Colonel sues West Point classmate who claims he raped her 30 years ago in blog that led to end of his career
- Susan Shannon claims she was raped by army Colonel Wil Riggins in 1986
- Former cadet waited 30 years to speak because of army's 'code of silence'
- She made the allegations against her former classmate on a blog in 2013
- But Riggins denies claims saying they've cost him a promotion to general
- He has now launched a multi-million defamation lawsuit to clear his name
from Daily Mail online
27 September 2015
A retired army colonel is suing his former West Point classmate for more than $2million after he says her 30-year-old rape claims cost him a promotion.
Susan Shannon first alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Army Colonel Wil Riggins in 1986, while they were both cadets, on her blog in 2013. She says she waited three decades to come forward about her experience because of the army's 'code of silence'.
But Riggins, who vehemently denies the claims, said the 'false' allegations had cost him a sparkling military career.
Army Colonel Wil Riggins (right) is suing his former West Point classmate Susan Shannon (left) for more than $2million after he says her claims that he raped her 30 years ago cost him a promotion
The combat veteran from Alexandria had been on the cusp of being appointed to general in 2013, when Army leaders saw Shannon's rape allegation on her blog.
His promotion was snatched away and Riggins says his name was dragged through the mud after 'Susan Shannon decided to play judge and jury on her own.'
The decorated colonel denies all claims, telling ABC 7 On Your Side: 'I did not rape Susan Shannon. I did not sexually assault Susan Shannon. Every aspect of (her) story is verifiably false.'
This is a very strong denial. He not only issues the singular Reliable Denial, but in the case where "rape" may be debated, or changed to another allegation, he goes on to clarify: "I did not sexually assault Susan Shannon."
this is to deny even an altered allegation.
Now he is mounting a multi-million dollar cases against his accuser - which experts on survivors of sexual assault warn could have a 'chilling' effect on whether future victims come forward.
Riggins is seeking more than $2million in damages to his career and reputation after he says he 'never got a day in court' to defend himself.
However, Shannon's attorney Ben Trichilo said his client had one, simple defense - 'the truth.'
Susan Shannon (left, as a cadet) alleges that she was sexually assaulted by Army Colonel Wil Riggins (right, as a cadet) in 1986 while they were both cadets at West Point
Shannon said she had finally been inspired to speak about her alleged experience after reading about several high profile convictions for sexual assaults in the military.
Despite the law suit she now faces, she said she does not regret coming forward.
'Frankly the day I started saying his name was the day I started blaming him instead of myself, she told ABC 7 On Your Side.
'I didn't ask for this day. I'm being forced into a courtroom,' Shannon said, 'It's costing me and my family pretty much all that we have saved. I knew that risk when I wrote it and I don't regret it a day.'
She says she is planning to fight the law suit, not only for herself, but for all other victims of sexual assault.
Shannon alleges she was raped by her former cadet classmate at the United States Military Academy in New York in 1986. She dropped out shortly afterwards.
Now a jewelry designer and a mother living on the West Coast, she added that the pressure in the army to keep quiet and not turn in her peers meant that she did not even report the alleged rape at her exit interview.
'There was no way I was going to report that. The blame would fall squarely on me,' she said, adding she had only told a few friends at the time.
Shannon alleges she was raped by her former cadet classmate at the United States Military Academy in New York (file picture)
She made the claims on her blog Short Little Rebel in 2013 - which followed the announcement that Colonel Riggins had been nominated for general.
Shannon denies having any knowledge of his nomination until she was contacted by Army officials investigating her blog post.
Riggins was 'euphoric' after his nomination but his joy was not to last long after he was hauled in front of the Army's Criminal Investigations Division for questioning and had his DNA and fingerprints taken at Fort Myer in Arlington.
While investigators were not able to prove or disprove Shannon's claims, Riggins' pending nomination was pushed to Promotion Review Board.
Despite the board declaring Riggins 'fully qualified for promotion', army documents obtained by ABC 7 show Secretary of the army John McHugh still decided to cancel his promotion. Army officials refused to confirm why the colonel's name was pulled from the promotion list.
But Riggins, who feels he has been 'abandoned' by the army, believes the secretary was simply not willing to risk his reputation defending him.
The decorated colonel has now filed the multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit, claiming it was 'the only avenue left to me to clear my name.'
Both parties, who will argue whether the sex was consensual or rape, will meet in a Fairfax County courtroom.