DA: Hofstra student lied about rape; 4 released
September 17, 2009 By ANN GIVENS firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: James Carbone | A Hofstra student's rape claim was recanted, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Wednesday night. From left, From left, Jesus Ortiz, Kevin Taveras, Stalin Felipe and Rondell Bedward give a thumbs up after being released from a Nassau jail and cleared of all charges. (Sept. 16, 2009)
Rape charges dismissed; four released from jail.
DA: Hofstra rape claim was made up
The Hofstra University student who told police that she had been tied up in a college dormitory stall Sunday and gang-raped by five men –– one of them a student –– told prosecutors late Wednesday that she lied about the incident, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement.
–– EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Four men joyful in release; Hofstra students react to news
After hearing the news, prosecutors convened a late-night court hearing at First District Court in Hempstead, where Judge Robert Bruno signed an order dismissing the charges against the four men in the case, Rice said.
They were released a short time later from Nassau County Correctional Center in East Meadow and were greeted by family members who embraced them, laughing and weeping with joy.
–– PHOTOS: Rondell Bedward, Kevin Taveras, Stalin Felipe and Jesus L. Ortiz celebrate after being cleared of all charges
"I'm happy," said Kevin Taveras, 20, of Brentwood, as he walked from the jail. "I just want to go home now."
Asked what the past few days have been like, Taveras, who works for Cablevision, Newsday's parent company, said, "It was terrible. It was terrible. I feel like our names were tarnished. But maybe with all the news out, people will see we're not rapers."
In a phone conversation late Wednesday night, Stalin Felipe, 19, another of the accused, said he was relieved.
"I'm feeling great right now," said Felipe, who was with his sister, Carol Felipe, and Taveras at a relative's home in Brentwood. "Me and [Taveras] were smiling. We couldn't believe this was true. I thought it was a dream, a pretty good one."
The 18-year-old woman made a "full recantation" in an interview with two prosecutors Wednesday evening, and admitted that the encounter had been consensual.
The four men had told police that the sex had been consensual when they were arrested, one law enforcement source said.
Rice said her office has opened an "immediate criminal investigation into the statements and reports given by the woman in connection with this incident."
That investigation will determine whether the woman is charged with a crime, said Eric Phillips, a spokesman for the district attorney.
Phillips said prosecutors are not releasing the woman's name at this time, both because she has not been charged with a crime, and because they fear for her safety.
After hearing the woman had recanted her story, Hofstra Vice President of University Relations Melissa Connolly said Wednesday night, "This week has been a very difficult one for our entire community, and we will need time to heal and understand the events of the last few days."
The men arrested on the rape charges were Hofstra student Rondell Bedward, 21, Felipe, 19, and Jesus L. Ortiz, 19, all of the Bronx; and Taveras.
All had been charged with five counts of first-degree rape.
Outside the jail just before 11 Wednesday night, Felipe said he wants to move on.
"I don't even have any hard feelings," he said. "I am happy to be alive. To be a caged animal when you are not guilty is the worst."
But he added, "I'm 19. I have my whole life in front of me, and suddenly it was all over. I was facing 5 to 25 years in jail."
As for what he's going to do next, Taveras was concerned about his job. "I'm going to try to get my job back. HR called me and left a message, but I never got it because I was locked up."
Despite what happened, Taveras felt concerned for his accuser. "I don't know why she said what she did say. I hope she doesn't go through what we went through."
Taveras' father, however, was not feeling as magnanimous.
"No one from the system had the courtesy to call my house and let me know my son is released," said Ramiro Taveras, 43. "There's no words to describe what me and my family went through for these three days."
The woman had originally told police that she had been dancing with Ortiz at an on-campus party just before 3 a.m. when he grabbed her cell phone from her belt and went outside.
The woman told police she followed Ortiz to a dormitory hallway, where she was confronted by Felipe. The woman said the two men forced her into a men's room toilet stall, tied her up and raped her, police said. She said later the three other men entered the bathroom and raped her, too, police said.
Officials said the woman had immediately reported the incident to campus security. Hofstra then notified Nassau police. Within hours, the four men were arrested, officials said.
–– PHOTOS: Rondell Bedward, Kevin Taveras, Stalin Felipe and Jesus L. Ortiz celebrate after being cleared of all charges.
–– EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Four men joyful in release; Hofstra students react to news
Newsday writer Bill Mason and freelance writer Daniel Edward Rosen contributed to this story.
