An unemployed dance teacher who falsely accused ‘X Factor’ judge Louis Walsh of groping him in a nightclub has suffered from post-traumatic stress for more than a decade, a court has heard.
Leonard Watters is appealing against a six-month sentence for making two false reports to gardaí that the pop music mogul sexually assaulted him in Dublin nightspot Krystle in April 2011.
His solicitor, Cahir O’Higgins, told Dublin Circuit Court that new medical reports revealed the father-of-two has suffered from post-traumatic stress since he was badly burned in an accident when he was 11 years old.
He described his 24-year-old client, who has been on bail since he was sentenced in January, as a Walter Mitty-type character who became star-struck over the company he was with in the celebrity nightclub and made an idiotic allegation which was the ultimate cry for help.
Judge Katherine Delahunt adjourned her decision until Friday morning.
The court heard Watters went to The Irish Sun newspaper with his story the day he made an official complaint to gardaí.
Walsh is suing Newsgroup Newspapers, publishers of The Sun, for defamation over an article it published on June 23 last year.
The paper has accepted the accusation was false but denied defamation, saying that it had acted fairly.
A watching brief for Walsh was in court for the short appeal hearing.
Detective Inspector Michael Cryan said Watters met Mr Walsh and friends in a Dublin pub on Saturday April 9, before they travelled to Krystle together.
Later, at about 4.30am, Watters approached a Garda outside the Harcourt Street club, alleging he had been sexually assaulted by the pop impresario.
The defendant was taken to a city centre hospital where an examination in a sexual assault unit showed bruising to his genitals.
He also repeated the allegation to a doctor, a nurse and two more gardaí.
Det Insp Cryan said Watters missed two appointments with gardaí but made an official complaint to him on June 14.
“Straight away he contacted The Sun newspaper,” he told the court.
Watters showed investigators the nightclub toilet where he alleged the offence took place and signed a formal statement on June 20.
“The story appeared in the Sun on the 23rd of June,” Det Insp Cryan added.
The senior garda said Walsh was questioned under caution the next day and denied the allegation.
Three days later, on June 27, Watters was shown CCTV footage from the club which did not support his allegations.
“He then accepted he made it up and that the allegation was false,” Det Insp Cryan added.
Watters, from Navan, Co Meath, was arrested at his home and charged before publicly apologising to Walsh for the unfounded claims.
In January, at the District Court, Judge Dermot Dempsey imposed a six -month prison sentence.
Appealing against the sentence, Mr O’Higgins told Judge Delahunt Watters had brought himself on a “fantastical strange journey”.
He said the new medical report citing post-traumatic stress disorder backed psychological, psychiatric and probation reports previously handed in.
Dressed in a black suit and white shirt, Watters, who has previous convictions for breaching a barring order under domestic violence laws and for driving offences, did not speak during the hearing.
Mr O’Higgins again outlined how the former dancer blew €800,000 in compensation awarded when he reached 18 years for “horrific” 80% burns he suffered as a child after a friend threw a flammable liquid on a fire.
The early school leaver had to undergo 37 different medical procedures, with more surgery planned, had attempted suicide and had appalling judgment over the company he kept.
Mr O’Higgins said a third party had suggested he contact The Sun, adding that while his client still maintains he was assaulted that night, he accepts it was not by Walsh whose reputation he damaged.
But the solicitor said the incident was a turning point for Watters, who had faced his alcohol problems.
Watters now attends church, he said, speaks to his parish priest regularly, has been on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and is a volunteer at a local charity shop.
“The one good thing to come from all of this is he has had to reflect,” added Mr O’Higgins.