On a striking autumn day in Montana’s Flathead Valley, in the charming resort town of Bigfork, it was a day eagerly awaited: Homecoming.
Among those in the stands was a 15-year old sophomore, Brianna Torres-Moore. She played volleyball and soccer, tried out for the school play, and was still “the new kid,” learning what Montana living was all about after growing up in Idaho and California.
But on that festive evening, as darkness fell and the cheers went silent, Brianna was about to go missing.
Bridget Michlig, Brianna’s mother: The plan was that she would go to the game, and then go to the dance, and then come home.
At home that night, Brianna’s mother Bridget and stepfather Michael Michlig anxiously waited, watching the clock as their daughter’s curfew came and went.
Ann Curry, Dateline correspondent: At what point do you get nervous?Michael Michlig, Brianna’s stepfather: 11 p.m. sharp. At our home we have rules, guidelines, and at 11 o’clock we were nervous.Curry: What did you do? Michael Michlig: Oh, by 11:15 we were on the road looking for her.
Where was Brianna? In rural Montana, potential dangers lurked everywhere – in narrow, windy roads and the lake.
Curry: Minutes are ticking by. It’s now, what, 11:30? 11:45?Michael Michlig: Then midnight, and then one. We were driving along looking in a ditch hoping not to see the car overturned or our daughter in the water, in the ditch. We were terrified!Curry: Panicked? Bridget Michlig: Panicked calling on the cell phone. calling anybody we could think of. And never once did I even begin to imagine that what had happened, happened.
Finally, after hours of driving and worry, with the sunrise came a phone call from a family friend. Michael and Bridget learned of a “kegger,” a beer bust to celebrate homecoming just a few miles away across the county line.
They rushed to the tumbledown trailer home where the party had been held.
Bridget Michling: I opened the door to the trailer. There’s sleeping kids all over the floor and on all the couches. It’s very dark, all the blinds are drawn, and I start moving through the living room and Bri was coming down the hallway.Michael Michlig: Disoriented, tired… still intoxicated.Curry: How could you tell?Bridget Michlig: She reeked of alcohol, just reeked.Curry: So you did what parents do. You admonished her? You yelled at her?Bridget Michlig: I yelled at her.Michael Michlig: Sure.Bridget Michlig: I think I said, ‘What were you doing there? What were you thinking? How dare you go and do this. This isn’t how I raised you, this isn’t what we talk about. You know better than this!’Curry: You feel guilty about this now?Bridget Michlig: My heart aches for it.
And Brianna, still woozy, couldn’t tell her mother how glad she was to see her. Or about the secret she held.
Brianna: It felt so good to know that “Okay, well at least for today, there’s not going to be any more of this.”Curry: Why didn’t you tell them immediately? Brianna: Part of me, a lot of me didn’t want her to know. I figured that I could just pretend it never happened and it would be fine.Curry: Bury it away and it would never come up again? Brianna: Mm-hmm.
Despite Bri’s condition, the Michligs made her go to work that day at a local cafe. And as the day wore on, Michael and Bridget got a surprise. A friend told them her son had said something about Bri’s behavior the night before—something particularly upsetting for her parents.
Curry: What were the words that you heard that changed everything?
Michael Michlig: Our friend said, “Well, Nathan tells us that two young men at the party had sex with her.” We were appalled!Curry: With your daughter? Bridget Michlig: With my daughter. It’s like, oh my god, I know my daughter, I know what sorts of things she does. It doesn’t include this. And now I’m getting information that there were two men, two young men at that party who had intercourse with her!?Curry: You didn’t believe it? Bridget Michlig: That’s not my Bri. My child, my daughter, doesn’t choose to do things like that.
After work, Brianna was confronted by her parents.
Brianna: She asked me what had happened at the party. And I told her “nothing” that there’d been a bunch of kids and we just got really drunk and that was it. We just hung out. And she said, “No, I don’t think that that’s what happened. Something happened and you need to tell me.”
The Michligs were about to learn new details that would show them they apparently knew only part of the story.
