Law professor falsely accused of rape wins defamation case

A Minnesota law school professor has won the largest defamation penalty in state history against a woman who falsely accused him of rape.

Hennepin County officials had jailed Italian-born Francesco Parisi for three weeks in 2017 after his former lover, Morgan Wright, accused him of rape. Three years later, Judge Daniel Moreno awarded $1.2 million in economic losses, reputational, emotional and punitive damages – the last of which only amounts to $100,000 of the total sum.

Moreno ruled that Wright’s “plethora of allegations against Parisi lack credibility,” adding that her “accusations were false, made with malice. [She] injured Parisi as a direct result of her untruthful narrative crusade.”

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Additionally, Parisi was in jail when his mother fell ill and ultimately passed away, preventing him from being by her side in her final days.

“It was a horror movie,” said Parisi, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Many of his students, especially women, assumed he was guilty. Enrollment in his classes dropped by 60 percent, with some classes cancelled.

The extensive amount of damages awarded to Parisi is recognition of the continuing damage that a false accusation can play on a victim. A google search for Parisi still turns up his mug shot from the initial arrest.

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“Even after those charges were dropped, people Google my name and only see a professor accused of so many crimes,” Parisi explained. 

The rape accusation appeared to follow an extensive court battle over a real estate deal the two had engaged in while romantically involved. After Parisi attempted to evict Wright from his property, he sued her and won.

The rape allegation quickly followed, but the lack of evidence, including medical reports to corroborate Wright’s claims of bodily damage from the attack, resulted in a quick dismissal of the charges.

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One of Wright’s attorneys, Cassandra Merrick, told the Star Tribune that Wright declined to comment about the case, including whether an appeal is being considered.