Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hofstra University student's rape lie caused four young men to be arrested

As you read the stomach-churning news stories below, both of which chronicle yet another in a mind-numbing cavalcade of false rape cases, ask yourself this question: aside from rape claims, for what other alleged crime do we so freely hand one class of citizens the power to deprive another class of citizens of their liberty and their good names without provocation, without corroborating evidence, and without due process of law?

A young woman caused four young men, ranging in age from 19 to 21, to be arrested, to have their names tarnished in the news media, to have the anxiety of a long prison stretch hanging over their heads, and to have their reputations destroyed, possibly forever. Any time for the next fifty years that a prospective employer seeks information on one of them, he or she will need only Google their name and find the "facts" of the horrid allegations. Hopefully they will see that it was all a lie, that the woman made a full recantation, and that there is absolutely no evidence that a rape occurred.

The young woman originally said the men raped her; the men said it was consensual, a classic "he said/she said" scenario with competing claims of criminality. Yet only the men were automatically arrested while the woman was wrapped in the garb of victimhood. Their names were splashed all over the news. After she recanted, the prosecutor would not release her name -- because she hadn't been charged with a crime (say what?) -- and because the prosecutors feared for her safety. Never mind the safety of four young men branded with committing what many people think is the worst atrocity aside from murder. In fact, one of the men received a death threat while he was in jail, the New York Post reports (second news account below). That's what happens when men are accused of rape, even if it's false, and their names are splashed all over the news.

By the way, the New York Post identifies the false accuser as 18-year-old Freshman Danmell Ndonye. We will be watching to see what charges are brought against her.

We have handed our young women the keys to the jailhouse cell and have given them licence to destroy the lives of our young men, to deprive them of their liberty and to blacken their good names forever. And if you think that's hyperbole, you need to spend several days reading the true-life accounts on this web site. Someday, likely soon, one or more of the young men in this story will see this post and will learn that there is at least one website that goes to bat for the falsely accused. They will also learn that false rape claims are a very common problem for a lot of young men and some older men. I invite them not to slink back into their lives by putting this out of their minds. I invite them to join the fight, to spread the word, and to tell their stories here and elsewhere.


DA: Hofstra student lied about rape; 4 released

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.

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.

"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.



Suspects freed as co-ed recants tale

Last Updated: 7:47 AM, September 17, 2009

The Hofstra University co-ed who accused a fellow student and four of his pals of gang-raping her in a campus dorm stunningly recanted her claim last night, and the four suspects were sprung from jail just before 10:30 p.m.

"Late [last night] . . . the alleged victim of the sexual assault admitted that the encounter that took place early Sunday morning was consensual," said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

"I have launched an immediate criminal investigation into the statements and reports given by the woman in connection with this incident."

"Innocent until proven guilty!" shouted an elated Kevin Taveras, 20, a Cablevision worker from Brentwood, LI, after walking out of jail.

"I'm so happy. I'm glad to be going home."

His 19-year-old stepbrother, Stalin Felipe, who was also accused, said that although he was "very happy the truth came out, I'm still embarrassed."

"We were in jail for over 22 hours, and we had to sit there and see our names on TV blurted out calling me a rapist," he said.

"I have no comment for that girl."

The four were arrested after 18-year-old freshman Danmell Ndonye made her ugly, false accusation. The fifth innocent person she accused was never arrested and his name was not released.

Taveras and Felipe, along with Hofstra senior Rondell Bedward, 21, and Jesus Ortiz, 19, had been charged with first-degree rape. They'd been held in lieu of $500,000 bail each, and faced 25 years in prison if convicted.

At least one of them had received a death threat through his lawyer.

"I got a call from a blocked number saying I should keep my f- - -ing client off the campus. He's a dead man," said Taveras' lawyer, Victor Daly-Rivera.

Taveras, a student at Suffolk Community College, said, "I am very disappointed that she made up all those lies about us, and quite frankly, I don't even know her name."

A source said that surveillance video failed to back up Ndonye's original story.

She had told investigators that at around 3 a.m. Sunday, while at a frat party in an on-campus club at the Hempstead university, Ortiz had taken her cellphone .

She claimed that she followed him and his friends home to retrieve her phone, and rode the elevator with him to the 11th floor of Estabrook Hall.

There, she said, Felipe made advances on her, which she claimed she resisted.

She accused the five men of forcing her into a bathroom stall, tying her up and taking turns sexually assaulting her.

Bedward, in addition to being busted, was banned from campus and suspended.

"I want to let whatever happened in the past be the past, and I am looking forward to getting my life back together," Bedward said through tears last night.

His birthday is Saturday.

His furious mom, Mae Edwards, said, "He was wrongly accused by that young lady, who almost destroyed his life."

She said she hopes to "file charges. He almost had his degree taken away."

Bedward, a Bronx native, is a speech-communication and rhetorical-studies major who graduated from the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice in 2006.

Ortiz and Bedward adamantly denied having sex with Ndonye.

"I was so embarrassed and I am so upset," Ortiz said. "I have a great girlfriend at home. Why would I do something like this to another person?"

Fellow students were outraged at Ndonye.

"This is ridiculous," said senior Cyassandra Frith, 21.

"She should be charged -- she destroyed four people's lives."

Felipe, who is also a college student, was just looking forward to going home and taking a shower.
"It feels good to be out," he said.

Ndonye's relatives had security guards at their building shoo away reporters.

Additional reporting by Larry Celona and Lukas I. Alpert