For 15-year old Brianna Torres-Moore, it was all about to spill out. What began with a homecoming football game and a night of teenage partying for a girl who considered herself “the new kid” at Bigfork High School was about to land her, 24 hours later, in a sheriff’s office.
After the party, Brianna’s mother and stepfather had heard the rumors that she had sex with two young men. After a brief, heartwrenching conversation, Brianna had admitted it was true, and when asked, told her mother that there was much more to the story.
Brianna: She said “Did you wanna have sex with those two boys?” I mean she put it as bluntly as that. “Did you want to have sex with those two boys?” And I said “No. No I didn’t.”Bridget Michlig, Brianna's mother: That’s when Michael said, were you raped? And she said yes. Ann Curry, Dateline correspondent: Why did you ask her were you raped?Michael Michlig, Brianna's stepfather: The things that Bri was describing to me, it sounded like the law had been broken. It sounded like she’d been attacked. Not made a bad decision, but that she’d been raped. So I asked her.
Brianna was about to take a very unusual step. The FBI says about 95,000 women a year report being raped. But it’s not easy telling anyone; in fact, studies show that the vast majority of female teenaged victims don’t tell their parents; and that one out of three does not report it to police. And when a sexual assault is reported, many times not everyone tells the same story. As you’ll see later, that would be the case here. But Brianna’s version of the story was a nightmare.
Brianna’s journey through the criminal justice system began at a hospital, where a detective met her to gather evidence of the alleged rape. Doctors found "bruises" on her legs, abrasions indicating "possible forced sex," and other physical evidence that sex had occurred. Then, Brianna went to the sheriff’s office to make her report.
As the tape rolled, Brianna began telling the story. Of the Homecoming game and giving a friend a ride to the party. And even though she said she rarely drank alcohol, as Brianna sat around the bonfire, she said a popular 17-year-old senior named Patrick Larson handed a beer to her, a sophomore, the new girl...
Brianna: I was dumbstruck. I mean why would he give me a beer? He’s he’s a senior, he’s surrounded by these older girls and why do I have to have a beerCurry: So what made you, a girl who doesn’t go to parties, take that first sip?Brianna: I mean there’s always that need to fit in. I just so badly wanted to be able to at least say, “Yeah, I’ve been to a party with him.”Curry: Him? Brianna: Patrick. He’s the party king.
Brianna said Patrick Larson gave her one, maybe two beers, then she said, he asked her to move away from the bonfire to a more private location: his car.
Curry: Were you flattered that Patrick asked you to go into his car?
Brianna: Yeah there was a part of me that was flattered. But there was also my mom’s voice in my head saying, “This isn’t you. You don’t do this.”
Though she initially told police what happened was consensual, she now said this:
Curry: So you get in the car and he starts to?
Brianna: Kiss me. Stick his hand up my shirt. Unbutton my pants.Curry: Did you say anything?Brianna: I just put my hand on his chest and pushed him away. I couldn’t even think of y’know what would be the right thing to say except for no, and he wasn’t listening to that.Curry: You said “no”?Brianna: I did.Curry: Once?Brianna: No, repeatedly.Curry: And did he ever slow down or stop?Brianna: No. Nope. Not once.
She next remembers sitting around the fire with Larson, in total shock, and, she says, wondering how could it have happened when she’d said no?
Then, Brianna, still feeling, she says, peer pressure to join in, began drinking more: beer, gin, and rum. She says she soon saw Larson talking to another boy, a 16-year old sophomore named Travis Reynolds.
Brianna: I saw the way Travis glanced over Patrick’s shoulder to look at me, and I really felt like I was the ball being kicked around the children’s play yard. I mean how many people were gonna do this? I didn’t know what to say or where to go to escape the situation.Curry: Why didn’t you leave? Brianna: I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t possibly get in my car and drive. I mean I could barely walk. There were no adults in the house. There was no one, I felt there was no one that would help me.
What happened next may seem hard to believe, and to this day she’s not sure exactly how it happened. But Brianna ended up back in the same car with Travis Reynolds.
