msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 12/17/2010 6:47:46 PM ET 2010-12-17T23:47:46

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?"

© 2013 msnbc.com

Video: Storm of trouble for forecaster after rape report

  1. Closed captioning of: Storm of trouble for forecaster after rape report

    >>> a meteorologist on the local abc station here in new york has now been suspended after police say that she made up claims that she was stalked and nearly assaulted by a would-be rapist in central park . nbc's mike taibbi has details. mike, good morning to you.

    >> reporter: good morning, meredith . how flu is at 37, heidi jones ' career as a tv meteorologist and much more was on the rides. she was also an avid fitness buff and distance run zaerpd a lot of run hearing in central park . this is also where she claims someone tried to rain her.

    >> northwestern corner of new york state.

    >> reporter: heidi jones had made it to the big-time, going all the way from an indiana girlhood to forecasting the weather on abc 's huge new york tv station .

    >> we get into late september .

    >> reporter: reporting countless stories from the field.

    >> perfect day for this. it is called beach 10 t is not just for hackers slackers like myself. one of the best tune-up races yesterday.

    >> reporter: often filling in on abc 's nationally broadcast morning show , "good morning, america."

    >> heidi jones is here.

    >> good morning, everyone.

    >> reporter: on her facebook page and run with heidi website she writes about her flourishing tv career and prowess as a long distance runner . no where does she tell her fans what police say she recently told them that a hispanic man had twice confronted her, first back in september when he grabbed her as she joggeded and tried to rape her and three weeks ago near her apartment when she says he harassed her again. but police say they weren't so sure. after all, two days after the alleged rape attempt in september, heidi wrote on her facebook page, "good day, how was yours?" after the man supposedly threatened her in november, she wrote, "here's your turkey day forecast, gobble, gobble." now police sources confirm for nbc news that when jones was confronted with inconsistencies on her story and waited two months to tell it that she basically made it all up. the local wabc -tv newscast reported that jones is now off the air.

    >> heidi jones , a wabc -tv meteorologist faces misdemeanor charges for filing a false police report . jones faces types and jail time if convicted. wabc has suspended jones pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

    >> reporter: jones ' critics have already taken to her facebook wall. this is inexcusable. you are a disgrace. fire her and put her in jail. jones reportedly made up her story to win with sympathy because of personal problems.

    >> oftentimes, people do dramatic things when they are going through personal issues. people leverage are the support in a variety of different ways.

    >> front moving through.

    >> reporter: what's likely to happen now to a career that was clearly on the rise?

    >> if it's all true, there's no question that heidi jones ' career is in serious trouble.

    >> reporter: her lawyer, paul callen , urges folks not to jump to conclusions and says she will plead not guilty to any criminal charges against hership. he could face a year in jail on each charge of falsifying a police report . meredith ?

    >> mike taibbi , thank you very much. ricky clyman is a criminal defense attorney. gail salt sanchez a "today" contributor. good morning to you both.

    >> good morning.

    >> gail , start with you, heidi jones admitted to police she made the whole thing up, a court date january 5th charged with filing a false police report . you have talked to her attorney. what is her next step?

    >> her attorney, paul callen is really the perfect lawyer here. he is a mixture of compassion and competence and if i were paul callen what i would be doing is calling up the d.a.'s office immediately to try to work out something.

    >> this is a woman who does not need to go to jail, however this is a case that's not going away. she needs to be a candidate for probation.

    >> her lawyer saying she is going to plead not guilty how can she do that if she already admitted guilt?

    >> everyone who goes into court will enter a plea or their attorney enter a plea for them always a not guilty plea until something can be worked out. and i'm sure in this kind of case with a progressive and thoughtful d.a., a good lawyer like paul it will cry out for someone to help her and it will cry out for an example to be made so that we don't have other people making false accusations .

    >> this is a young, attractive woman, obviously doing well professionally what would motivate someone like this?

    >> you would be surprised. many, many people have the fantasy or thought, gee, if this happened to me, someone else would feel badly for me or someone else would rush to my aid. we all actually have thoughts like that but to act on it is a different story. so then the question becomes, you know, is -- was the stress such or is the personality character such that a reaction to anxiety or depression would cause them to, if you will, break their own moral code ? 'cause that's really the question here, right? why would you do something that could destroy your life and that would be a lie, essentially that would hurt other people, that takes the police away from their job and so on? sometimes it is real mental illness . looking at someone beautiful and successful does not mean that they are not suffering inside that they don't potentially have a mental illness , something really bizarre didn't going on in their life as we see over and over again in cases.

    >> and why cry rape?

    >> right. well, you know it is about being attacked. you know, this is -- one fantasy sometimes people claim i'm horribly sick. i have seen the cases of i've got cancer so i need people around me. this is about being attacked and it is strange to say but actually many, many women do have thoughts about rape. again, they don't want to be raped, but they have thoughts about it. it is not an uncommon fantasy. and the idea that someone would rescue you or rush to your aid because you have been violated and violated in a sexual manner so it makes you think about being a personal other to her, a boyfriend or somebody that she wanted to arouse or concern.

    >> you sit on a board for a rape treatment center, correct?

    >> yes, i do.

    >> in california.

    >> seven years.

    >> i'm sure there are people on that board who, you know what she cried rape, that presents a chilling effect to people who have been raped, she deserves to go to jail.

    >> she may deer is to have go to jail but the reality is it is not going to do her or anybody else any good. the trouble here, meredith , does have a chilling affect? are women afraid to go forward because when you have someone of this celebrity it, even if it's because of a mental illness and it's not malicious, the reality is that it does make them say, well, maybe the police won't believe me. i have to say i have got to applaud these pleas for nipping it in the bud because, what if it went one more step? what if there was a lineup? what if there was a show up -- a picture and she picked that hispanic that she had never seen?

    >> such things have happened so i think we have to think about the moral greater good here and today, i would say a lot of people are comfortable with, frankly, untruths. we see a lot of things going on today that are, you know, not about following the rules and it's emboldening, i think, others to break them.

    >> gail saltz, ricky kleman, thank you both for your perspective this morning. we appreciate it.

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