Hofstra sex incident taped on phone?

September 17, 2009 9:22:16 PM PDT
The woman who accused five men of raping her in a Hofstra University bathroom recanted her story in an interview with prosecutors after being confronted with the revelation that a video of the liaison may exist.Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice declined to identify the 18-year-old woman at a news conference on Thursday. She cited concern for the woman's safety as well as an ongoing investigation into whether to bring criminal charges against her.

The woman had said she was tied up and forcibly assaulted by the men. She changed her story Wednesday night and said the sex was consensual.

Rice said Thursday that the woman was interviewed Wednesday night by two senior prosecutors as a routine part of a follow-up investigation.

The woman first told police she was lured to the dormitory and raped early Sunday after her cell phone was stolen by a man she had met at a dance party, Rice said. She said she was bound with rope while the five men took turns sexually assaulting her in a men's bathroom stall.

Almost immediately, Rice said, the woman's story began to unravel with "significant inconsistencies," but she declined to elaborate. "The turning point was when she was confronted with the fact that there may exist a video of some or all of the incident," Rice said.

"Her actions and demeanor depict a very troubled young woman in need of much help," the prosecutor said.

Charges have now been dropped against the men she accused, and now they are trying to clear their names.

The four young men were released from jail around 11 p.m. Wednesday. Now, they've had some time to reflect on the accusations and just how close they came to losing their freedom.

"It's pretty scary when you're inside, and everyone thinks that you did that," Kevin Taveras said. "And you yourself know that you didn't do that."

For the 20-year-old Taveras, it feels like a nightmare has ended.

"You're supposed to be innocent before proven guilty," he said. "But it felt like it was the other way around."

Taveras, 19-year-old Stalin Felipe, 21-year-old Rondell Bedward and 19-year-old Jesus Ortiz were released from jail after the 18-year-old Hofstra student who claimed she was gang raped admitted she made up the story and the sex was consensual. The accused left the Nassau County Correctional Facility with a sense of relief.

"We were scared," Felipe said. "We didn't know what was next...we'd never been to jail before, so it was all new to us. It was something we had to adapt without wanting to."

The four had been jail since Sunday. All along, they maintained they were innocent. However, they still couldn't believe it when they found out they were being set free.

"One of the correctional officers says, 'Oh, you're out,'" Taveras said. "I was like, 'You're kidding me?' Because the bail was set so high, at $500,000. I was like 'What happened?' And he was like, 'No, I'm serious. You're out.'"

The Nassau County district attorney got a late night order from a judge to dismiss the charges, which included rape and carried a 25-year prison sentence.

"I just want to clear my name," Taveras said. "My name was tarnished. All of our names were tarnished."

As for Taveras, he said he has learned a very valuable life lesson. He hopes he can keep his job.

Bedward, a student at Hofstra, had been suspended by the university after his arrest. He was reinstated Thursday.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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