Curry: Why didn’t you fight him off? Tell him stop.
Brianna: If I started pushing him off and telling him no, and everyone started looking, he was gonna sit there and look at me like, “Okay she’s going crazy.” It’d put me at risk of being made fun of. And I didn’t want that.Curry: You didn’t fight him on the way to the car? Brianna: I did. I told him that I knew what he was gonna do and I didn’t want to do that. That I just…Curry: You said that out loud to him?Brianna: Yes I told him I don’t wanna do this. I just want to go to sleep. And he kept telling me you can go to sleep when we’re done.Curry: Why couldn’t you stop him? Brianna: I had no strength. I was so drunk that I couldn’t think. I couldn’t think of a single thing to do except get out of the car and with his weight on top of me there was no way that was gonna happen.
After that second encounter, Brianna says, things got a little hazy. She woke up on the bathroom floor the next morning.
Then, before the detective finished the interview, he asked Brianna this:
(Interview with detective) Detective: I need you to make something perfectly clear: That the sex that Travis Reynolds had with you was not what you wanted, is that correct?Brianna: Yes.
Brianna’s mother was horrified by the story she’d just heard her daughter tell a total stranger..
Bridget Michlig: She was very calm, y’know in the sort of calm that you get when you’re in shock.Curry: You weren’t calm? Bridget Michlig: For her, I was calm. For myself, I was absolutely not. I felt murderous. I could have killed the people that hurt my daughter. Curry: Is it possible that your daughter came up with the entire story so you would not think the worst of her?Michael Michlig: No.Curry: Why not? Bridget Michlig: I have absolute trust in my daughter when she says, “I was raped.” She lost everything in this.
And Michael was feeling that he’d failed his stepdaughter.
Curry: It must be pretty hard to be a father and not to be able to protect his daughter against this kind of thing?
Michael Michlig: Oh yeah you feel like you’ve failed. I mean that’s the basic thing a dad does. Keep your children safe and I wasn’t able to. It’s awful.
After Brianna, detectives would soon interview the two young men. 16-year old Travis Reynolds admitted having sex with Brianna. He said he thought Brianna was “15 or 16” at the time.
The other suspect, 17-year-old Patrick Larson, also admitted having sex with Brianna and said he “realized” she was only 15. But Larson
also told detectives something else had happened inside the trailer home. Something that Brianna did not recall.
Lake County Sheriff Bill Barron: It came out that Brianna had actually been assaulted, sexually assaulted in the bathroom of the residence. And that is something Brianna didn’t tell us because she was in such an intoxicated stage and so close to being passed out that she didn’t remember it at that point in time.Brianna: The only way that I found out that Patrick had come back and had sex with me while I was passed out on the bathroom floor was because he made that statement. And I read it. I didn’t even know it had happened until I read it.Curry: Read it where?Brianna: In a police report.
The sheriff had heard enough.
Barron: Based on what we had compiled at that time, the victim’s statements, the statements of admission from the suspects, and the evidence that the doctor brought forward that he discovered in the physical examination, we felt that we had pretty much a slam dunk case.
And that’s exactly what a detective told Brianna.
Curry: What did he say to you about the strength of your case?
Brianna: He said that it was going to be very easy to prosecute, and we left feeling y’know, very comforted by that.
As for Brianna’s parents, though horrified by what their daughter said she had endured, they were reassured by what they felt was the promise of swift justice.
Michael Michlig: At that point we had every reason to believe that the system was going to take care of us. The hospital cared. The police cared. There was hope.Curry: And what was your hope? Michael Michlig: Justice, pure and simple. That people not be allowed to do this to our daughter.Bridget Michlig: I mean Ann, how could there not be justice? We know where the crime occurred. We know specifically what happened. There was physical evidence. There was physical injury. We knew the names of the people, we knew their addresses. How could there not be justice?
