Calif. Professor Charged with Hate Crime Hoax

LOS ANGELES – A Southern California college professor who received wide media attention when she claimed that racists had vandalized and defaced her car with ethnic slurs was charged on Monday with filing a false police report and insurance fraud.

Kerri Dunn, a professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College, east of Los Angeles, portrayed herself as a victim of racists angered by her message of tolerance at a campus forum when she reported the vandalism on March 9. She then put in a claim with her auto insurer for damages to her car.

Her story drew media attention and prompted hundreds of students to rally in her name, joined by civil rights activists. But police and FBI agents who investigated the incident began suspecting Dunn of a hoax after witnesses came forward to say they had spotted the 39-year-old professor vandalizing her own car.

She was charged with one misdemeanor count of filing a false police report and two felony counts of insurance fraud. She faces three years in prison if convicted at trial. “False accusations that imply hate crimes prey on the legitimate concerns of the public who truly abhor violence based on race, ethnicity or sexual orientation,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said in a statement. “And those who make false claims should realize there is a penalty for doing so.”

After Dunn’s car was found covered in racial slurs, its tires slashed and windshield shattered, college officials offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Claremont President Pamela Gann has said the college would conduct its own investigation before deciding whether to retain Dunn, whose contract expires later this year.