A Denver woman has pleaded guilty to second-degree perjury and attempting to influence a public servant for faking post-traumatic stress disorder to dodge jury duty, according to a statement from the Denver District Attorney.
Cole reportedly told Denver District Court Judge Anne Mansfield she “broke out of domestic violence in the military” and had “a lot of repercussions,” including PTSD.
“Her makeup looked like something you would wear during a theater performance,” court reporter Kelli Wessels told investigators at the time, according to the Denver Post. “When the judge asked the entire panel if anyone had a mental illness, [Cole] stated she had difficulties getting ready in the morning, which was apparent to me by the way she was dressed.”
Cole was excused from her civic duties. But her plot was foiled four months later when Judge Mansfield heard a woman bragging about how she faked mental illness to evade jury duty on a local radio show.
The woman, who called herself “Char from Denver,” was Cole, an author who uses “Char” as a pen name, the Denver Post reported.
Cole pleaded guilty Tuesday and was given a two-year deferred judgment for the felony count of attempting to influence a public servant, a felony, and two years of probation for the misdemeanor count of second degree perjury, according to the Denver District Attorney. She is also required to perform 40 hours of community service.
“As a mental health professional, I find this disturbing and upsetting,” Dr. Joseph Calabrese, a psychiatrist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, told ABC News at the time. “PTSD is a very serious, life threatening illness. And things like this tend to trivialize it.”
PTSD is an anxiety disorder brought on by a traumatic event, such as domestic abuse. The debilitating symptoms, which include emotional numbing, anger and terrifying flashbacks, increase the risk of suicide.
“I find these sorts of things distracting and inappropriate,” Calabrese said of Cole’s “manipulative” behavior. “That sort of criminal behavior has nothing to do with mental illness.”
Cole’s book, “Seven Initiations with El-Way’s Secrets,” claims to help readers “deal with difficult relationships and situations” through biblical passages. Cole offered investigators a copy of the book as evidence of her struggle with domestic abuse and mental illness, but was unable to prove she was diagnosed with PTSD, the Denver Post reported.
“I think this is problematic on a number of levels,” Dr. Adam Brown, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABC News in June 2011.
“Mental illness certainly could interfere with someone’s ability to serve on a jury, but it isn’t something as stereotypical as dressing and acting the way she did,” Brown added. “Many people have mental illness and you’d never know. They don’t stand out. In that way, I think it contributes to the negative stereotype.”