But neither Brianna, nor her parents could know what was about to happen. And how quickly what the sheriff called a slam dunk case could for the family, turn heart-rending…
In the weeks after Brianna Torres-Moore said she had been raped by two young men at a party after the Homecoming football game, the 15-year old’s life seemed to grow darker by the day.
And although word of the incident had spread around town, Brianna says she told no one at school except a counselor, and pointed her most demanding questions at herself.
Brianna: Why did it have to be me? Why couldn’t it be somebody who wanted to have sex with him?Ann Curry, Dateline correspondent: Are you really asking, what did I do to deserve this? Was this my fault?Brianna: Oh yeah, I ask myself “What could I have done differently? Were my jeans too tight? Was my top too short?” Curry: And?
Brianna: The only thing that I could have done was not be there.
And if Brianna was blaming herself, her parents Michael and Bridget also felt responsible. They were convinced that Bri’s status as a “new kid” at school played a role in what had happened.
Curry: What made her so vulnerable?
Michael Michlig, Brianna’s stepfather: She was young.Bridget Michlig, Brianna’s mother: She was young, she wanted to be liked… I think that there are so few girls that are not vulnerable, y’know, simply because we all wanna be liked. We all wanna fit in.
As for the Michligs, they wanted justice, first, in the case against Patrick Larson. Although he was still a juvenile, Montana law says 17-year-olds must be charged with certain crimes as adults. So Larson might face a charge of sexual intercourse without consent that if convicted, could potentially send him to prison for life.
But to the Michligs, the case against Larson seemed to be going nowhere. And Michael Michlig would soon meet with the man who had his foot on the brake: Lake County Attorney Bob Long.
Michael Michlig: He looked at me and said, “You know, Michael, if this were my daughter, I’d be more angry at her than the boys that did this to her. I couldn’t believe my ears. I mean it just seemed like a cruel hoax.”
But it was not. More delays followed. Then five months after the party, County Attorney Long, who declined Dateline’s request for an on-camera interview, sent a letter to the Montana Attorney General’s office. In it, he wrote that given Brianna’s initial description of the incident to police, he had concluded the sex between Larson and Brianna was “consensual.” And it would be “an abuse of discretion” to charge Larson as an adult with Brianna only a few months away from her 16th birthday, the legal age of consent in Montana.
Brianna: He said that he was not going to press charges because he didn’t want to haunt this kid with a felony that would follow him for the rest of his life.Curry: And you’d say to that? Brianna: Well, what about me? What about what I have to go through the rest of my life? When I get married, I have to decide whether or not I want to explain that to someone. When I have kids I have to explain that to my daughter, when I try to tell her why she can’t go to a party. It’s going to affect me for the rest of my life. And who’s to say that it won’t happen again?Michael Michlig: He had no compassion whatsoever for a victim in a very horrible crime.Curry: He did have compassion for these boys. Is it possible that maybe there’s some gray area here is what he’s saying?Michael Michlig: If a felony’s committed it needs to be treated as one. It certainly felt like one to the victim.
Lake County Sheriff Bill Barron and his staff felt so strongly about Brianna’s case that the detective in charge had to be restrained from going after the county attorney.
Bill Barron, Lake County Sheriff: He got in the county attorney’s face about it, they kind of had words. But the bottom line was, Bob had made his decision. And this point in time, we weren’t going to change his mind.Brianna: I mean all sorts of things make it rape. And his admission of having sex with me while I was unconscious on the bathroom floor, I mean that in itself should’ve been enough. But it wasn’t. At least not for the county attorney.
The Michligs made an unusual decision. They were going to go public. In one week, they held a protest in front of the Lake County Courthouse and appeared in a front page story in the regional newspaper with a photo of Brianna, front and center.
Curry: Why did she wanna do that?
Bridget Michlig: This was, for her the way to move from being a victim, to being a survivor. To being a champion.Curry: And then you started hearing from people? Bridget Michlig: Yeah, instantly.Michael Michlig: Not a few, not a dozen hundreds. E-mails, flowers sent…Brianna: I was being stopped on the way into Costco by older women who were touching me on the shoulder and saying, “Oh, I used your story to explain to my daughter why she can’t go to a party...”Michael Michlig: The people in the community understood that what happened to Bri was wrong. The police understood what happened was wrong. Unfortunately, the prosecutor didn’t.
