PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) — A judge sentenced a “tormented and disturbed” Michigan woman to at least five years in prison Friday for falsely accusing two men of rape, a punishment that came just days after she pleaded no contest to a cancer scam in a separate case that also challenged her credibility.
St. Clair County Judge Daniel Kelly exceeded the guidelines, saying it would be a “travesty of justice” to sentence Sara Ylen to less.
In December, Ylen, 38, was convicted of making up a story about two men attacking her at her Lexington home, 80 miles northeast of Detroit. The jury also convicted her of tampering with evidence by using makeup to create what looked like bruises.
Ylen’s integrity has been shattered after years of being considered a sympathetic figure in eastern Michigan.
She accepted thousands of dollars from supporters and was treated by a hospice service for two years after claiming to have end-stage cervical cancer that had spread throughout her body. But state police found no evidence confirming a cancer diagnosis, and Ylen on Monday pleaded no contest to fraud in Sanilac County.
“This is a tormented and disturbed woman who will go to extraordinary lengths to wreak havoc upon other individuals, potentially subjecting them to life in prison in order to gain sympathy and notoriety for herself,” the judge said Friday.
Ylen declined to speak in court, although her attorney, David Heyboer, said a year in the local jail would have been enough.
Kelly, however, sentenced Ylen to a minimum of two years in prison on the false rape report and a minimum of three years in prison for evidence tampering. The sentences will run consecutively. Her eventual release will be determined by the state parole board.
“This was justice in its best form,” prosecutor Suzette Samuels said after the hearing.
Ylen had accused a construction company owner and a mental health worker of bursting into her home and raping her after she drove her children to school in 2012. They attended the same church as her ex-husband.
The judge said Ylen created her own injuries and even carved a vulgarity on her arm. Kelly noted that the “well-respected men” could have been charged with rape except for their “air-tight alibis” and doubts about the story by police.
Both men spoke before Ylen was sentenced and said their reputations had been harmed in their small communities.
The public first learned about Ylen in 2003 when she agreed be featured in “Sara’s Story,” an award-winning series in the Port Huron Times Herald, in which she talked about being raped in daylight in the parking lot of a major retail store in 2001. Her alleged attacker, James Grissom, was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison.
But Grissom was released from prison in 2012 after a judge threw out his rape conviction. Police in Bakersfield, Calif., said Ylen made up rape allegations during a 2001 trip there, evidence that wasn’t available to Grissom to challenge her credibility when he was on trial.
Grissom, 56, was in court Friday, sitting in the first row directly behind Ylen. He called her sentence a “slap on the wrist.”
The spectators included Ylen’s ex-husband, Jim, as well as many former supporters who cared for her and raised money when they believed she had cancer.
“The judge’s statement was pretty powerful,” state police Sgt. Barb Soffin said outside the courtroom. “My law enforcement side said I should have known better, but I saw her with my heart.”
Ylen will be sentenced in the fake cancer case on Feb. 19.
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