Police Suspend Inquiry Into University Of Virginia Sexual Assault Case

Mar 23, 2015
Originally published on March 30, 2015 4:07 pm

The Charlottesville, Va., police chief cited a lack of evidence to support the alleged incident that was publicized in a Rolling Stone magazine article. The story influenced a national dialogue on campus sexual assault, but Rolling Stone's reporting later came into doubt.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Police in Charlottesville, Va., have suspended their investigation into a fraternity house rape at the University of Virginia. They cited a lack of evidence. The alleged incident was the subject of a Rolling Stone Magazine article last November. It went viral and later was discredited. Reporter Sandy Hausman of member station WVTF joins us now. And, Sandy, what have the police learned about the case of the woman whom Rolling Stone called Jackie?

SANDY HAUSMAN, BYLINE: Well, after more than three months of investigation and questioning about 70 people, police said they could find no basis for criminal charges. Jackie had told Rolling Stone that she was invited to the prestigious Phi Kappa Psi fraternity during her freshman year. There, she told the magazine, she was plied with alcoholic punch and raped by seven young men. But Police Chief Tim Longo says questioning of fraternity members cast doubt on Jackie's claim.

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TIM LONGO: Nine of the 11 residents who were in the house in 2012 were interviewed and had no knowledge regarding a sexual assault, nor did they know the person known as Jackie. Further investigation revealed no evidence that a party had taken place on September 28 as well.

HAUSMAN: Police said the account Jackie gave did not match what she told school administrators or her friends, and investigators were unable to identify the man Jackie said had brought her to the party. Police said they'd spoken with Jackie once in the presence of her lawyer after the Rolling Stone article appeared, but she refused to give a statement. Longo said victims of rape should have that right, but he wants them to know that prosecution is more difficult with the passage of time.

SIEGEL: And as I understand it, Jackie, the alleged victim, wasn't cooperating with police in this investigation.

HAUSMAN: I think that's a fair statement. But the chief of police says that's not proof that she was trying to mislead anyone and there are no plans to prosecute her. They just don't have evidence of what might have happened.

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LONGO: And that doesn't mean that something terrible did not happen to Jackie. We are just not able to gather sufficient facts to conclude what that something may have been.

HAUSMAN: The case remains open, but it's not something they're actively working on now.

SIEGEL: Sandy, how has the University of Virginia reacted to this news?

HAUSMAN: Well, UVA President Teresa Sullivan thanked the police, saying the investigation showed what federal privacy law prohibited it from sharing last fall, that UVA provided support and care to a student in need, including assistance in reporting potential criminal conduct to law enforcement. She added, however, that there is important work ahead. UVA was one of 55 colleges singled out by the U.S. Department of Education for the way it's handled rape investigations in the past.

SIEGEL: And has anything changed on the University of Virginia Charlottesville campus since the Rolling Stone's story appeared?

HAUSMAN: Yes, definitely. Fraternities have agreed to new operating agreements with UVA requiring that at least three members remain sober during any parties where alcohol's served and that one of them be assigned to monitor the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. The agreements also banned kegs of beer and what's known as trashcan punch - those sweet mixes that make it hard for drinkers to know just how much alcohol they're consuming. Wine has to be poured in plain sight. Beer has to be in bottles or cans, and mixed drinks can only be served by a licensed bartender. Also, at the request of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, a group of students, alumni and administrators has been meeting to look at the university's culture overall. And a final report is due from that group on April 30.

SIEGEL: Sandy Hausman of member station WVTF. Sandy, thank you.

HAUSMAN: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.