That very week, Lake County Attorney Bob Long took action. He turned the Larson case over to the Montana Attorney General’s office, saying that he didn’t think the state would pursue the case either. But the state did and filed charges against Larson. To the Michligs’ chagrin, however, it would end up in juvenile court. And Patrick Larson soon pleaded guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent. His punishment? Two-and-a-half years probation.
Michael Michlig: He didn’t spend a single night in jail.Curry: How did that sit with you? Michael Michlig: Oh we’re furious. It’s wrong. It’s completely wrong. Brianna will be damaged by this event for the rest of her life and he’s never seen the inside of a jail for that crime!
And it turned out that for Bridget, the outcome of Brianna’s case hit especially close to home. Because she knew all too well what Brianna was going through.
Curry: There’s something about your own history that made this particularly difficult for you to take?
Bridget Michlig: When I was 17, something so incredibly similar happened to me. I was raped and so to have the realization that what had happened to me, had also happened to my child, it was nightmarish, it was hellish, it was sickening.Curry: Was your case prosecuted?Bridget Michlig: It was not.Curry: Why? Bridget Michlig: He said it was consensual. It’s the great rapist rallying cry! I didn’t rape her y’know, she said yes.Curry: It’s evocative, isn’t it, of what happened to you? Bridget Michlig: Very much so! Nothing has changed. A female victim is still going to be held responsible for the crime committed against her.Michael Michlig: It’s like we’re stuck back in the 1950s. What was she wearing? Why was she there? Blaming the victim—we haven’t advanced a bit.
And her court case, and the publicity—did little to quell the swirling winds blowing about Brianna. She spent three days at a mental health center.
Bridget Michlig: She went from sweet bubbly Bri to being dark, just angry every moment of every day. She isolated herself, stayed in her room.
Brianna’s view of men had also changed. She couldn’t even give her stepfather a hug.
Brianna: It took him from being my stepfather, which I’m still trying to get used to, to being just another possible attacker.Curry: You saw him as a possible attacker?Brianna: Yeah, not because of his actions but because of the way i was thinking about males in general after my rape.
Then, the breaking point: one night after missing curfew, Brianna had it out with her parents, especially Michael.
Curry: Did he spank you?
Brianna: Well, he did spank me, yes.Curry: Hit you?Brianna: He spanked me and then he also just smacked me around a little bit.
The next day Brianna did something that seemed to many, unbelievable: she filed charges against her mother and stepfather, charges eventually found to be "unsubstantiated."
Curry: Had you hit her?
Bridget Michlig: No.Curry: How does she explain why she filed it then?Michael Michlig: I think she wanted to leave the home and maybe the only way out was just to destroy the relationship.Curry: So you decide to let her go? Bridget Michlig: Uh-huh.
With the family in crisis—the case against one teenager resolved, but the case against the second young man still looming—Brianna’s life was about to take a dark new turn. It’s a turn that experts say, happens all too often to victims of sexual assault.
Montana’s Flathead Valley would no longer be home to Brianna Torres-Moore. Just months after her 16th birthday— angry, bitter, depressed, still reeling from what she said was her rape by two teenagers at a party after the homecoming football game, and after the run-in with her stepfather— Brianna was sent to live with her biological father in California.
Ann Curry, Dateline correspondent: Do you regret that decision?
Bridget Michlig, Brianna’s mother: Immensely.
The new horror would happen in the small northern California town of Groveland, near Yosemite National Park.
Curry: You were only there for two days before something unbelievable happened.
Brianna: I was raped by my stepmother’s brother.Curry: What happened? Brianna: I awoke to my step uncle on top of me telling me that his pants were coming off and I’m trying to make as much noise as I can and nobody’s coming.
Brianna reported the assault to the sheriff. In Montana, her parents admitted at first, they didn’t believe it.
