Charges were dropped on Friday against Michigan couple Anuj and Leslie Chopra, after text messages showed the couple was allegedly "baited" and falsely accused of luring their daughter's teenage friends for sex.
The Chopras were first investigated by police in 2016 after claims that they had distributed nude photographs of a student from Hudsonville High School. A subsequent search of their home and electronic devices found no evidence that they had sent the photos.
According to their defense attorney, Damian Nunzio, the Chopras then became victims of a "mob mentality" from a group of teens who coordinated a series of false allegations against the couple. Three 17-year-old boys befriended the Chopras' daughter and one later spread rumors that Anuj had offered $1,000 to video the teens having sex. Anuj said he was joking.
The accusations were reportedly concocted out of revenge over the nude photos the Chopras were previously accused of distributing. Nunzio said, "Unbeknownst to the Chopras, the alleged victim was a good friend with the female student whose nude photographs were leaked in the summer of 2016."
Leslie Chopra was also accused by the teens of sending sexually explicit messages over social media.
But Nunzio says that the teens were coerced by police into keeping the false storyline going, telling the media, "One of the witnesses said that if he did not say bad things about the Chopras — he would get in trouble and go to jail."
He added: "The alleged victim revealed that he was merely joking around with the Chopras and that he, too, was threatened with jail if he did not cooperate with the police. The alleged victim said that he told authorities what they wanted to hear."
Nunzio also reported that one of the teens sent a text to the Chopras following the police interview, telling the couple, "None of that happened you guys have been so nice to us and I don't know why they are trying to do this to you."
Ottawa Country Prosecutor Ronald Frantz said in a statement that "further investigation uncovered significant exculpatory evidence that resulted in a dismissal" of the charges.
Anuj Chopra was held in jail for almost 11 months before being forced to surrender his passport and post a $250,000 bond. He was considered to be a flight risk by the Ottawa County Prosecutor's Office.