SANTA ANA, Calif. – A Southern California woman who was jailed after being accused of harassing, stalking, pretending to be the wife of her ex-fiance, and responding to online “rape fantasy” ads was in fact framed by the woman she was accused of impersonating, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday.
Michelle Hadley, 30, was behind bars for several months following her arrest in July, according to inmate records. She was charged with felony stalking, attempted forcible rape, violating a protective order and assault. Hadley was facing a possible sentence of life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said at the time.
But on Monday, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced that Hadley was the victim in the case, according to KTLA-TV. She has been exonerated.
Instead, another woman -- identified as 31-year-old Angela Maria Diaz, of Phoenix, Arizona -- faces a slew of charges after allegedly framing Hadley for stalking and attempted rape, the DA's office said in a news release.
Diaz has also allegedly faked cervical cancer and a pregnancy, pretended to be an attorney and forged doctor’s notes, the release stated.
Hadley walked out of court in Fullerton Monday after the case against her was dismissed. She teared up as she spoke to gathered news media.
"Obviously, this has been a huge nightmare for me," Hadley said. "Probably the most traumatic experience of my life, and I'm glad it's finally over."
At a news conference, Rackauckas described Hadley as an "innocent victim of a diabolical scheme."
“As important as the filing of charges against Ms. Diaz, is the dismissal of the previous complaint and full exoneration of Michelle Hadley,” Rackauckas said in the release. “This is a very detailed case. I wanted to make sure, however, that Ms. Hadley is cleared in every possible way – in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion. It should be clear in the media and in cyberspace. Ms. Hadley is an innocent victim of a diabolical scheme.”
Diaz has been married to a man, identified only as "John Doe," since February 2016. Hadley had a relationship with the same man, described over the summer by the DA's office as an agent with the U.S. Marshals Service, from August 2013 to August 2015.
Diaz and Doe married after meeting via a dating website in January 2016. In May, Diaz told her husband that she was pregnant with twins, the DA's office said.
About two weeks after announcing her pregnancy, Diaz went to the Anaheim Police Department and allegedly falsely reported harassing messages that she said were from Hadley. Diaz is accused of sending herself those emails in an effort to make it appear they were sent by Hadley.
Diaz then allegedly applied for, and obtained, a restraining order against Hadley by signing under penalty of perjury that she had been threatened by the other woman, according to the release.
"On many occasions from June 1, 2016, to July 13, 2016, Diaz is accused of falsely filing police reports with APD, calling for officers to respond to the home she shared with John Doe. The defendant is accused of making false claims that Hadley made threats against her life and the life of her unborn child," the release stated.
Also in June, Diaz allegedly posed as Hadley to respond to online advertisements that she wanted to engage in sex acts resembling rape, according to prosecutors. Diaz is also suspected of posting an ad stating she wanted to engage in "rape fantasies."
Diaz allegedly sent responders photos of herself and details about her own daily routine. She is also accused of telling them to have forcible sex with her, even if she screamed or resisted, the release stated.
At least two men who planned to travel to her residence to participate in the "rape fantasies" were intercepted by law enforcement, authorities said.
Diaz allegedly told Anaheim police at the time that she was being stalked by Hadley, and was not involved in the solicitations.
Later that month, in an apparent effort to bolster her claims against Hadley, Diaz called 911 and allegedly falsely reported that a man had entered her garage and attempted to rape her, prosecutors said. She showed police redness around her neck and breast, and arrived with a torn shirt, the DA's office said, providing photos of Diaz at the time she made the report.
Hadley was arrested by Anaheim police later that day -- on June 24 -- and then released the next morning on $100,000 bail.
After Hadley's arrest, Diaz allegedly reported that the threatening emails stopped. However, after the victim's release, Diaz began repeatedly sending threatening emails to herself and -- pretending to be Hadley again -- resumed responding to "rape fantasy" ads, according to the release.
The language in the emails became more violent, and the defendant tried to make it appear her life was being threatened by the victim, the DA's office said.
Hadley was again arrested on July 14 and held on $1 million bail. Her re-arrest and increase in bail were allegedly due to Diaz's false statements regarding the latest round of alleged email threats.
Hadley said her friends and relatives supported her, never believing she was guilty of the crimes of which she'd been accused.
She remained in jail until Oct. 7, "at which point sufficient evidence had been ascertained through extensive investigative efforts and the cooperation of the victim’s attorney," according to the DA's office. "OCDA and APD sought the victim’s immediate release on her own recognizance from custody while continuing to investigate Diaz."
Meanwhile, Diaz is also suspected of forging a paycheck from Orange County on Sept. 6 and trying to cash it, authorities said. She allegedly altered another check from her employer, trying to add $2,000 to the total, on April 22, the DA's office said.
Diaz was arrested on Jan. 6 in Phoenix.
Diaz was charged last week with the following: two felony counts of kidnapping; two felony counts of false imprisonment by menace, fraud, or deceit; one felony count of perjury; one felony count of grand theft; two felony counts of forgery; two felony counts of possession of a forged check over $950; one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting a crime to a police agency; and 21 misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting a crime to a peace officer.
If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 12 years and eight months in state prison, plus 11 years in county jail.
Diaz is still awaiting extradition from Arizona, and a court date has yet to be set.