Curry: Anybody who hears this story that Brianna was raped here, in this area, she goes to California and that she’s raped again, is gonna be asking, “You gotta be kidding!”
Michael Michlig, Brianna's stepfather: It’s reliving a nightmare and was beyond our belief as well..
But by all accounts, it was true. Authorities charged Donald William Hart with rape, as well as committing lewd acts on Brianna’s younger half-sister. He pleaded guilty, and is serving an 8 year prison sentence.
Curry: How do you make sense of this?
Bridget Michlig: I don’t.Michael Michlig: We feel incredibly guilty that we let her go back there. I’m a dad. Bridget’s a mom. And Bri got hurt again. And it was on our watch.Curry: How do you live with that?Michael Michlig: You don’t. You can’t live with it.Bridget Michlig: You just keep loving her.
Brianna had suffered a fate common to many rape victims, who by some estimates, because of post-traumatic stress, low self-esteem, and an inability to assess risk, are twice as likely to be attacked again. She would return to Montana, her life still in turmoil. Because while Patrick Larson had been placed on probation after admitting to sexual intercourse without consent, charges were still pending against the second teenager Brianna had accused of rape.
Travis Reynolds’ case would be sent to his home county, neighboring Flathead county. And while Brianna felt she now had a second chance at justice, she also faced a new and skeptical team of investigators.
Curry: Tell me about the Travis Reynolds case.
Ed Corrigan, Flathead County Attorney: It’s a terrible case.
Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan headed the Reynolds investigation.
Curry: You didn’t believe her?
Corrigan: I am not satisfied that she’s told the truth, that’s true.
This time, investigators found what they believed was more reason to doubt Brianna’s story: conflicting versions from other students who had attended the party, students who had not been interviewed before.
Kendall: She was flirting with them. It was like she wanted their attention, she wasn’t trying to push them away or anything.Chelsea: I remember that she flashed everyone, she like lifted up her T-shirt and she flashed like, the whole party..
And another teen told authorities that when she opened the door of the vehicle, she didn’t see Travis on top as Brianna had claimed, but saw Brianna “sitting on top” of Travis and that Brianna told the girl to “go away.”
Corrigan: When we have a version of events that is completely at odds with the information we’re getting from other people at the party, we’ve gotta question whether her claim of non-consensual coerced sex with Reynolds is credible.
For the county attorney, the list of reasons not to believe Brianna was long: she’d at first told police and doctors that sex with Patrick Larson was consensual, then changed her story. Then, there was this.
Corrigan: She tells us that her stepfather is physically abusive towards her. The Michligs say that’s not true. There’s no reconciling those two. Either she’s lying or she’s not.
And there were all those witnesses who said Brianna was behaving provocatively at the party and who saw no sign of any struggle with either young man.
Still, Brianna denied flashing anyone, and said the witnesses were motivated to lie by their friendships with the boys at the center of the case. But she says she knows she made mistakes that night.
Curry: You went to a party, where there was alcohol served and you went into a car with two separate guys. Do you not take some responsibility for what happened to you?
Brianna: Of course I take responsibility. I know that I shouldn’t have been there. And I still put myself in that position. I know that I shouldn’t have gone to that car the first time, I shouldn’t have allowed Travis to force me the second time, but I did. And there’s nothing that I can ever do, no matter what to change that. But rape is not the admission price to any sort of party. It’s just not the price you pay.
The Michlig’s position was simple: Montana law says no one under 16 can consent to sex. But the prosecutor said it was not that simple; that the law also said if a young man believed a girl was 16, and believed that she had consented to sex, a crime may not have been committed. In the end, the Flathead County Attorney saw too many inconsistencies in Brianna’s story.
Corrigan: A trial is a terrible thing to go through. And whereas we owe Brianna a fair shake, we owe Travis Reynolds the same thing. Nobody would want a family member to go through this process and they shouldn’t go through this process unless the prosecution believes in their witnesses, and is satisfied that they have the evidence to convince a jury of the person’s guilt.
