Michelle Hadley was a 29-year-old graduate student living in California when her ex-boyfriend falsely accused her of a grisly crime. When the case broke in early 2017, she had lost her job, her reputation, and her faith in law enforcement.
But late last week, a federal jury convicted the ex-boyfriend, Ian Diaz, a former deputy US sheriff, of setting up Hadley by making it appear she had lured men into her home to sexually assault her. to his then wife.
Diaz had framed Hadley as part of a twisted plot to get her to walk away from a condo they had bought together, according to federal prosecutors.
The guilty verdict represents a new round of vindication for Hadley, who spent 88 days in jail as a result of Diaz’s plan and who has waited more than six years for him to pay for his crimes.
“I am very grateful to him. [Justice Department Office of Inspector General] for the work they put into this case and to the jury for a conviction that has brought so much peace to my family and restored some of the faith we lost in the justice system as a result of Diaz’s crimes against me,» Hadley said. it’s a statement. statement to NBC News.
Diaz’s conviction could not have come at a happier time in Hadley’s life. Incredibly, it happened the same day that she gave birth to her first child, a girl.
“My life has been full of strange, often symbolic and sometimes beautiful coincidences like this one,” Hadley said. «My daughter represents my rainbow after a very long storm, and my heart has never felt so full.»
The criminal case dates back to the spring of 2016.
After Hadley’s two-year relationship with Diaz ended in August 2015, they became embroiled in a dispute over his Anaheim condo, according to federal prosecutors.
Diaz married a different woman in February 2016.
In May of that year, he and his new wife, Ángela Díaz, created several online accounts under Hadley’s name. They then used the accounts to lure men found on Craisglist to come to his house to engage in a «rape fantasy» with Angela, according to the indictment.
The plot worked: Diaz and his wife staged «one or more false sexual assaults» and then contacted police to say Hadley was responsible for hiring the men, prosecutors say.
When police showed up at Diaz’s home on June 13, 2016, they told officers that Hadley «should be handcuffed and in a padded room,» the indictment says.
Diaz said he investigated threats made to federal judges and prosecutors in his role as federal marshal, but had «never seen anything like it,» according to the indictment.
«At what point does this girl get arrested for sending this s— and hiring Craigslist guys to rape [Angela]he also told the officers, the indictment says.
Hadley was arrested by Anaheim police a week and a half later, after Diaz’s wife called 911 to report that she had been sexually assaulted and that Hadley was responsible for setting him up, the indictment says.
She was charged with felony attempted forcible rape and stalking, and faced life in prison if convicted.
Hadley ultimately spent about three months in jail before the charges were dropped in January 2017.
In a press conference at the time, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas described Hadley as an «innocent victim of a diabolical plan.»
Ángela Díaz was charged with 10 felonies. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison in October 2017.
Angela Diaz, who is now divorced from Ian, could not be reached.
Hadley filed a lawsuit against the city of Anaheim and four of its police officers in late 2018, alleging that they rushed to charge her based on “clearly doctored” emails.
“At its core, this is a ‘blue wall of silence’ case: law enforcement officers and officials allowing their peers to violate the rights of civilians,” the lawsuit says.
“The Anaheim Police Department and its officers abdicated their duties to adhere to investigative standards and instead conspired to carry out the orders of a corrupt federal marshal. … They appear to have willingly become Ian Diaz’s weapon in his devious campaign to ruin the life of his ex-girlfriend, plaintiff Michelle Hadley.”
Hadley accepted a settlement from the city of Anaheim in April 2021. The amount was not disclosed.
A month later, Diaz was arrested on federal charges of cyberstalking, conspiracy to commit cyberstalking, and perjury.
Prosecutors and law enforcement did not say why it took five years to charge him.
Diaz’s trial began earlier this month. The jury found him guilty on all counts on March 23 after deliberating for less than two days.
His sentencing is set for June 30. Díaz, now 44, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
“Ian Diaz abused his position as Deputy US Marshal to execute an intricate cyberstalking scheme that framed an innocent person for sexual assault, leading to his wrongful imprisonment for 88 days,” the attorney general said. Deputy Kenneth A. Polite of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. .
Diaz’s attorney, Karen Goldstein, did not respond to a request for comment.
Carrie Goldberg, the attorney who handled Hadley’s federal lawsuit, praised the Justice Department team that successfully prosecuted Diaz.
“Last year through our civil case, Michelle obtained financial justice for Anaheim. Today, she gets justice against Ian Diaz, the mastermind,” Goldberg said. «Let this be a warning to criminals around the world who dare to use the criminal justice or legal systems as weapons, they will not get away with it.»
Hadley described the past few years as «very difficult and emotional» due to a number of factors «not least of which is this case.» But she has managed to move on and give back.
He has started his own retail business and has helped raise funds for a shelter for victims of domestic violence.
I hope my story becomes a beacon of hope for other survivors of domestic violence. I want them to know that they are not alone,» Hadley said. «There are so many wonderful people in this world who care and will fight alongside them.»