Police find no evidence in U-Va rape case

Charlottesville police revealed on Monday that they found no evidence of gang rape in the infamous University of Virginia case:

Police here say they have found no evidence to support claims in a Rolling Stone article that a University of Virginia student was gang raped at a campus fraternity in September 2012, noting that months of investigation led detectives to discredit several claims about the alleged assault.

Police Chief Timothy J. Longo on Monday afternoon said the police department had multiple meetings with “Jackie” — the woman who claimed she was gang raped at a fraternity party — and that she declined to speak about the alleged incident or provide any information about it. Numerous lines of inquiry yielded evidence that the fraternity did not have a party the night of the alleged attack, and police were unable to find anyone matching the description of the alleged attacker.

“We’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house, for that matter,” Longo said at a news conference. “That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie … we’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is.”

I understand Longo’s position, however, the findings are fairly damning. Not only do they show that Jackie’s story is false, but they also show that she was unwilling to cooperate with police.

There is no way to spin this: it appears Jackie lied.

I understand that objectively speaking it is possible that something did happen to Jackie at another time and place. Yet that is not the accusation she made. She claimed several men raped her at a frat house after meeting one of the members at a pool she worked at. Neither the Washington Post or the police could confirm those claims. And it gets worse:

Detectives interviewed numerous Phi Kappa Psi members, including most of those who lived in the house in September 2012, at the time of the alleged attack. Longo said they found photographs of the house the night in question that show it empty and reviewed other records that indicate the house had no party on the night Jackie said she went to a party there, was lured upstairs and was attacked.

Longo also said police interviewed Jackie’s friends who met with her the night she said she left the fraternity bloody and shaken; they told police what they told The Post, that she was not physically injured and met them in a different location than was described in the Rolling Stone account.

Police also investigated the name for an alleged attacker — Haven Monahan – a name that Jackie gave her friends as the person she was going on a date with that night. That name that did not match anyone at the fraternity or at the University of Virginia, and police were unable to determine if such a person exists.

It still gets worse: Jackie made a different assault claim following the alleged raped (she claimed four men followed her and threw a bottle at her face). The police found major inconsistencies in that story, and twice asked Jackie about the alleged rape. This was in the spring 2014, before Rolling Stone ran the article. There would be no reason for Jackie to refuse to cooperate, yet she refused to talk to police.

Again, I understand the objective reasons for assuming that it is possible that something happened to Jackie. However, all the available evidence points in a different direction. I think the reasonable conclusion to draw is that this woman lied multiple times, changing her story with each lie, and told other lies about different assaults. She may come across as believable, but we should consider the possibility that she is simply good at convincing people something bad happened to her.

The damage that Jackie did is far more concerning. Policies were changed on various college campuses as a result of the fear mongering feminists drummed up following the Rolling Stone article. Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity at the center of the U-Va case, began “[…] exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone — damage both to the chapter and its members and to the very cause upon which the magazine was focused.”

It will be interesting to see how feminists react to the findings. These are the same results we saw months ago when the Washington Post investigated, which prompted only petulant tantrums from feminists, so I suspect the response will be the same.

However, I could be wrong. Feminists supporting Jackie could develop a sense of ethics, decency, and objectivity. They could look at the situation and admit they were conned by someone who told them exactly what they wanted to hear. Or they could try to spin it as yet another example of oppression against women.

That leaves one other person to deal with: Sabrina Erdely.

Erdely wrote the article, and since the fallout she has not made any public statements. Rolling Stone allowed their fact-checking process to be examined and the results will be released in a few weeks. Yet one wonders what will happen to Erdely. In any other situation, she would have been fired once the Post revealed her mistakes. I think Erdely has remained on the magazine pending the official investigation, and also because of the potential feminist backlash should Rolling Stone fire her over this article.

As cruel as it may sound, Erdely needs to lose her job. This is an journalistic ethical mistake of the highest order. At no point should Erdely have listened to Jackie’s request not to speak the accused parties, let alone ignore basic journalist guidelines by not fact-checking Jackie’s story. There were far too many chances for Erdely to catch Jackie in her lie, yet the writer’s desire for a juicy story trumped her ethics, assuming she had any, which led to the current mess. In any other situation, she would be fired.

The thing people should take from this is to not jump to conclusions. We ought not simply automatically believe any claim made, particularly when they involve high-profile people and institutions. That does not mean we should assume the accusers are lying. It only means that we should wait until we have more information before changing policies, pushing agendas, and accusing people and institutions of this, that, and the other. Let the information come out, then we can go on the attack if it is warranted.

If we react as people did in this situation, it will not only make us look foolish and turn attention from real cases more deserving of our attention, but it is will also make that much easier for someone to try it again. Let us not delude ourselves: the only reason Jackie got as far as she did with her lie is because there are people who will believe her story even when the evidence proves she is lying.

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5 thoughts on “Police find no evidence in U-Va rape case

  1. I still reckon that someone crying and saying they’ve been raped should be approached with sympathy and comfort. Unfortunately that’s not the job of a court of law.

    I don’t know enough about this story to comment, but sadly rape is a crime that leaves little or no evidence behind unless the victim is able and willing to go straight to the police if there’s still DNA on them.

    I’ve got nothing to say about Sabrina.

  2. AfaIk, Erdely is a freelancer, so RS can’t really fire her.
    As for future articles, I doubt anyone would touch her with a ten foot pole.

  3. I still reckon that someone crying and saying they’ve been raped should be approached with sympathy and comfort.

    James, I agree. Yet I also think that when accusations are made publicly we ought to exercise some objectivity and not simply assume the accusations are true or false. It is one thing to help a person. It is another to try someone in the court of public opinion.

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