Univ. of Minn. law professor sues for defamation over rape allegations

- A University of Minnesota Law School professor has filed a defamation lawsuit against a former girlfriend, who he says falsely accused him of rape. 

Francesco Parisi spent three weeks in jail, charged with assault and rape, before the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office dropped the charges because it could not authenticate or verify the numerous allegations. 

“It looks like a script to a movie, but a one-star movie,” said Parisi, who studies and writes about the intersection of law and economics. Parisi is a well known academic in Italy and the United States, and is a frequently sought after lecturer. 

In the defamation lawsuit, Parisi claims he has already had a speaking engagement rescinded, and believes there are other opportunities he will now never be offered.

After he was released from jail, Parisi flew directly to Italy for his mother’s funeral. "I could see at my mom's funeral people looking at me and people were afraid to ask,”  Parisi said.

According to the now dismissed criminal charges, Parisi raped his ex-girlfriend while she was having a seizure two years ago. The attack was allegedly so violent she broke three teeth and needed colon surgery.  The alleged victim also claimed, falsely, that Parisi was HIV-positive and had molested minors. 

"All those accusations were so easy to prove false,” said Parisi. “A little homework, a little due diligence, would've been enough to prove that. It's the fantasy of a person who's lost common sense.”

Parisi met his ex-girlfriend, who Fox 9 is not identifying, two and a half years ago while sitting on the porch of his condo on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis' Warehouse District. The woman expressed interest in buying the condo above Parisi’s. The two hatched a deal to divide the condo in two.

"There was some romantic friendship that developed that evening,” said Parisi. 

But, the romance disintegrated as the real estate deal fell apart. Parisi attempted to evict her from the upstairs condo unit, while the ex-girlfriend filed two harassment orders that were later dismissed.

It was just a few days after one such legal setback when she reported to Minneapolis Police that Parisi had raped her, 17 months after the alleged incident in January 2015. 

But, she had never mentioned a sexual assault when she took a harassment order out against Parisi two months later, in April 2015.

In January of this year, she would once again tell Minneapolis Police about the sexual assault two years earlier, and additionally claimed Parisi had attempted to run her over with his car six days earlier.

She told police she saw Parisi, “drive up on the sidewalk [on Washington Avenue] and drive toward her in what she believed to be an attempt to hit her with his car. The vehicle came within one to two feet from hitting her,” according to the dismissed criminal charges.

The allegations are nearly identical to accusations she made in 2005 against ex-husband, Bill Pittman, an author and leading figure in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) movement at Hazelden, who died in 2007.

In the restraining order against Pittman, she writes, “Bill pulled out and accelerated at great speed, turning and bearing down on me. He came within six inches of striking me and glared at me as he passed.”  

The woman also filed a restraining order against a former neighbor. That neighbor sued her for slander.

In text messages to Parisi and statements to other individuals contacted by FOX 9, the woman claims to have a Ph.D from Juilliard. The music school does not offer Ph.D’s and tells Fox 9 it only has a record of the woman attending classes and did not confer a degree. 

The woman has also told acquaintances contacted by Fox 9, that she is the illegitimate child of Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations Secretary General, who never married and died in a plane crash in 1961.

The woman legally changed her name a few years ago, and occasionally uses the middle name, Hammarskjold, or sometimes just abbreviates it with an H.

"I actually encouraged to her write a book, because it was so unbelievable,” Parisi said of her elaborate stories.

The woman declined a Fox 9 interview request, but through her attorney issued a statement. 

"It saddens and disappoints me that Fox 9 has chosen to give Mr. Parisi a forum to further attempt to intimidate me and other victims from coming forward,” the statement reads. “Mr. Parisi and his attorneys are attempting to spread untruths and mount a smear campaign through the media.”

Parisi said it is his reputation that has been destroyed. Italian media covered his arrest in Minnesota, but have yet to report on charges being dropped.

"My criminal reputation now precedes my academic reputation,” Parisi said.

Minneapolis Police have declined to answer questions about why a detective in the Sex Crimes Unit failed to adequately investigate the case. The MPD referred all questions to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. 

The Hennepin County Attorney declined to elaborate on the decision making involved in the case.  When asked if charges could be pursued against the alleged victim for giving false information to police, a source within the prosecutor’s office says while they cannot corroborate her statements, it is a much higher threshold to prove she lied to police.

Previously, in other cases, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has said it is reluctant to pursue criminal charges against people suspected of rape hoax stories because it could discourage legitimate victims from coming forward. 

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