LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A former University of Nebraska women's basketball star faked an attack in which she allegedly carved anti-gay slurs into her skin because she felt it would spark change, police said Tuesday.
Four days before Charlie Rogers crawled naked and bleeding from her Lincoln home, screaming for help, she outlined in a Facebook posting what investigators believe was her motive for faking the July 22 attack, Police Chief Jim Peschong said at a news conference.
"So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me," read the July 18 posting, according to police.
Furthermore, genetic testing on evidence gathered at the crime scene undermines Rogers' account of what happened, Peschong said.
Charlie Rogers, 33, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to making a false police report and was released on her own recognizance. She didn't respond to a message seeking comment left Tuesday at a number listed as hers, but her lawyer, Brett McArthur, said she maintains the attack happened and plans to vigorously defend herself.
"This has been a very traumatic event for her, and having the focus of the investigation turn toward her has been really hard," said McArthur, who described Rogers as reserved and soft-spoken, and not the type to seek attention.
"She has no reason to lie about what happened. She's pretty devastated, when you go to authorities and things kind of get turned around on you," he said.
Rogers, a lesbian who ranks second all-time in blocked shots for the Cornhuskers, reported the attack amid a charged debate in Lincoln over the city's proposed "fairness ordinance," which would ban discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The City Council approved the ordinance in May, 5-0, but two conservative groups gathered enough signatures to force a popular vote on it before it can take effect.
According to police, Rogers said three masked men broke into her home, and that one of them pinned her down while another sliced a cross into her chest, cut the front of her thighs and shins and carved derogatory words in her arms and abdomen. She said they then rolled her onto her stomach and cut her buttocks, the back of her thighs and the back of her right calf. She also said they tried to burn down her house.
Rogers crawled from her home naked, bleeding and screaming for help, a neighbor told police. The community's gay community responded swiftly, and hundreds turned out for a rally that weekend outside the state Capitol.
On Tuesday, four Nebraska gay-rights groups that followed the case released a joint statement crediting police for conducting what they believe was a balanced and thorough investigation.
"It is important not to focus on the actions of any single individual," the groups said in the statement. "As residents of Lincoln we must continue to bring our community together to declare that violence and hate are not the values of our city."
According to Peschong, police found a pile of clothes, white knit gloves and a red box cutter on the living room floor after the alleged attack. Rogers said the gloves didn't belong to her, but investigators determined that a lot of the DNA found inside the glove was Rogers' and that none of it came from a male.
Peschong said investigators discovered that Rogers deleted numerous text messages she had sent the evening of the alleged attack, and that she bought cotton gloves, a box cutter and zip ties from an Ace Hardware Store in Lincoln on July 17. All of the items were later found in her house, he said. When confronted about the evidence weeks later, he said, Rogers admitted to purchasing all of the items except the gloves.
She also sent a photo of a cross-shaped cut on her chest to a friend a few days before the reported attack, Peschong said.
Investigators say they found no apparent sign of a struggle in the living room where Rogers said she was attacked, and no blood on the sheets where the cutting allegedly took place. An FBI forensic pathologist concluded that Rogers either cut herself, or allowed someone else to do it.
Peschong said the department spent thousands of dollars investigating the case, but he stressed that the case will not undermine the department's trust in people who report hate crimes.
"The FBI, the Bureau of Fire Prevention and the Lincoln Police Department have spent an exorbitant amount of time and personnel resources investigating this," he said. "We aggressively investigated this. Every day since this incident has happened, there have been investigators working on trying to identify who these assailants were."