Prosecutors have dropped kidnapping and rape charges against a former San Diego Tea Party spokesman after the alleged victim recanted her story.
Michael Kobulnicky, 54, was arrested earlier this month and accused of sexually assaulting a 56-year-old woman he allegedly picked up in his car. According to San Diego Fox affiliate KSWB-TV, the alleged victim appeared at a bail hearing Monday and told the judge Kobulnicky was not the man who assaulted her.
On Wednesday, she recanted her story to prosecutors and said she was never kidnapped or raped.
A judge dismissed four felony charges against Kobulnicky on Thursday. He had faced a possible life sentence if convicted.
“I didn’t commit any crimes,” Kobulnicky told KSWB after being released from jail. “It’s been hell. When people accuse you of terrible things and you know you didn’t do anything wrong.”
In a statement, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said her office is “dedicated to the protection of the innocent as much as we are committed to holding criminals accountable for their crimes.”
“When we receive new information that leads us to determine we can no longer prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, we do the right thing and move quickly to dismiss the charges,” Dumanis said.
The woman originally told investigators she was walking home when she was kidnapped and then raped at a recreational area known as Fiesta Island. Police collected evidence, including surveillance video, that appeared to corroborate her story. Detectives later released surveillance footage to the public, which generated numerous tips that pointed to Kobulnicky as the alleged assailant.
According to KSWB, Kobulnicky’s attorneys had said that their client admitted picking up the woman, then having consensual sex with her on Fiesta Island.
San Diego Police told the station they stood by their investigation, saying they had physical evidence connecting Kobulnicky to the alleged crime, but understood the district attorney’s decision in the wake of the woman changing her story.
The woman has since said again that she was attacked, but told San Diego NBC affiliate KNSD-TV that it was by a different man than Kobulnicky. She told the station Kobulnicky does not match the description of the man who attacked her, and accused the district attorney of not caring, “as long as they put the man away.”
In an interview with KSWB, she said a man kidnapped and raped despite repeatedly demanding that he stop.
“This man is sick,” she said. “I kept telling him to stop. He would not stop.”
She told the station she changed her story because she was scared and “filled with fear.” She said she’s glad Kobulnicky’s case is over so she can “move on with my life.”
Kobulnicky had been a spokesman for the San Diego Tea Party but had been on hiatus from the organization since January to plan his wedding, the Associated Press reported. The charges nearly derailed his upcoming nuptials, which are now on track for May.
In a statement, the San Diego Tea Party said it was “pleased to learn” the charges against Kobulnicky had been dropped.
“Michael is now rightfully exonerated, and justice system has clearly worked,” the statement said. “The unfortunate consequence of this situation is that it will be difficult for Michael to restore his honor, his reputation and his personal life back to how they were before this devastating accusation.”
Kobulnicky’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, told the Associated Press Kobulnicky has “a lot of animosity” toward the woman.
“We’re happy that she finally told the truth,” he said.