathroom and raped her. She made the report at Valley Medical Center, where she went to get a sexual assault forensic exam. She told medical staff that she did not want to speak to police.

About two months later, on Oct. 7, Gries again sought a forensic exam after claiming that a man walked into her campus office, grabbed her and dragged her into a basement, where he raped her. Once more, Gries said she did not want to talk to law enforcement.

Both times, she generally described her co-worker — a Black man in his late 20s — as her purported assailant.

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 14: Students at Stanford University march in protest, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, demanding leaders take action following two highly publicized reports of rapes on campus in recent months. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

The reports stoked widespread panic at the specter of a rapist escaping capture and roaming the Stanford University campus. One student group, Sexual Violence Free Stanford, led a campus march after the second rape report — calling for more counseling support for survivors, better training for incoming students and the swift removal of students and staff who commit sexual assault.

Yet none of Gries’ claims were true, prosecutors say.

The false-report charges allege that she lied to medical staff, who made it clear that they were required to alert police. The perjury counts are based on Gries signing forms to receive benefits from the California Victim Compensation Board.

Prosecutors say Gries also appeared to have made an earlier human resources complaint involving a claim that she became pregnant with, then miscarried, the man’s twins after he raped her — claims that were all deemed unfounded, authorities say. Investigators uncovered text messages she sent to another co-worker where she discussed trying to make the man’s life “a living hell,” adding that “I’m coming up with a plan. That way he’s (expletive) his pants for multiple days.”

Authorities say the man was never romantically involved with Gries, and that forensic exam kits collected after the two rape claims yielded no corroborating evidence. In late January, DA Investigator Sheena Woodland contended that Gries, in a recorded police interview, “admitted to lying about the rapes and wrote an apology letter to the target of the false allegations.”

Gries also said “she was upset with the victim because she felt he gave her ‘false intention’ and turned her friends against her.”

Gries declined to comment when approached after Monday’s hearing by a Bay Area News Group reporter.

At Monday’s hearing, Gries also was issued a no-contact order, which mandates that she stays at least 300 yards from the co-worker at the center of her claims. The university on Monday said Gries “is longer working at Stanford;” shortly after charges against her were announced in March, Stanford officials said they planned to review Gries’ employment status.

The case has raised concerns among advocates of sexual assault survivors about its impact on future victims of rape or sexual harassment choosing to come forward with their experiences. Already, some say, too many people suffer in silence because they do not think authorities will believe their claims or take their cases seriously. When Gries was charged, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen called the allegations “a rare and deeply destructive crime” that affects “legitimate sexual assault victims who wonder if they will be believed.”

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