By Mike Carter
Sunday, October 28, 2007
SEATTLE -- A federal grand jury in Seattle is investigating allegations by a Washington state woman who said she was raped, assaulted and threatened by magician David Copperfield at his private island in the Bahamas in July, at least three federal law enforcement officials have confirmed.
Even though the alleged crime occurred out of the country, federal agents have claimed jurisdiction in the case because the woman's trip began and ended in the United States.
The Seattle office of the FBI, which is heading the investigation, raided Copperfield's property warehouse and magic museum in Las Vegas last week. The search warrant remains sealed.
No indictment or criminal charges have been filed against Copperfield, and his attorney, David Chesnoff of Las Vegas, said Friday that "Copperfield has never forced himself on anyone."
The woman has reported that she and her family were approached at a Jan. 25 Copperfield performance in Kennewick, Wash., by a member of his entourage almost as soon as they entered the auditorium, the federal sources said. They were led to special seats, and Copperfield selected the woman to come on stage as part of his act.
The woman told investigators that Copperfield later promised that he could help with her modeling career and invited her to his isolated $50 million private retreat at Musha Cay, the sources confirmed.
She said Copperfield assured her that there would be other guests at the 150-acre resort, which is restricted to a maximum of 24 guests and rents for as much as $50,000 a night. About 85 miles from Nassau, the retreat is accessible only by charter plane and then private boat.
When the woman, 21, made the trip in late July -- after exchanging e-mails with Copperfield, 51 -- she found herself the only guest on the island with him, she told investigators. She has told Seattle police, and later the FBI, that Copperfield raped and struck her during her two days on the island, said sources familiar with her allegations.
She said that, afterward, Copperfield threatened her, telling her she had better keep quiet, and then escorted her onto a plane, sources said.
Chesnoff said Friday that he could not comment on the allegations.
"We have said we are going to honor the confidentiality of the investigation," Chesnoff said, adding that he was disappointed that some in law enforcement have chosen not to do the same. "Apparently, [they] don't have the same respect for the law, and it casts doubt on the integrity of this investigation."
After leaving Nassau, the woman flew to Florida and then Seattle, where she told her family what happened and went to a local hospital, sources said. A rape kit was assembled, and a federal source has confirmed that some of her clothing was taken as evidence.
The woman also reported the matter to Seattle police, who said a report was taken but will not release it. Federal sources and others said the woman was told that the department has no jurisdiction to investigate a crime that occurred in another country, and that the department took no other action.
The woman then went to federal prosecutors in Seattle, who asked the FBI to investigate.
Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, would not comment. Two of the office's top prosecutors have been assigned to oversee the investigation, and evidence is being presented to a grand jury, according to law enforcement sources.
Seattle Times staff writer Steve Miletich contributed to this report.