In 2013, blogger and jeweler designer Susan Shannon, 52, accused US Army Colonel Wil Riggins, 52, of rape while the pair were cadets at West Point in the 1986. This week a jury in Fairfax, Virgina cleared the now retired Colonel’s reputation and ordered Shannon to pay him $8.4 million in damages after her accusations cost him a promotion to the rank of General.
When asked why she had waited nearly 3 decades to make her accusations, Shannon said “There’s what we call a silent code. You don’t turn people in,” according to Washington D.C. ABC affiliate WJLA 7.
Shannon and Col. Riggins wore West Point grey together in the mid 1980s. They followed a simple code: duty, honor and country. Both parties felt they were let down.
“I did feel like I’d been abandoned by the Army,” Col. Riggins told WJLA 7 after Army leaders learned about Shannon’s rape accusations posted to her blog. In 2014 Secretary of the Army John McHugh suggested that Col. Riggins be passed over for promotion as the armed forces were being heavily criticized for heir response to sexual assault cases. Col. Riggins retired shortly thereafter.
“I was raped in 1986 by another cadet,” Shannon said. “Frankly the day I started saying his name was the day I started blaming him instead of myself.”
Col. Riggins said he was “blindsided” by Shannon’s allegations and that his career was ruined. “I never got a day in court,” Riggins explains, “Susan Shannon decided to play judge and jury on her own.”
Both Col. Riggins and Shannon participated in a CID investigation that could not “prove or disprove Ms. Shannon’s allegation she was raped,” reports the Washington Post.
Following the CID investigation results, Col. Riggins sued Shannon for defamation claiming that all of her allegations were “provably false.” He accused her of writing two blogs and a Facebook posts that were timed specifically to “intentionally derail [his] promotion” to brigadier general.
On August 1, 2017, a Jury sided with Col. Riggins after more than 2 hours of deliberation. Shannon was ordered to pay a $3.4 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages in Virginia are typically limited to no more than $350,000, but punishment was set higher “to make sure nothing like this will ever happen again,” said one juror.
Shannon said she was devastated. “I feel like I’m a financial slave for the rest of my life” she told the Washington Post. “I told the truth in my article and at trial.”
Col. Riggins felt vindicated. “This journey we’ve been on the last four years,” he said, “it’s been a nightmare. … The large dollar amount is meaningless. All I was looking for was the opportunity to be vindicated, to set the record straight, to take every action to get my reputation back to where it was before the 15th of July , when she published that false accusation.”
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