PORTLAND – Despite the public anxiety that was created by a false report of a gang rape on the Back Cove trail, Portland police would not do anything differently in a similar circumstance, Chief James Craig said Wednesday.

“This does not impact any future reports of sex assault. We will investigate them and be very thorough,” Craig said. “I consider a sex assault a crime like I would a homicide, very intrusive and violent.”

Maryann Morin, 22, of Portland was issued a summons Tuesday to appear in Portland District Court on Sept. 9 on a charge of filing a false report.

Police say she reported being grabbed by a group of men and sexually assaulted alongside the trail at 9:30 p.m. Monday. She described her attackers as black men in their 20s.

During a news conference Tuesday at Back Cove, Craig appealed for witnesses to come forward. He was told shortly afterward that the woman had made up the story.

Craig said the public plea is a good police tactic in such a situation, and he would do it again.

“When you have a sex crime occur, what if there’s a series of crimes? What if there are witnesses we don’t know about? Worst-case scenario, what if we have a serial rapist?” he said. “I’m a community member. I want to know when crime is committed.”

The initial report and the subsequent disclosure prompted a flurry of racially charged comments online, many of them suggesting physical harm against the woman.

For that reason, Craig said, he is not releasing Morin’s address.

“I am a little concerned about her privacy. There are people who are angry about her,” Craig said. “I’m concerned about her safety.”

Craig said officers still don’t know why the woman would have fabricated the story.

Morin’s only criminal record in Cumberland County court stems from an arrest in April on a charge of shoplifting at a supermarket in Portland.

She pleaded guilty and was given a deferred disposition, so if she meets certain conditions, the case will be dismissed at a hearing in January.

One of the conditions is to avoid further criminal conduct.

Her attorney in that case, who was appointed by the court to represent Morin on the day of her hearing, said the charge of filing a false report could interfere with the deferred disposition.

William Michaud said he has not been contacted about representing Morin in connection with Tuesday’s charge.

Morin’s report was criticized as perpetuating negative stereotypes about black men and damaging the credibility of people who suffer sexual assault in the future.

“When there’s a false report, it feeds into the myth that there are a lot of false reports, or that victims aren’t telling the truth,” said Cyndi Amato, executive director of Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, an advocacy group for rape victims. “My worry is that if someone did come forward, they wouldn’t be believed because of this.”

Amato welcomed Craig’s declaration that city police will continue to treat reports seriously. The response must be extended not just to crimes perpetrated by strangers, but also to the majority of sexual assaults, she said, which are committed by acquaintances.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]