Four Penn State University alumni have come out in support of actor/director/producer Nate Parker and writer Jean McGianni Celestin. Penn State alums LaKeisha Wolf, Assata Richards, Lurie Daniel Favors and Brian Favors released a statement late Wednesday night.
Here is what it says, in part:
1. The woman making the claim was a white college student and the criminal trial was decided by 11 white jurors and one black woman in Centre County, Pennsylvania. Nate Parker was fully acquitted at trial and Jean Celestin was wrongly convicted on one charge which he later successfully appealed.
2. Despite what’s been widely reported, Jean Celestin ultimately served nearly two years in prison while he fought to clear his name. His conviction was later reversed by the Pennsylvania Superior Court of Appeals and he was fully exonerated. The court that reversed Jean Celestin’s conviction overturned less than 15 percent of all the convictions appealed [pdf] in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania that year.
3. Witnesses were threatened by the investigators who were trying to build a case against Mr. Parker and Mr. Celestin. As a result of those threats, some witnesses (including one of the undersigned) had to seek legal protection from the very investigators charged with finding the facts.
4. A key prosecution eyewitness changed his statement several times after being threatened and coerced by police investigators.
5. The allegations of torture, stalking and intimidation of the woman involved in the case are absolutely untrue. Neither Mr. Parker, Mr. Celestin, nor any members acting on behalf of the Black Caucus ever stalked or harassed the young woman. As a routine part of the university and police investigation into this matter, both Mr. Parker and Mr. Celestin had bail orders that barred them both from certain parts of campus and from approaching the young woman involved. Had those orders been violated, both would have been arrested before their criminal trial. Neither the Black Caucus leadership, nor the group’s academic adviser was ever contacted about any supposed harassment of the young woman by black student members.
6. From the date of their arrest until after their trial, both Mr. Parker and Mr. Celestin were under strict bail conditions to have absolutely no contact with the young woman. Had they violated that order, their bail would have been revoked. Claims of harassment were used to support a civil suit filed against Penn State University for payment after the criminal case. Neither Mr. Parker nor Mr. Celestin were named in the civil lawsuit, neither Mr. Parker nor Mr. Celestin were ever interviewed or contacted about that civil suit—nor were they able to defend themselves in that suit and were not aware of its existence until it was settled.
7. Contrary to repeated inaccurate media reports, there is nothing to suggest that the ruling had anything to do with prior intimate contact with the young woman involved. The jury made no mention of this when they rendered their verdict. The jury’s decision was based on prosecution and defense witnesses and evidence in the court record that indicated that the young woman was both conscious and engaged during the evening in question.
8. Misinformation suggests that a spiral into depression was triggered by the alleged incident in 1999. However, court records and testimony by medical professionals revealed a history of chronic depression that dated back to childhood and the use of antidepressant medication that preceded this event.
9. Publications and the public have relied heavily on partial excerpts of one recorded phone call. There were multiple recorded transcripts calls. These multiple calls, in their entirety, were played in court for the jury to consider and to provide proper context to the narrative.
10. Celestin and Mr. Parker have always maintained that what happened that evening was consensual and never hid from the complexities of this even when they were facing more than 20 years in prison. Mr. Parker has spoken about this case dating as far back as 2008. Mr. Celestin wrote a memoir about his experience after he was exonerated which he plans to publish. He has spoken about his experience in the community for more than 10 years.
Copies of the relevant court documents that support the claims contained in this letter are located at factchecktoday.