Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 15:28 UK

US woman 'lied about race attack'

Megan Williams in Charleston, West Virginia (22 Oct 2007)
Ms Williams had said she was tortured and forced to drink from a toilet

A woman in the US who said she was kidnapped, raped and tortured in a racially-motivated attack in 2007, has now said she fabricated her story.

Seven people pleaded guilty to the attack on Megan Williams, now aged 22. Six are serving prison sentences.

But Ms Williams' lawyer now says she invented the story to get revenge on her boyfriend for hitting her.

Prosecutors have questioned the move, saying the alleged culprits were found guilty on the basis of evidence.

In September 2007, police following an anonymous call found Ms Williams, who is black, in a backwoods caravan in Big Creek, Logan County, in the state of West Virginia.

She told police officers she had been held there for days, beaten, stabbed, sexually assaulted and burned. She said she had been forced to eat rat droppings and drink from a toilet, and that her attackers had used racist insults.

At a press conference on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio, where Ms Williams now lives, her lawyer Byron Potts said she was "recanting her entire story".

She just wants to turn her life around. She's trying to, she can't continue to live this lie
Byron Potts

"She says it did not happen. She fabricated it," he told reporters.

"She wanted to get back at a boyfriend. He was mad at her."

He said the bruises on Ms Williams' face were indeed made when she was hit by her then-boyfriend, Bobby Brewster, but all the other injuries were self-inflicted, including razor cuts.

Brewster, was among the seven people, all of whom were white, who pleaded guilty to charges including kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and giving false information to police.

He received a lengthy jail term - as did his mother, Frankie Brewster, two other men and another mother and daughter pair.

A seventh man received a suspended sentence.

Recant 'absurd'

The trailer where Ms Williams was found in Charleston, Virginia (file image)
Ms Williams was found by police in a ramshackle trailer in woodland

Ms Williams did not appear at the press conference herself, but Mr Potts said she had told him she wanted to "right the wrong that was perpetrated on these six individuals".

"She just wants to turn her life around. She's trying to, she can't continue to live this lie," he said.

Mr Potts said his client had received threatening phone calls in recent days and was "scared".

But Brian Abraham, the prosecutor on the original case, said Ms William's recanting was "absurd".

He told reporters that investigators had decided early on Ms Williams could not be relied on to give an accurate testimony, but that the convictions were based on "pretty overwhelming" physical evidence.

"All of them have been in jail without filing appeals," CNN quoted him as saying.

The case was greeted with outrage when it emerged in 2007, and civil rights campaigner Rev Al Sharpton, who supported Ms Williams' cause at the time, said investigators should closely re-examine the details.

"If the prosecution depended on something Ms Williams said that she is now saying is false, the prosecutor needs to reopen that case," the New York Times quoted him as saying.

In an interview for Cleveland newspaper the Call and Post in January, Ms Williams suggested she had been persuaded by her mother, who died in June, to exaggerate her story.

Officials have not said what their next step will be and whether they will file charges against Ms Williams if her story is found to be false.

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