Following an investigation spanning several months and hundreds of police hours, Charlottesville police are suspending the investigation into the alleged sexual assault detailed in a November Rolling Stone article, finding no evidence to corroborate any of the article’s central claims pertaining to the assault.
Police launched the investigation in November at the request of University President Teresa Sullivan after the magazine published an article detailing a graphic sexual assault of a then-first year student, identified as “Jackie,” in Sept. 2012 at a fraternity house. The fraternity at the center of the initial fervor was cleared of any involvement in the incident back in January.
“We are not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident that is specific to the facts contained in that article occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house for that matter,” Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo said at a Monday press conference. “I want to be clear about something — that does not mean that something terrible did not happen on Sept. 28, 2012. We are just not able to gather sufficient facts as to what that something may have been.”
Longo said the investigation has been suspended, but not formally closed.
During the investigation, police discovered that the report detailed in the Rolling Stone article differed significantly from the report Jackie made to Asst. Dean of Students Nicole Eramo in May 2013 about the assault — at which time she did not identify a fraternity or a house. It was also different from the account she told two of her friends on the night of the alleged assault.
Jackie told Eramo about the alleged assault during a meeting to discuss her academic performance, Longo said.
A summary of the police investigation provided to media Monday said Eramo “provided 'Jackie' with the options available per U.Va. protocol in place at the time."
Police were first made aware of the incident in April 2014, when Jackie spoke with police regarding a second incident in which Jackie said four men pursued her and threw a glass bottle at her as she walked down Elliewood Avenue on the Corner. She declined to pursue criminal charges and asked police not to pursue the alleged Sept. 2012 assault.
In Brief: A timeline of The Rolling Stone controversy
Throughout the investigation into the claims in Rolling Stone, police spoke with 70 individuals, including several members of Phi Psi fraternity. Police also interviewed several individuals who worked at the Aquatic and Fitness Center — where Jackie said she met one of her alleged attackers, identified as “Drew” in the article. Police found nobody matching Drew’s description, but did interview a second individual “whose name surfaced during the course of the investigation” who worked at the AFC and was in a different fraternity. Police interviewed him along with several members of his fraternity and found no evidence supporting the Rolling Stone allegations.
Longo said most individuals were fully cooperative with the investigation, including the article’s author Sabrina Erdely, and he thanked University President Teresa Sullivan and the University staff for providing interviews and records which aided in the investigation.
Police did attempt to interview Jackie during the investigation, but she declined to offer a statement. The last contact they had with her was in early December, when she visited police with the accompaniment of Assoc. Dean of Students Laurie Casteen and a legal representative from the Legal Aid and Justice Center.
"Since that time, despite numerous attempts to gain her cooperation, 'Jackie' has provided no information whatsoever to investigators," according to the investigation summary. "In an effort to access certain records pertaining to 'Jackie' that would aid in our investigation, efforts were made through her legal counsel to obtain her written consent. Those efforts, too, were met with negative results."
Police found no evidence that Phi Psi hosted a party on the night of Sept. 28, 2012 — also noting the organization’s “sister sorority,” Delta Gamma, was hosting a formal that night, making it unlikely the fraternity would have hosted a party. They also found a picture taken that night which showed the fraternity house nearly empty.
Eyewitnesses told police they saw no physical injuries on Jackie on the night of the alleged assault.
Longo said the investigation also led to questions about the accuracy of Jackie’s alleged assault on the Corner in April 2014, noting that she said her roommate, a nursing student, had to pick glass off of her face that night. The roommate told investigators this did not occur, but noted there was an abrasion on her face — corroborated by a photograph taken around the time of the incident. Jackie also said she called her mother from the Elliewood parking lot, which phone records did not show.
Police investigators also could not substantiate claims of additional sexual assaults referenced in Jackie’s conversations with Eramo — in 2010 and 2014, both occurring at the Phi Psi fraternity house. Jackie did not identify the victims of these alleged assaults.
“We have no evidence of that — nobody has come forward making such allegations, no witnesses, no victims,” Longo said. “But we’re asking if anybody has information related to a sexual assault that occurred in 2010 at that fraternity house, or 2014 at that fraternity house, or any other fraternity house, that they please cooperate with police to bring that to our attention.”
Longo said he would not pursue charges of making false allegations of sexual assault without the agreement of the commonwealth attorney.
In a statement following the announcement of the investigation’s results, Sullivan thanked Longo and the Charlottesville police for their “thorough investigation” into the Rolling Stone allegations.
“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,” Sullivan said. “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.”
Longo emphasized the importance of survivors being aware of the resources available to them when reporting their attacks, and noted the importance of timely reporting in the criminal justice process.
“Having police involvement in the very early stages of these cases is extremely, extremely important,” Longo said. “Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every month of every year, we lose evidence.”
Evidence is important to get to the truth so “justice can prevail,” Longo said.
The police chief said Charlottesville police “will continue to stand by students” after seven tumultuous months at the University.