Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett
Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett City of Bellevue

The Bellevue chief of police has been cleared of sexual assault.

In July of this year, an unnamed 44-year-old Issaquah woman complained to Bothell Police Department that Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett sexually assaulted her in the fall of 2016. Chief Mylett was placed on paid leave at the beginning of August while the claims were investigated by Bothell police. The investigators, however, concluded that not only did Mylett not sexually assault that complainant, but there was also no evidence that the two had been in contact. Investigators also say that emails supplied by the accuser to bolster her claims were doctored.

“Investigators concluded there was no probable cause to show that Mr. Mylett committed any crime,” reads a press release posted on the city of Bothell’s website this week. “In addition, there was no substantiated evidence to prove there was ever any contact between the complainant and Mr. Mylett.”

According to the Seattle Times:

The woman claimed that she and Mylett had met on a fetish website for people seeking “aggressive” sex. They agreed to meet in October or November of 2016 for an encounter involving bondage but without intercourse, the police report said.

She alleged that Mylett broke that boundary and sexually assaulted her. She gave Bothell police the address of a home Mylett and his wife had rented in 2016 and claimed the assault took place there.

As evidence of the alleged assault, the woman gave police the underwear she wore that day, the report said.

A DNA test later showed that the woman’s DNA was on the underpants, as was the DNA of three other individuals, but not that of Mylett, according to the police report.

Further investigation also showed that Mylett and his wife were not living in the rental house during the time of the alleged assault.

The case is being sent to the King County prosecutors for review: According to KOMO News, it's possible the accuser will be charged with perjury, evidence tampering, and making false statements. She has previously accused two other Bellevue officers with sexual assault, but both cases were later dropped when investigators found she fabricated evidence.

You often hear (or read) that "Almost No One is Falsely Accused of Rape," as a recent headline in the Cut put it. But is that true? While the exact number of false rape accusations is unknown (and maybe unknowable, if you include allegations not reported to authorities), a 2010 study of rape allegations at a large university in the Northeast found that out of 136 reported cases of sexual assault over at 10-year period, about 6 percent were false. The FBI puts the number a little higher (8 percent), and others—for instance, Katie Heaney, the author of the Cut article—put it significantly lower at 0.5 percent.

As for why people might falsely accuse someone of rape, a 2018 study looked at precisely this, and found that among 57 false rape allegations made to the Dutch National Police, "Complainants were primarily motivated by emotional gain," as well as "material gain, alibi, revenge, sympathy, attention, a disturbed mental state, relabeling, or regret." Some allegations, the researchers concluded, were fabricated to cover up other behaviors, including adultery or even skipping school, but a surprisingly high number—20 percent—of false accusers "said that they did not know why they filed a false allegation."

What motivated the accuser in the Mylett case? Who knows, but if King County decides to prosecute, we might actually find out.