Players questioned, no charges filed

Updated: September 10, 2009, 2:11 PM ET
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Three University of Arkansas basketball players investigated after a female student claimed that she was raped at fraternity party will not face charges, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

The female student's complaint came after a party at the Phi Gamma Delta house during the first week of classes at the Fayetteville school, prosecutor John Threet told The Associated Press.

But Threet said witness interviews and statements from the woman didn't show that she was unaware a sex act occurred or that she was unable to say no -- circumstances that could lead to sexual assault charges.

"There's a misconception with some people that if somebody's been drinking and someone has sex with them, there's a rape. That's not the law," Threet said. "The law makes you actually go further than that ... and based on the statements of the people that were there, and some people who had contact later, there was just insufficient evidence."

John Bass, a Springdale lawyer representing the female student, said her family would "continue to explore all options until this matter is resolved."

"I cannot speculate as to what that may entail at this time, but may have a more detailed comment at a later time," Bass said in a statement.

University police Lt. Gary Crain told the AP that the female student filed a complaint saying she had been raped on Aug. 27 at the Phi Gamma Delta house. Crane said the student claimed the attack happened between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. at the house, which is a short walk from Bud Walton Arena where the basketball team plays.

It was "an acquaintance-type situation" that involved alcohol, Crain said. The campus police agency declined to file charges after its own investigation.

Deputy Prosecutor Dustin Roberts said the woman and the three basketball players began dancing provocatively and others left them alone in an upstairs bedroom at the house that night. He said that 15 minutes later, the fraternity member who lived in the room unlocked the door and found the woman engaged in sex acts with two of the men, Roberts said.

Fraternity members ordered the woman and the players to leave the house. She remained lucid and talked with a friend on her way home, Roberts said.

News of the investigation broke Wednesday after television station KHOG in Rogers aired an interview with Roberts about the case. The station reported that Roberts said charges could be filed as early as Wednesday afternoon -- a statement Threet stepped away from.

"I'm going to assume somebody got something confused or something," the prosecutor said.

Members of the Phi Gamma Delta house in Fayetteville did not return calls for comment. A spokesman at Phi Gamma Delta's national headquarters in Lexington, Ky., did not immediately return a call for comment.

Athletic director Jeff Long issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that sports officials will review what happened and decide whether the athletes should face any disciplinary action.

"The athletic department and our student-athletes cooperated with the investigation," Long said. "These were very serious allegations and we treated them as such."

There could be academic repercussions for those involved in the complaint. University spokesman Steve Voorhies said the school's code of conduct covers circumstances in which allegations don't rise to criminal charges. Such disciplinary panels can suspend or expel students.

The Razorbacks' basketball team has had its share of off-the-court issues. Coach John Pelphrey has disciplined players several times in his two seasons as coach, including at the end of last season when he suspended Jason Henry days before the Southeastern Conference tournament for an unspecified violation of team rules. Henry is no longer with the team.

After leaving Arkansas in August 2008, guard Patrick Beverley said somebody wrote a paper for him while he was with the Razorbacks. Earlier this year, the program was put on notice by the NCAA about its low academic-progress rate.

Television stations in northwest Arkansas broke into their regular programming to announce the investigation, big news in a state without pro teams where residents hang on every word about the Razorbacks' performance. But the investigation also raised the specter of the Duke lacrosse case, in which three former players were falsely accused of rape by a stripper hired to perform at a 2006 team party.

Threet said the fact that players from the state's flagship school were allegedly involved didn't affect prosecutors.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press