McCain campaigner mutilates face to fake attack

The Associated Press | October 24, 2008
By Joe Mandak

PITTSBURGH–A McCain campaign volunteer fabricated a story of being robbed, pinned to the ground and having the letter "B" scratched on her face in a politically inspired attack, police said today.

Ashley Todd, 20-year-old college student from College Station, Texas, admitted today that her story was false and has been charged with making a false report to police, said Maurita Bryant, the assistant chief of the police department's investigations division.

Bryant said they doubted her story from the start.

Todd, who is white, told police she was attacked by a 6-foot-4 black man Wednesday night. She can no longer explain why she invented the story.

Bryant said Todd also claims she cut the backward "B" onto her own cheek, but didn't explain how or why.

Todd initially told investigators she was at a bank branch ATM when a man approached her from behind, put a knife with a 10- to 13-centimetre blade to her throat and demanded money. She told police she handed the assailant $60 and walked away.

Todd then told investigators that she suspected the man noticed a John McCain sticker on her car, became angry and punched her in the back of the head, knocking her to the ground and telling her "you are going to be a Barack supporter," police said.

She said he continued to punch and kick her while threatening "to teach her a lesson for being a McCain supporter," police said. She said he then sat on her chest, pinned her hands down with his knees and scratched a backward letter "B" into her face with a dull knife.

Todd told police she didn't seek medical attention, but instead went to a friend's apartment nearby and called police about 45 minutes later.

Bryant said somebody charged with making a false report would typically be cited and sent a summons. But because police have concerns about Todd's mental health; they are consulting with the Allegheny County District Attorney. She remains in custody and is awaiting arraignment.

Todd worked in New York for the College Republican National Committee before moving two weeks ago to Pennsylvania, where her duties included recruiting college students, according to the committee's executive director, Ethan Eilon.

Eilon declined to comment on the investigation or to help The Associated Press contact Todd.

Earlier today, police said they had found inconsistencies in Todd's story. They gave her a lie-detector test, but wouldn't release the polygraph results. Investigators also said bank surveillance photos did not back up the woman's initial story of being attacked at an ATM.

Police interviewed Todd after she contacted police Wednesday night and again yesterday, Bryant said. They asked her to come back today, ostensibly to help police put together a sketch of the man. Instead, detectives began interviewing her.

"They just started talking to her and she just opened up and said she wanted to tell the truth," Bryant said.

Bryant said it doesn't appear that anyone else put the woman up to the false report.

Police suspected all along that Todd might not be telling the truth, starting with the fact that the "B" was backward, Bryant said.

"We have robbers here in Pittsburgh, but they don't generally mutilate someone's face like that," Bryant said. "They just take the money and run."