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N4T Investigators: Defamation decision

TUCSON – Melissa Gee says the pain came from a lawyer’s words. This was after Gee claimed in early October of 2015 that she was raped and beaten by Jesse Bootman, the former dean of the UA College of Pharmacy. Bootman’s lawyer at the time, Brad Roach, held a news conference on Oct. 29 and said this about the alleged victim:

“She hired two attorneys within days of making this complaint which reflects her financial motivations. She has a significant criminal history and a history of financial problems.”

Gee told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, “The reaction I had then, I was crushed. It hurt me, it hurt my family, it hurt the people that I work with, that I know. “To have his defense attorney, Mr. Roach, go on the air and make these statements was absolutely devastating. First of all, it’s not true. The shame that it brought t to my kids, that people were out there saying that I was a bad person or that I had this extensive criminal history, which is completely untrue.”

Gee filed a defamation suit against Roach and others and won. A Pima County jury recently reached a unanimous verdict, awarding her $25,000.

It is News 4 Tucson’s policy is to keep alleged sexual assault victims anonymous, but Gee said she wanted to go public, because, “I think that this case is extremely important for all victims of violence.”

Gee’s attorney, Bill Walker, said, “I think it’ll have a huge significance. Now, criminal defense lawyers are going to know that they may have to pay the piper if they lie about the victim.”

Peter Limperis, a Tucson attorney who represents KVOA, said, “I don’t know of a case like that in the United States.” Limperis said this type of case is usually settled, that it rarely goes to a jury. “It’s sort of a warning,” he said. You need to be very careful about what you say about an alleged victim of a sexual assault on behalf of the accused.”

Long-time criminal defense attorney Mike Piccarreta, who was not involved in this case, doesn’t think it will have a significant impact. “I think you save your evidence for the courtroom. I think that you shouldn’t be gratuitously trashing anybody at any time,” Piccarreta said.

Bootman always maintained his innocence. After first saying there was no sex, he later said the sex was consensual. The criminal charges were dropped last year by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. He expressed doubt over the chances of getting a conviction.

Regarding the charges being dropped, Gee said, “I’m livid. I’m absolutely livid, about that. I think they made a huge mistake, I don’t understand it, I don’t I ever will.”

Gee and Bootman reached a settlement on the civil suit she filed. Terms were not disclosed and due to a non-disparagement clause, Gee isn’t allowed to discuss specifics. The 48-year-old, who works in mortgage banking, says the entire ordeal has left her bitter about the justice system. She says she’s moving away from Tucson, but not from the fight.

“If there’s any way that I can now help to provide support to other women to fight for victims rights, I’m going to continue to do that.”

Roach has not returned our calls or email to respond to the defamation decision. Sixty-nine-year-old Jesse Bootman retired from UA last year. The criminal charges against him were dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning they could be filed again.

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz has been an investigative reporter since 1993. He specializes in reporting on corruption, fraud and scams.
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