PITTSBURGH - A young campaign volunteer for John McCain made up a story of being robbed, pinned to the ground and having the letter “B” scratched on her face in what she had said was a politically inspired attack by a black man, police said Friday.
Race has been a sensitive issue in the presidential campaign, as Democrat Barack Obama would be the first black U.S. president if he wins the Nov. 4 election.
Ashley Todd, 20-year-old college student from Texas, admitted Friday that the story was false, including the claim that the “B” stood for “Barack,” said Maurita Bryant, the assistant chief of the police department’s investigations division.
Todd was charged with making a false report to police, and Bryant said police doubted her story from the start.
Dressed in an orange hooded sweat shirt, Todd left police headquarters in handcuffs late Friday and did not respond to questions from reporters. The mark on her face was faded and her left eye was slightly blackened when she arrived in district court.
Todd was awaiting arraignment Friday on the misdemeanor false-report charge, which is punishable by up to two years in prison.
‘Mental health issues’
She will be housed in a mental health unit at the county jail for her safety and because of “her not insignificant mental health issues,” prosecutor Mark Tranquilli said.
Todd initially told investigators she was attempting to use a bank branch ATM on Wednesday night when a 6-foot-4 black man approached her from behind, put a knife blade to her throat and demanded money. She told police she handed the assailant $60 and walked away.
Todd, who is white, told investigators she suspected the man then noticed a John McCain sticker on her car. She said the man punched her in the back of the head, knocked her to the ground and scratched a backward letter “B” into her face with a dull knife.
Police said Todd claimed the man told her that he was going to “teach her a lesson” for supporting the Republican presidential candidate, and that she was going to become an Obama supporter.