An investigation found "no substantive basis" a gang-rape occurred in a fraternity house at the University of Virginia (UVA) as reported in Rolling Stone magazine in November, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said Monday at a press conference.
Longo opened the investigation on Nov. 19—the same day the later-discredited article was published—at the request of UVA President Teresa Sullivan.
The original account
The Rolling Stone article gives the account of one student, Jackie, who says she was gang-raped by seven men at a Phi Kappa Psi party her freshmen in 2012 and goes on to detail her frustration with the administration's and her peers' responses to the allegations. In the article, the victim says she felt abandoned by the school and many of her classmates. She did not file a police report, but did report the incident to UVA's Sexual Misconduct Board.
Background: UVA suspends Greek activities in wake of Rolling Stone article
Within weeks, several publications, including the New York Times and Washington Post, raised questions about discrepancies between Jackie's account and information that could be independently verified. In December, Rolling Stone backed away from the article and commissioned the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism to conduct an independent review of the magazine's editorial process and story. That report is set to be released in about two weeks.
Charlottesville police say they spoke with about 70 people during the four-month investigation, although Jackie did not cooperate.
Among findings, the accounts Jackie's friends gave of the night in question do not match her story and police could find no evidence Phi Kappa Psi hosted an event on the night in question.
"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 house, or any other fraternity house for that matter," Longo said. "That doesn't mean that something terrible did not happen to Jackie on the evening of Sept. 28, 2012—we are just not able to gather sufficient facts to conclude what that something may have been," he said.
The investigation has been suspended he says, but not closed. Jackie will not be charged with filing a false report, he says.
"There's a difference between a false allegation and something that happened that may be different than something that is reported in the article," Longo said, adding "All I can tell you is there is no substantive basis to conclude what is described in the article happened that night."
In 2014, Jackie told the Washington Post she stood by her story but did not expect a police investigation to result in charges, especially because forensic evidence could not prove much two years after the event.
On Monday, Sullivan released a statement regarding Longo's findings, saying that the report "underscores what I have known since well before the publication of the Rolling Stone article: that we at the University are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all of our students."
However, she acknowledged that "There is important work ahead as the University continues to implement substantive reforms to improve its culture, prevent violence, and respond to incidents of violence when they occur."
The state's task force to combat sexual violence on campus—formed in August—will continue to work as well.
UVA doubles down on stopping campus sexual assaults
"This issue will not, and should not, be pushed back into the shadow," says Mark Herring, Virginia's attorney general and task force chairman.
Meanwhile, Phi Kappa Psi says it will explore legal options in relation to the "extensive damage cause by Rolling Stone" which "recklessly and prejudicially thrust the brothers...into the center of a national debate."
"These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault," says chapter President Stephen Scipione, adding "We hope that Rolling Stone's actions do not discourage any survivors from coming forward to seek the justice they deserve" (Seal, The Daily Progress, 3/24; Sullivan release, The Daily Progress, 3/23; Shapiro, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 3/23; Robinson, Stolberg, New York Times, 3/23).
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