Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said in a press conference Monday, March 23 that investigators have found no evidence to support the claims of a 2012 gang rape at UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity detailed in an explosive Rolling Stone story and attributed to a University student referred to only by her first name, “Jackie.”
“A Rape on Campus,” published in November 2014, rocked the community and thrust the University into the center of an ongoing national debate over campus sexual assault and the role schools should play in preventing and punishing it. But within weeks, the story began falling apart. Author Sabrina Rubin Erdely admitted she hadn’t tried to contact the alleged rapists or verify the account with Jackie’s friends. Other news outlets attempted to do both, and as inconsistencies piled up, Rolling Stone issued two separate apologies, saying they believed the magazine’s trust in Jackie had been “misplaced.”
In Monday’s 40-minute meeting with reporters and in a six-page document summing up the department’s investigation, police detailed their efforts and findings over several months spent looking into the allegations.
Longo said Jackie first told UVA Dean Nicole Eramo about a sexual assault on May 20, 2013 after she was referred to the administrator because of poor grades. In that meeting, Jackie told Eramo that she “went to a party at an unknown fraternity on Madison Lane and was sexually assaulted.”
At the press conference, Longo said that account was “wholly inconsistent” with the violent story of a gang rape detailed in the Rolling Stone story, but he declined to elaborate on the inconsistencies.
Nearly a year later, on April 21, 2014, Jackie met with Eramo again, Longo said. This time, she had more to tell, and the next day, police were called in. On April 22, in a meeting with an investigator and Eramo, Jackie described a physical assault that had happened just a few weeks before: On April 6, she was followed by four men on the Corner near Elliewood Avenue, one of whom called out to her and then threw a bottle that struck her in the face. Longo said she told the officer her roommate had to pick glass shards out of her cuts, and that she called her mom from the Elliewood Avenue parking garage. In the same meeting, she revealed more about the alleged 2012 assault, saying it had happened at the Phi Psi fraternity House, said Longo. She provided no further details, he said, and when Charlottesville Detective Sergeant David Via met with her again the following week, she told them she didn’t want to proceed with an investigation of the April physical assault and again refused to discuss the 2012 sexual assault.
That was the last the department heard from Jackie for seven months, Longo said. On November 19, the day the Rolling Stone story published online, UVA President Teresa Sullivan contacted police and requested an investigation, and Detective Via quickly realized the woman at the center of the story was the same Jackie he had talked to back in the spring, Longo said. Via called and e-mailed her offering support and help. She agreed to meet after the Thanksgiving break.
On December 2, 2014, she came to the police station with UVA Dean Laurie Casteen and her Legal Aid attorney, said Longo, and through her lawyer refused to give a statement or answer any questions. She later declined to give permission for UVA to release records pursuant to the police investigation, he said.
“Since that time, despite numerous attempts to gain her cooperation, ‘Jackie’ has provided no information whatsoever to investigators,” reads the investigation summary released by the department.
Longo said police have devoted “a lot of time and resources” to investigating the Rolling Stone account anyway. They reviewed redacted documents from Eramo’s meetings with Jackie and from a separate anonymous sexual assault. They acquired a Phi Psi membership roster and interviewed nine of the 14 men living there when the alleged 2012 sexual assault took place. They interviewed two of Jackie’s friends mentioned in the story. They searched for any record of the student she’d called Haven Monahan—“Drew” in the Rolling Stone story, the man she told friends took her on a date and then orchestrated her assault—and tried to track down his phone number. They interviewed supervisors at the UVA Aquatic Center, where Jackie told Erdely she and her assailant both worked.
Their searches yielded no evidence that supported the claims made in the Rolling Stone story, Longo said: Bank records and a photo from inside the Phi Psi house on the night of the alleged assault indicate the fraternity did not have a party that night. None of the men interviewed admitted to knowing anything about a sexual assault and did not know Jackie. Her friends said they were told a dramatically different story than the one that appeared in the magazine. Web searches turned up no records of Haven Monahan and the number Jackie’s friends were told belonged to him could only be traced to a Google voice account, which Google would not release details for. The Aquatic Center supervisors could recall nobody named Haven Monahan or Drew working there.
“Unfortunately, we’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident that is consistent with the facts contained in that article occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, or any other fraternity house, for that matter,” Longo said.
Police also investigated Jackie’s claim of being struck by a bottle on the Corner in April 2014, Longo said. Her roommate at the time told police she had never picked glass of Jackie’s wounds, and a photo of Jackie’s face allegedly taken the week after the attack showed swelling and an abrasion, but not injuries “consistent with being struck by a blunt object.” In addition, police checked Jackie’s phone records, Longo said, and could not find a record of the call she claimed she made to her mother that night.
Their findings don’t mean that “something terrible” didn’t happen to Jackie, Longo said. “We are just not able to gather sufficient facts to conclude what that something may have been. So this case is not closed,” it’s merely suspended until police obtain any further information.
At the press conference, Longo stressed the importance of early police involvement in cases of sexual assault—something he has emphasized in earlier public discussions about the Rolling Stone story.
“With every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year, we lose evidence,” he said. “We lose testimonial evidence, we lose physical evidence, we lose forensic evidence. We lose the evidence that’s important to get to the truth behind these cases so that justice can prevail.”
He said he believes offering victims of campus sexual assault multiple options when they report is important, but, he added, “once they’re in a position to listen and think through the next series of options, I would want them to really have the opportunity to hear how time can damage our ability to gather evidence.”
Jackie has not been charged with any crime. Longo says he doesn’t know if the city ever charged anyone with making a false report of rape, and he wouldn’t pursue such a charge without the support of the Commonwealth’s attorney.
There were certain things he wouldn’t speculate on, either.
“Why do you think Jackie told her story to the Rolling Stone reporter and wouldn’t talk to you?” asked one reporter as the press conference wound down.
Longo’s reply: “I can’t answer that question.”