A jury would never have the chance to decide if Travis Reynolds had committed a crime because the Flathead County Attorney dropped all charges…
Curry: They dropped the charges.
Brianna: They did.Curry: Implied you were lying?Brianna: Mmm-hmm.Curry: Some people watching are thinking right now, did this young girl make up this entire story because she had to explain to her parents what she was doing at that party all night?Brianna: The answer is no.Curry: But you had angry parents who wanted an explanation and maybe you started a lie that now all these months later you just can’t stop, because too much has happened.
Brianna: I would much rather have been able to say to my parents, “Yes I had sex with him because I felt like it.” And I would much rather have been able to suffer the consequences of them being angry, than these consequences.Curry: Why would these witnesses lie?
Bridget: First of all Ann, if you live in a place where you don’t get into trouble for raping—nothing’s gonna happen to you when you lie!
After charges were dropped, the Michligs held a rallly denouncing the County Attorney. And when asked by local reporters to explain his decision, Flathead County Attroney Ed Corrigan took the unusual step of opening portions of the investigative file: releasing witness statements, including claims that Brianna gave lap dances to boys at the party.
Curry: I can see it, you’re just seething!
Michael Michlig: It’s the most vile and disgusting thing I’ve ever seen a public politician do—to slander a young woman by releasing that kind of information to the press is just unspeakable. It’s never done, and it was done…
In the Michligs eyes, the case had taken a dark, troubling turn. Brianna, they felt, was now being smeared for simply being brave enough to go public.
Curry: The Michligs said you told them repeatedly that they should not speak publicly about this case, specifically that they should not speak to “Dateline.” And that when they disagreed with your decision, subsequently you released the witness statements that were so damaging to their daughter. Why did you do that?
Corrigan: I don’t see it any different than what we’re doing right now. Had the Michligs not gone to the press, had they not told us that they were going on “Dateline,” had they not tried to create what I see as a little bit as a media circus, that information would not have been released by my office publicly.Curry: So you were defending your office when you released those statements?Corrigan: I’m not defending the office, but I think the public has a right to know why we made that decision. And if the Michligs insist on dragging this into the public light through the media, then the public has a right to know not just their side of the story but our side of the story. And to be aware of the information that we gathered that led us to believe the charge wasn’t prosecutable or appropriate.
Brianna and her parents were left with this cruel irony: both prosecutors agree that Brianna was raped. But Corrigan thought Long had a case; and Long felt Corrigan did. And in the end, no one went to prison.
Now more than two years after the party that changed her life, Brianna still has many supporters—including Lake County Sheriff Bill Barron. He still feels that law enforcement let down a young woman who was not afraid to tell the truth.
Bill Barron, Lake County Sheriff: I think these two young men got a huge, huge break. This young lady stood up and said “Hey this happened to me. It’s wrong, and everybody’s gonna know about it.” And I admire her for that. I think that takes real strength and courage. And I think she’s gonna pull her life back together because of that strength.
For Bridget and Michael, their faith in Brianna is also unbending.
Bridget Michlig: Throughout this, Bri was able to do what I couldn’t do, and what my mother couldn’t do for me. She is absolutely a girl of great courage and great strength. And she’s been called a hero by a lot of people around here, but mostly she’s my hero..
Brianna has dropped out of high school in Montana, gotten her GED, and now lives on the west coast. And while a clear, indisputable version of what happened that cold homecoming night may never emerge—as is often the case, rape experts say—Brianna says she knows what really happened… and feels a duty to warn other girls from repeating her mistakes.
Brianna: If it can help one girl, if it can stop one girl from going to that party, that’s all that it takes. It’d make it all worth it.
Patrick Larson, one of the boys Brianna accused, is now in trouble with the law again: Just 6-weeks after agreeing to probation, Larson was charged with criminal mischief in connection with a vandalism spree. He's pleaded not guilty. A conviction could violate the terms of his probation and mean possible prison time. And Montana's Governor has now signed a measure called "Brianna's Law" -- which will make it easier for minors to report rape without fear of consequences.