MURRAY – A Murray woman was recently indicted for the charge of falsely reporting an incident after filing a report to police alleging harassment at an August protest on Murray’s courthouse square.
After an encounter during a 24-hour protest of the Confederate monument at the Calloway County Courthouse on the morning of Aug. 15, Linda Arakelyan of Murray filed a complaint with the Murray Police Department against William “Sandy” Forrest of Murray. Arakelyan, 22, and other protestors told the Ledger & Times at the time that Forrest used a garden hose to spray the sidewalk chalk drawings they had made near the monument and eventually began spraying several protesters. The next day, Forrest confirmed to the Murray Ledger & Times that he had been spraying the sidewalk, but said he had not meant to spray any of the protesters.
Calloway County Attorney Bryan Ernstberger confirmed to the Ledger & Times in late August that the Murray Police Department had requested a summons of Forrest for the charge of harassment with no physical contact. At that time, Ernstberger said he rejected the e-warrant against Forrest because the investigating officer had failed to articulate probable cause. He said he sent it back and left it up to the department whether or not to revise the e-warrant to continue pursuing the charge.
On Sept. 15, a Calloway County grand jury returned a true bill of indictment against Arakelyan. The indictment was for a Class A misdemeanor by direct submission, and a criminal summons was then issued for the defendant. According to the indictment, the grand jury charges that “on or about the 15th day of August 2020, in Calloway County, Kentucky, the above-named Defendant committed the offense of Falsely Reporting an Incident when she reported to law enforcement authorities that William Forrest had ‘slapped my hand’ knowing that this was false and did not occur, in violation of KRS 519.040.”
According to the statute, a person can be guilty of falsely reporting an incident for several reasons, including if he or she knowingly “reports to law enforcement authorities an offense or incident within their official concern knowing that it did not occur” or “knowingly gives false information to any law enforcement officer with intent to implicate another.”
Sgt. Andrew Wiggins, public information officer for the Murray Police Department, said Monday that the department had only ever pursued a charge against “the male” against whom Arakelyan filed the complaint, but not Arakelyan herself. Ernstberger said the indictment resulted after the grand jury reviewed the evidence in the case.
“Grand jury proceedings are confidential, but I think it’s fair for me to say that the grand jury considered all the facts related to the incident that occurred on that date and time, and they returned a no true bill for harassment without physical contact against Mr. Forrest and returned a true bill for falsely reporting an incident against Ms. Arakelyan,” Ernstberger said. “They have to make a probable cause determination, so they didn’t find probable cause for the (complaint against Forrest).”
Arakelyan pleaded not guilty Tuesday during her first court appearance. Calloway Circuit Court Clerk Linda Avery said Arakelyan’s arraignment was waived and District Judge Randall Hutchens set a pre-trial conference for Nov. 10.
Arakelyan’s attorney, Chris Hendricks of Murray, said he believes videos taken while his client and others were being sprayed shows it would have been easy for her to think Forrest slapped her hand.
“I’ve looked at the video; I’ve slowed it down frame by frame, and this incident occurred in less than a second-and-a-half,” Hendricks said. “That’s part of my defense, is that this happened in the blink of an eye, and her perception was that her hand was slapped by Mr. Forrest. I believe the video shows how she could have perceived that. She was having water sprayed in her eyes, she couldn’t see. She had her head turned, actually, and was trying to block the water. This is all in the video, and their hands made contact while she was attempting to block that water spray that was going directly into her face – incidentally, not being pointed at the ground to wash off chalk.
“My point is, she’s been charged with falsely reporting an incident for saying that Mr. Forrest slapped her hand when the grand jury believed that didn’t happen. Well, if you look at the video in a different way and a different perception, I can see how a person in Linda’s position would think that her hand had been slapped by Mr. Forrest. It’s all an interpretation of the video, and when you slow it down and look at it frame by frame like I have and you realize that everything occurred in less than a second-and-a-half, being completely accurate with all the details of what happened in that less than a second-and-a-half is difficult for any person to do.”
With the evidence in the complaint against Forrest having now been presented to the grand jury, Ernstberger said his case is concluded. Forrest told the Ledger & Times on Tuesday that he didn’t bear any ill will toward Arakelyan, but he would like to receive a public apology from her for causing harm to his reputation. He said he wasn’t aware that Arakelyan had accused him of slapping her hand until Ernstberger informed him of her indictment.
“The county attorney called me and told me they had charged her … for lying on the affidavit,” Forrest said. “As I told him, I didn’t want to press charges against her. I just would like to have my name expunged publicly, saying that I didn’t do anything. I haven’t heard anything and I don’t know where (Ernstberger is) at or where (Arakelyan is) at or anything. There’s no ill feelings from me. I thought I was being charged with spraying people with water – there were people there, but I wasn’t meaning to spray them.”
Ernstberger said he seeks victim input in most criminal cases, so he expected to be in touch with Forrest and Arakelyan’s attorney before next month’s pre-trial conference.
“I expect to hear from or meet with her counsel in the meantime, and I’ll take the victim input into consideration,” Ernstberger said.
Individuals facing charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.