A Florida man accused of rape, who has also been a “Toys for Tots” coordinator, has admitted he lied about his Marine Corps service, after exaggerating his record for nearly two decades, USA Today reports.
Derek Walls, 42, an entrepreneur in Florida, founded a nonprofit and coordinated the local Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots drive. So, supporters didn’t believe a 16-year-old Toys for Tots volunteer who accused Walls of rape last year.
The teen was labeled a liar. She tried to kill herself.
Prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence to pursue the charges. They called it a typical case of "he said, she said."
But during the criminal investigation, Walls leaned on his military reputation, according to the paper, as inconsistencies arose. Walls’ tales of being a sergeant and fighting in Operation Desert Storm, losing friends in battle, being diagnosed with Gulf War syndrome and serving four years as an active-duty Marine and two as a reservist turned out not to be true.
Paperwork, which sheriff's investigators acquired from Marine Corps headquarters, show that he served only six months in 1988.
"Yes, I lied," he told FLORIDA TODAY, when confronted with the contradiction between his stories about his military record and what Defense Department records show. "There's really no reason for it. It's been a hard year."
FLORIDA TODAY's examination of Walls' past came about after he asked the newspaper to retract its story about his arrest and instead report on the good he has done in the community.
According to his military discharge records, Walls enlisted in February 1988. He was stationed in South Carolina, Texas and California, where he was discharged honorably in August 1988 on the broad basis of a "personality disorder." During much of the period he claimed to have served, from 1988 to 1992, Walls actually lived in Ohio.
According to USA Today, Walls was arrested Jan. 28, 2010, on charges of false imprisonment and sexual battery about a month after a trainee at the tanning salon he owns said she was raped.
The 16-year-old, who also volunteered for three years in Toys for Tots, rode with Walls to his home, where she said she thought other children would be present on that Dec. 30 day. The girl told investigators she felt unable to escape the 210-pound man.
"He's involved with a wide circle of people, including young people," said Assistant State Attorney Julia Lynch, who handled the case. "She had been to his house on other occasions, but it turned into a case of 'he said, she said.'"
Before Walls was arrested, sheriff's agents recorded telephone calls and obtained Facebook messages between him and his accuser. He made no admissions but apologized and said, "I have made some mistakes" and "I love you very much!"
In his interview with FLORIDA TODAY, Walls would not discuss whether lying during the past two decades was necessary to contribute to his community and would not delve further into his military record.
"There are certain things Marines don't want to discuss," he said when FLORIDA TODAY pressed for further explanation. "Some things are better left not talked about."