NEW YORK — A New York City TV weatherwoman has been unfairly caught in the eye of a media storm ever since police accused her of filing a false assault report, her lawyer said Friday.
WABC meteorologist Heidi Jones never told police she was the victim of rape or attempted rape and has been portrayed wrongly and even defamed in "disturbingly one-sided and unfair" press accounts about her arrest, attorney Paul Callan said in a statement obtained by NBC News.
Police ticketed Jones Monday for false reporting. They said she had told them she was accosted by the same man on two occasions, while jogging in Central Park and again near her apartment. She claimed her assailant was a stocky Hispanic male in his 30s wearing a black jeans jacket and blue jeans, about 5 feet 9 inches tall.
Jones was given a desk appearance ticket, which is akin to a traffic violation and does not require the suspect be taken into custody. The charge is a misdemeanor and she was scheduled to appear in court Jan. 15. If convicted, she could face a year in prison and fines.
Police said Jones admitted fabricating the story when investigators went back to her to discuss the case.
Some media accounts have said Jones claimed a man attempted to rape her.
"Ms. Jones also wants to make it clear that at no time did she ever claim to any law enforcement official that she had been raped or that she was the victim of an attempted rape," Callan said. "The characterization of this case as a 'false rape claim' is character assassination directed at a respected broadcast journalist."
"I urge everyone to remember the presumption of innocence to wait for resolution of this matter in a court of law," Callan said.
WABC said it has suspended Jones pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Callan branded as a "complete lie" allegations in a Friday New York Daily News article based on anonymous sources that police gave Jones round-the-clock protection after she told them she was accosted twice by a Hispanic man.
Six detectives spent three weeks "taking her wherever she needed to go," the Daily News said the source told it. Police gave her rides to work and accompanied her on dog walks and visits to flea markets and movie theaters, the Daily News said.
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The Daily News also claimed Jones received a personal apology from Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly when she said two uniformed officers refused to take a report after she alleged she was assaulted Sept. 24.
"If these sources exist at all, the information they are dispensing is inaccurate, in some cases defamatory," Callan said.
Jones never talked to Kelly nor received a promise of protection from him, Callan said.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne also denied the Daily News account and said Kelly never reached out to Jones.
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Earlier, Callan told The Associated Press that his client would plead not guilty to any charges.
"Ms. Jones has had a distinguished career as a broadcast journalist and urges all concerned to refrain from jumping to conclusions about the unproven charges against her being discussed in the press," Callan said.
Before her suspension, Jones also filled in on "Good Morning America." She worked previously in Billings, Mont., and Houston and has been with WABC for about five years.
She has a blog centered on running, where she talks about her love of the sport and her time spent running in Central Park and other locations.
Her motto, according to the site, is "if you knew you wouldn't fail, what would you try?"
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