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Police in Charlottesville, Virginia have released the findings of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault at a University of Virginia fraternity described in a Rolling Stone magazine article late last year.
The story drew national attention, and, soon thereafter, scrutiny of the details in the account.
At a press conference today, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo discussed what his team found during the investigation that included multiple interviews with the alleged victim, known only as Jackie. Police also spoke with university officials, fraternity members and friends of the woman.
It's the first official report to discredit the account.
TIM LONGO, Chief, Charlottesville Police Department:
Unfortunately, we're not able to conclude to any substantive degree this an incident that is consistent with the facts contained in that article occurred at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house for that matter.
Now, I want to be clear about something. That doesn't mean that something terrible did not happen to Jackie on the evening of September the 28th, 2012. We're just not able to gather sufficient facts to conclude what that something may have been.
Joining me now is Taylor Rees Shapiro. He's a Washington Post reporter who uncovered inconsistencies in the original Rolling Stone piece and has been following the developments at the University of Virginia since.
Taylor Rees Shapiro, thank you for talking with us.
We know that Jackie's story, first, she described seven men physically assaulting her, being raped. What did the police investigation uncover?
T. REES SHAPIRO, The Washington Post:
The police investigation, which included interviewing 70 different people and spanned hundreds of manhours with the detectives, wasn't able to conclude with any sufficient evidence that the allegations that were detailed in Rolling Stone were true, meaning that they weren't able to prove that the actual gang rape had occurred.
So, in doing so, just give us some sense of not only who they talked to, but what they were told that didn't square with her story.
T. REES SHAPIRO:
The first thing the police aimed to do was confirm some details in the story, such as, did a party occur at the fraternity house on September 20, 2012? In order to do that, the police reached out to members of the house who lived there that year. And I believe they spoke to at least nine or 10 of them. And in the course of that investigation, they were able to show that, no, there had not been a party that night.
They also reviewed financial records and other statements from the fraternity to prove that. In addition to that, they are able to prove that, since there wasn't a party that night, they were able to at least say it was more definitive that it didn't occur at the house.
They also spoke, of course, as we said, with university officials. They spoke to friends of hers. And what did that produce?
The police interviewed three people who met Jackie in the immediate aftermath of the alleged attack. And they told a story that was significantly different from what was detailed in Rolling Stone.
Longo today said that they described a sexual attack that was significantly different in the details of what had occurred and what was detailed in Rolling Stone, and that too also led them to believe that there were inconsistencies in the account that was provided.
Was there anything in her account that they were able to corroborate?
They were able — as far as Longo is concerned, he said that their investigation is suspended. He said, by no imagination, does that mean that something horrible and terrible didn't occur to her, but that as far as they were concerned that the Rolling Stone account was discredited.
In talking to them privately, the university officials and others privately — you have been on this story for a long time — do they believe that something happened, something did happen to her in the fall of 2012?
I met Jackie multiple times, and I was stunned by the allegations that she was describing.
And when I talked with other people who knew her, they, too, believed that something had happened to her. Apparently, in the minutes afterward, when her friends met her that night, they said that she was crying, that she was extremely distraught, that she didn't appear physically hurt, but that she was just very emotional, and that they all concluded something terrible, akin to a sexual assault, must have occurred, in their eyes.
Taylor Shapiro, do you have an understanding of why she has not cooperated or not been willing to talk to police, further answer any more questions?
It's not clear to me. I have not been able to speak to Jackie since December. I have reached out to her lawyers, and they have all declined to comment.
I can't possibly say why, other than she just doesn't feel that she needs to.
Well, in watching this university community, how would you say — there was a reference today I think in the police chief's news conference about how the university community has dealt with this. How would you say they have dealt with it? What has changed on the campus, would you say, and do they feel there are lessons learned by this?
Well, University of Virginia's had sort of a rough few months that began in fall with the disappearance of Hannah Graham, then these Rolling Stone allegations, and most recently the arrest of a black student by white police officers in Charlottesville.
Overall, the students say it's very clear that sexual assault prevention, as a result of this article, became a very significant and hotly debated topic on campus and, if anything, it's raised the awareness of the issue and that has generated a lot of conversation, which they say is positive.
So, more awareness, more discussion?
Absolutely. And among the students, it's pretty clear that even one sexual assault on campus is one too many.
Taylor Rees Shapiro, who has been covering this story for The Washington Post, thank you.
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