A western Pennsylvania police department’s insurer is paying $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit by a woman wrongly charged with making up a claim that she was raped during a 2004 convenience store robbery.
Sara Watt sued police in Cranberry, Butler County, who charged her with lying when she claimed a man robbed and raped her at gunpoint when she was a 19-year-old clerk at a convenience store in July 2004.
Watt lost her job and spent five days in the county jail. Police eventually dropped the charges after a man was caught doing the same thing to another clerk he robbed in another county – then also confessed to robbing and raping Reedy.
The Associated Press does not usually report the names of sexual assault victims, but Watt – who is now married and was named Sara Reedy at the time of the robbery – has asked to be identified.
Reached at home Monday, Watt declined comment asking that her comments to the London Observer, which has chronicled her story in-depth, be used. Among other things, Watt told the English newspaper that she’s “relieved that people will be able to see now that I was telling the truth. Although mine is an extreme case, I’m not the first and I won’t be the last.”
Cranberry manager Jerry Andree confirmed the settlement which will pay $800,000 to Watt, and $700,000 to her attorneys. Watt is receiving $80,000 up front and will receive the rest of the money in varying monthly installments through the year 2027.
She previously won $45,000 from Butler County, where District Attorney Tim McCune dropped charges against Watt that she allegedly lied about the rape to cover up stealing $6,000 which, authorities believed, she had stolen but “blamed” on the robber.
Watt was exonerated weeks before she was to stand trial when Wilbur Cyrus Brown II, now 50, was arrested for sexual assault in Jefferson County and confessed to several attacks, including the robbery and rape of Watt.
The detective who charged Watt remains on the job, Andree said, “because there was no wrongdoing. Every action he took was approved by all law enforcement agencies involved and at every level.” The district attorney determined there was no physical evidence to support Watt’s claims and that a polygraph she took at the time was inconclusive.
“We’re sorry it all happened,” Andree said. “We’re glad it’s resolved, and we hope everyone can move forward.”
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