Fulton County’s district attorney has quietly dropped two high-profile campus rape cases that had lingered more than two years, one at Morehouse College and the other at Georgia Tech.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution learned of Paul Howard’s decision not to prosecute through attorneys last week. The long delay prompted complaints that both the accused and the victims were left in limbo. The three men accused in the Morehouse case were suspended, Tech expelled the man accused in that case, and Howard said the woman in the Morehouse incident is still suffering.
In an interview in his office Wednesday, Howard acknowledged the cases had moved slowly but said they involved complicated and sensitive issues of consent.
“These cases with drugs and alcohol are very difficult for us to reach conclusions,” he said. In each instance, Howard said, the victim was conscious, communicating with those around her, but afterward said she could not recall what happened.
Prosecutions in campus rape cases are rare, though the number of reports has been rising. Heavy drinking or drugs that cloud memories, and the lack of witnesses or conclusive evidence, often hamper the cases.
A December 2014 AJC investigation found that campus police at nine of Georgia’s largest universities logged 152 allegations of rapes and sodomies since 2010. Not one resulted in criminal prosecution.
Howard’s office was weighing these two cases at the time of that report.
The Georgia Tech student was accused of of raping an Agnes Scott College student in January 2014 at his fraternity house, a house made infamous after an e-mail surfaced from one member instructing others how to lure “rapebait” by plying female guests with alcohol.
In the second case, three Morehouse basketball players were accused of sexually assaulting a Spelman College student on March 8, 2013.
“I do not consider them victims”
The Morehouse case in particular seemed to trouble Howard, who is an alumnus of the school.
He described the victim as “devastated” and said her life had taken a downward spiral since the incident.
Three students were accused of drugging, kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Spelman freshman during a night of partying in a Morehouse dormitory.
They were arrested in April that year on various assault and rape charges and released on bond. The athletes remained suspended from Morehouse while Howard’s office investigated.
Howard said it was clear the three had sex with the woman. What was at issue was whether she agreed.
“Based upon the circumstances, they might not have been able to to tell that she was not giving them consent,” Howard said.
A report from the GBI did not find DNA evidence. Witnesses described the woman as conscious, and a videotape showed one of the accused carrying her on his back.
“I would not characterize what they did as innocent,” Howard said. “I don’t consider them as victims. I consider them as lucky, lucky the case did not move forward.”
None of the three men would agree to speak to the AJC. Their lawyers said their lives had been upended by false allegations.
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