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UA student falsely reports robbery in attempt at extension on term paper

By Dylan McKinley
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 25, 2000
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University police arrested a UA student Monday after he falsely told police he was robbed at gunpoint in an attempt at extending the due date on a term paper.

Peter Bernstein, 18, of La Paz Residence Hall, 602 N. Highland Ave., told police Sunday a Hispanic man held a gun to him and stole his wallet near Manzanita-Mohave Residence Hall on North Park Avenue. Bernstein then helped UAPD detective Jose Sprigg form a composite sketch of the alleged suspect.

But after a UA Grounds and Labor employee found Bernstein's wallet Monday with no contents missing in a garbage can near La Paz, Sprigg became suspicious, and asked Bernstein if he was telling the truth, police reports stated.

Bernstein then admitted to falsifying the report, Sprigg said.

"Peter is not a bad kid," Sprigg said. "He just made a mistake. We see a lot of abnormal activity from students when they are under a lot of academic stress. We just wish they would cope with the stress in a more productive matter."

Bernstein was cited on suspicion of false reporting Monday morning after he spoke with Sprigg for a second time.

Yesterday Bernstein declined comment on the incident.

Sprigg ordered the composite sketch pulled from the police bulletin and UAPD sergeants were notified that the report was falsified.

Sgt. Michael Smith, UAPD spokesman, said falsifying reports will not be tolerated by the department.

"Obviously, any type of false reporting is a crime," Smith said. "But in this case, it endangers police response because of the severity of an armed robbery. What bothers me more is that he picked out a specific race to falsely accuse."

Smith said this information could have had bad results.

"If any of our officers had come across a man that fit the description Bernstein gave a half-hour after he said it happened, that man would have had quite a bit of trauma from dealing with police," Smith said. "And what if another officer got in an accident racing to the scene for backup?"

Sprigg said after he spoke with Bernstein Monday and found that nothing had been stolen from the wallet, he thought the report was falsified.

According to the police report, Bernstein made a comment to Sprigg about hoping a UA sanitation worker would find his wallet.

When Sprigg asked about the comment, Bernstein said he needed an extra day on his paper and made the story up, the report stated.

"When we're dealing with a false report like this, we have to be extremely careful not to falsely accuse anyone," Sprigg said. "It is a very difficult situation and false reporting puts everyone involved in jeopardy."

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