What gets me about this is the guilty by accusation. I guess it would not be a stretch imagine a guy walking down the street minding his own business and suddenly a woman tells a cop that guy raped me. He would immediately be hauled off to the precinct, fingerprinted and jailed pending a hearing all on the word of the woman. Granted rape is a terrible crime but these four guys were just put through the media ringer for nothing. I hope the DA throws some nice charges at the false accuser. The men should pursue civil action.
Sounds familiar doesn't it.
These poor bastards got a real screwing for the screw they got.
According to the DA, She likly won't be proscuted for filing a false claim, which is WRONG!
I just hope they didn't contract anything, or worse yet knock her up.
You know this thing really pisses me off. Those guys could have gone away for 25 to LIFE if convicted.... Kinda like Duke or Tawany Brawley....
And the people she REALLY hurt are future victims of violent sexual crimes....
Terribly sad, but I'm glad the truth came out.
If I was one of those 4 guys, I'd get a copy of the video, burn about 1000 copies and hand it out to ALL her future dates/suitors, HR directors of every place she applied for employment, neighbors, friends, etc...for the next 25 years
What did you expect from a chick that takes on 5 guys in a men's room?
C'mon give her a break......It was only 4 guys + 1 with a camera
Did anyone catch this gem in Newsday's Friday paper? Joye Brown was already high on my list of "reporters" I Can't Stand, and she just keeps giving me reasons to despise her.
Hofstra rape case: Five questions stand out
Five young men accused, four of them arrested and jailed. Young woman recants, and four innocent men are set free. Case closed, at least for now. But things are not so neat. And hardly over.
There are many lessons to be learned, and questions that need answering. Here are five.
1. The young men are free from jail. And free from false allegations of rape. But at the least, they were involved in an ugly incident - sex acts being performed by multiple young men and an 18-year-old freshman in a college dorm men's bathroom - and one of them used a cell phone camera to record part of the proceedings. The men did nothing illegal, but that doesn't make the behavior any less despicable. And what about the woman's behavior? Each of these men had sex with one woman while others watched, but the girl had sex with five men while others watched. Whose behavior is more "despicable"?
In a photograph, three of the four young men smiled and gave thumbs up signs on the night of their release. They had reason to be greatly relieved, and happy. But not proud.
2. Hofstra University, it turns out, did not have a gang rape on campus. But its reputation is tarnished, nonetheless. Five men - four visitors and a 21-year-old student - allegedly were involved with the 18-year-old freshman in a bathroom stall. And apparently no one noticed. Since when is a private business responsible for "noticing," or otherwise, the consensual sexual activities of adults?
That's hardly the notoriety Hofstra needs. And officials know it. "We are going to be talking to students about personal responsibility and responsible behavior," said vice president for university relations Melissa Connolly. "This represents an opportunity to talk." Better now than never. The school is going to talk to the students about personal responsibility? How does talking with adults about how they should or should not conduct their private sex lives constitute advocating personal responsibility?
3. One woman's lie could have sent five innocent young men to state prison for up to 25 years. Some students on campus I talked to Wednesday night angrily compared her to the woman who lied about three members of the Duke lacrosse team, falsely claiming they had sexually assaulted her.
Eric Phillips, a spokesman for the Nassau district attorney, said prosecutors were troubled by the Hofstra freshman's demeanor during the interview that turned into a confession. She was controlled, almost too cool.
Was that evidence of her lie? Or a sign of whatever fueled an incredibly poor decision to have sex with five men? Did she not want to stop? Did she not know how? And why did she go to campus security to report the incident only after first going to see her boyfriend, who began to ask her questions, according to prosecutors. Legalities aside, what constitutes informed consent for an 18-year-old in such a situation? Is Joye attempting to argue that this 18 year old adult is not able to give informed consent?
4. Nassau County police officials, I am told, were stunned when the district attorney's office told them the woman had recanted. But police - and Hofstra campus police - did the right thing in moving quickly to act on the woman's initial statement by questioning the suspects she had described. That's what should happen in the first stages of a rape investigation.
Here's what shouldn't happen. During a Nassau Police Department news conference Monday, a police official speculated that the young men planned the attack. The woman's false statement, on its face, was brutal enough. The speculation added fuel to fear on campus and outrage from a region already reeling from another campus-related crime hitting close to home - the killing at Yale of Annie Le.
5. A cell phone video of a portion of the sexual activity was key to gaining the young woman's confession. If not for the video - taken by one of the woman's alleged sex partners - four young men could still be in jail today. That would mean that neither the police department nor the district attorney's office had key evidence that destroyed the woman's statement.
And that's the most disturbing thing of all.