Two college students scheduled for trial for allegedly concocting what became a politically charged tale of robbery and assault wound up off the docket again this morning.
John Lawson Shafer and Penelope Jade Murray were due for trial in Charleston municipal court today, one of many attempts since their arrests in late 2010. The pair surrendered to police in December of that year, a month after they told police that a black couple claiming to have a knife had slapped and punched them, forced them to undress and tossed them into the Cooper River at Waterfront Park.
Shafer and Murray showed up at the HarbourView Inn on Vendue Range at 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 23, naked, bruised and dripping mud. Shafer told a Post and Courier reporter that the other couple even threatened to kill them because they had no cash, and Mayor Joe Riley personally called the students to offer his support.
Police determined in follow-up interviews that the pair had fabricated the story, yet officials refuse to say why. Arrest reports say Shafer admitted to the lie.
Officers charged them both with a city offense of falsely reporting a crime, not the more severe state law that makes it a felony. Shafer and Murray both face a maximum of 30 days in jail or a $500 fine on the city charge.