FARMINGTON – A former University of Maine at Farmington college student whose report of a rape led to public panic and a recanting a week later will pay the county $1,000 in restitution.

In a one-year filing by Nicole Marie Armitage, 19, of Massachusetts and her attorney Walter Hanstein, and Maine Assistant District Attorney Andrew Robinson late last week, Armitage was ordered not only to pay the hefty restitution but also to continue receiving psychological counseling. She also had to write a letter of apology to the community.

She must also have no further criminal conduct within the next year or charges could be refiled, Robinson said.

Last fall, Armitage reported to local authorities that she had been attacked in a student parking lot and raped by a muscular man who appeared to be in his 30s. She said he had a panther tattoo on his arm.

One week later, after dozens of tips had been called into the Sheriff’s Department, the first-year student recanted her story and then left the college.

The state then charged her with filing a false report and causing public alarm. Both are misdemeanors.

In her letter addressed to the town of Farmington, Armitage thanked the community for “your concern and understanding through what was a difficult time last October. I would like to express my apologies for causing such panic in your town,” she wrote.

Since leaving Farmington, Armitage said she has been working full-time and attending night classes. “I have had the opportunity to begin to rebuild my life from ‘the ground up’ with the appropriate help and feel that I am well on my way to becoming a much better person as a result,” she wrote.

Robinson said the resolution he had proposed was fair, taking into account the defendant’s history and the implications an official conviction would have on her future.

Good did come out of the incident, he said, citing more awareness on the campus and throughout the community in addition to the installation of two new emergency call boxes, including one in the parking lot where Armitage claimed to have been attacked.

“I think there were deep, underlying issues that caused her to do this,” he said. “She never intended for the disclosure to develop the momentum it did and cause this major investigation.”

Robinson pointed out that the incident was a classic case of the snowball effect. He said that after she told her friends and caseworkers what had allegedly happened, the ball started rolling out of her control. He also added that there was a reason for her “cry for help,” which is being addressed in counseling, and that never naming a specific person helped her case.

Hanstein was quick to agree that the situation “got out of control through well-meaning people.” He said he was pleased with the filing. “It was really an excellent result for everyone involved. It brought out the best in a lot of people.”

Among those people, he said, was Franklin County Sheriff’s Department special sexual assault investigator Detective David St. Laurent. “David’s compassion was remarkable,” he said, “even after the allegations were learned to be unfounded.”

The college’s response, Hanstein agreed, “was fast, appropriate and made the campus safer. It was a very appropriate result.”

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