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Charlottesville police find no evidence in U-Va. sexual assault case

Police say that an investigation has found no evidence to support a discredited Rolling Stone story about a gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the campus of the University of Virginia. (Video: Reuters)

(Updated: Police find no evidence of alleged sexual assault)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — Police here say they have found no evidence to support claims in a Rolling Stone article that a University of Virginia student was gang raped at a campus fraternity in September 2012, noting that months of investigation led detectives to discredit several claims about the alleged assault.

Police Chief Timothy J. Longo on Monday afternoon said the police department had multiple meetings with “Jackie” — the woman who claimed she was gang raped at a fraternity party — and that she declined to speak about the alleged incident or provide any information about it. Numerous lines of inquiry yielded evidence that the fraternity did not have a party the night of the alleged attack, and police were unable to find anyone matching the description of the alleged attacker.

“We’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house, for that matter,” Longo said at a news conference. “That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie … we’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is.”

The announcement came after a five-month investigation spurred by allegations of a brutal fraternity house gang-rape described in a 9,000-word magazine account that went viral online in November. The Rolling Stone report unraveled under scrutiny, as the accuser’s version of events was publicly challenged by her friends, members of the fraternity and sexual assault advocates on campus. After Washington Post reports revealed flaws in the account, Rolling Stone’s editors backed away from it.

Longo’s statement was the first official discrediting of the account, but he said he would keep the investigation open in case witnesses wanted to come forward with anything that might lead police to any information about an attack.

[Read the Charlottesville Police Department’s investigative report.]

The Rolling Stone article examined allegations of sexual assault at U-Va. and what it characterized as the administration’s apparent lackluster response; the article fueled an ongoing national debate about the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses. The article focused on a junior named Jackie who told the pop culture magazine that she was attacked by seven men during a party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in 2012 after she went on a date with one of the men.

In interviews with The Post, Jackie said that she stood by the account she provided to Rolling Stone.

“I never asked for this” attention, she said in an interview. “What bothers me is that so many people act like it didn’t happen. It’s my life. I have had to live with the fact that it happened — every day for the last two years.”

[See a timeline of the case]

Jackie also told The Post that she never expected that a police investigation would be fruitful, saying numerous times that she did not expect any charges in her case. She said she knew there was little, if any, forensic evidence that could prove the allegations two years afterward.

A Post investigation into the claims found significant inconsistencies in the account. Phi Psi fraternity members strongly rebutted the allegations, saying they did not have a party on the night in question and did not have a member fitting the description of the alleged attacker; an alleged attacker — who Jackie told friends she was on a date with that night — turned out not to be a U-Va. student, had not been in Charlottesville in years, attends another school in another state, and said he barely knew Jackie; and Jackie’s friends told The Post that her version of events to the magazine did not match what they saw on the night she claims she was assaulted.

Police said they confirmed these same findings. They also said that an alleged physical assault Jackie reported — when she told police that four men followed her and then threw a bottle at her face — had significant inconsistencies. It was at that time — in spring 2014 — that police twice asked Jackie about the alleged sexual assault at the urging of a university officials, and Jackie declined to talk to police about it.

[U-Va. students challenge Rolling Stone account of alleged sexual assault.]

After the Rolling Stone article published, Longo’s force began investigating the claims at the behest of University President Teresa A. Sullivan. He said they were “horrific allegations,” and police immediately went to work. He said Jackie agreed to an interview with police after Thanksgiving break, but on Dec. 2 went to the department with a lawyer and declined to give police a statement, answer any questions, or give police access to her university records.

Detectives interviewed numerous Phi Kappa Psi members, including most of those who lived in the house in September 2012, at the time of the alleged attack. Longo said they found photographs of the house the night in question that show it empty and reviewed other records that indicate the house had no party on the night Jackie said she went to a party there, was lured upstairs and was attacked.

Longo also said police interviewed Jackie’s friends who met with her the night she said she left the fraternity bloody and shaken; they told police what they told The Post, that she was not physically injured and met them in a different location than was described in the Rolling Stone account.

Police also investigated the name for an alleged attacker — Haven Monahan – a name that Jackie gave her friends as the person she was going on a date with that night. That name that did not match anyone at the fraternity or at the University of Virginia, and police were unable to determine if such a person exists.

Late last year, The Post pursued information about that same name, which ultimately appeared to be a combination of names belonging to people Jackie interacted with while in high school in Northern Virginia, both of them swimmers. Both of those people – who attend different colleges and bear no resemblance to the description Jackie gave of her attacker – said in interviews that they knew of Jackie but did not know her well and certainly did not have contact with her after she left for U-Va.

The Post also obtained a photograph that was purportedly of Monahan and determined that that photograph was of a third person, a student who attended high school with Jackie. That other person – also a swimmer – is a student at a different college out of state and was competing in an athletic event on the date of the alleged attack. He said he had not been in Charlottesville for at least six years and never had any sort of a relationship with Jackie. He expressed shock that his photograph was used in connection with the allegations and asked not to be identified for his safety.

Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner announced in December that Columbia University would examine the magazine’s reporting of the U-Va. story. Columbia journalism school dean Stephen Coll told The Post that the school’s investigation will be published in Rolling Stone in the next two weeks.