The Charlottesville Police Department said Monday that there was “no evidence” to support the account of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house depicted in a Rolling Stone magazine article published in November 2014.
“We have no evidence that supports those assertions,” Police Chief Timothy Longo told reporters. During a press conference, Longo and other detectives presented the results of a five-month investigation into the sexual assaults alleged to have taken place at the Phi Kappa Psi house on the U.Va. campus in September 2012.
“That doesn’t mean that something terrible did not happen to Jackie [the pseudonym of the woman who came forward with the allegations],” said Longo. “We are just not able to conclude sufficient facts to determine what that was.”
Longo said that there were numerous contradictions between the article and what the police found in their investigation, which involved interviews with members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, Jackie’s friends and student employees of the aquatic center where both Jackie and one of her alleged assailants worked, according to the account offered in the Rolling Stone story.
Longo said that Jackie talked to her friends immediately after her alleged sexual assault in 2012 — and later reported it to a university dean — but that “she describes a sexual act that is inconsistent with the material that is presented in that article.” Her friends told police that it had seemed like “something” had happened to Jackie on the night of the alleged assault.
Police said Jackie refused to talk to police after U.Va. opened an investigation into the incidents described in the story, in which Jackie recounts a gang rape by seven Phi Kappa Psi men and a university community that turned a deaf ear to sexual assault. The story made national headlines and sent the U.Va. campus into a tailspin, though other news outlets including The Washington Post reported inconsistencies in Jackie’s story soon after the Rolling Stone article was published.
Rolling Stone later issued apologies about the story after it was revealed that reporter Sabrina Erdley had not interviewed any of the men accused of the rape. The magazine asked Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism to review the editorial processes that led to the story's publication and said Sunday that it would publish the results in a few weeks.
Longo said Jackie’s case would remain open but “suspended” and would not be closed unless other witnesses came with new evidence that disproves the Rolling Stone account. “There’s no statute of limitations on this particular type of crime,” he said.
U.Va. is one of more than 80 colleges currently being investigated by the federal government for how they handle sexual assaults on campus. Within the last few years, students at schools across the country — including high-profile schools like Yale, Harvard, Columbia, the University of North Carolina, UCLA and U.C. Berkeley — have filed federal complaints alleging that their colleges have violated the Clery Act, which calls for schools to accurately report statistics about on-campus crimes to the government, and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in any school-related activity that receives federal funding.