Cville Police Release Details of UVA Rape Allegation Investigation
The November 4, 2014 Rolling Stone article described an alleged gang rape of a student named "Jackie" at Phi Kappa Psi house. UVA asked Charlottesville Police to investigate the allegations. Chief Longo says there is no evidence that there was a rape as described in the article.
In the press conference, Chief Longo detailed the steps of their investigation, saying investigators have spoken to more than 70 witnesses as they worked through this case, during hundreds of hours of police work.
Longo says factual discrepancies began early on when "Jackie" first met with UVA representatives.
"Jackie" refused to disclose the details of the sexual assault, nor did she wish to pursue the investigation involving the alleged physical assault,” Longo said. "Through her lawyer, she refuses to give a statement or answer any questions."
Police say the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity has been cooperative with investigators: Nine of 11 residents in the house in 2012 have been interviewed, and said they had no knowledge of a sexual assault or who "Jackie" was. Also, a photograph from the fraternity the night of the alleged rape shows no evidence of a party there that night.
The police chief also said that, when interviewed by investigators, "Jackie's" friends didn't support her story about what she claims happened in the article. Additionally, police can't identify the man "Jackie" claims to have been with at the fraternity on the night of the alleged rape.
Longo says the investigation of the case has been suspended but the case will remain open. “It's not closed by any stretch of the imagination, it's suspended." He says the fact investigators could not find evidence of the rape does not mean it didn't happen.
In the press conference, Chief Longo thanked those who have cooperated with the investigation and those who came forward to help detectives figure out what happened. The police chief also noted that the Rolling Stone article helped identify a matter of concern on all college campuses about sexual assaults.
UVA President Teresa Sullivan says she appreciates the police department's efforts in this investigation, releasing the following statement:
“On behalf of the University of Virginia, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Chief Timothy Longo and the Charlottesville Police Department for their thorough investigation into the allegations described in the November 2014 article in Rolling Stone magazine. I would also like to thank the individuals who cooperated with the police investigation. The investigation confirms what federal privacy law prohibited the University from sharing last fall: that the University provided support and care to a student in need, including assistance in reporting potential criminal conduct to law enforcement. Chief Longo's report underscores what I have known since well before the publication of the Rolling Stone article: that we at the University are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all of our students.
“We cannot fulfill our mission as an institution of higher learning without providing for the welfare of our students and our community. There is important work ahead as the University continues to implement substantive reforms to improve its culture, prevent violence and respond to incidents of violence when they occur. We will continue our collaborative partnership with the Charlottesville Police Department, united by our shared commitment to fostering a culture of respect while ensuring the safety and well-being of all members of our community.”
“These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault,” said Stephen Scipione, President of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi. “We hope that Rolling Stone's actions do not discourage any survivors from coming forward to seek the justice they deserve.”
We spoke with our legal expert, Lloyd Snook, about the investigation. He says the longer a victim waits to report a rape, the more difficult it is to prosecute, or even investigate, the case.
The more time goes on, the more testimonial, physical and forensic evidence is lost. Snook says this means prosecuting a case like this would be difficult even if “Jackie” wanted to press charges. Snook says DNA evidence is out of the question, and corroborating witnesses and evidence disappear over time.
Snook says right now, the gang rape described in the article would be virtually impossible to prosecute. “About the only thing they would be able to use would be somebody who says ‘yes I was in the room, yes, this happened.' Short of that, they're not going to be able to bring a case because you either need a victim or you need an eyewitness or you need a videotape of what happened.”
Snook also says the case would be difficult to prosecute even if the victim or a witness came forward. When a case is brought years after an alleged sexual assault, he says juries are skeptical about it.