UI: Policies correctly followed in reported Pentacrest rape

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | APRIL 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials contend they followed all policies and procedures correctly after a student reported being raped on the Pentacrest in October 2010, and they say the response should serve as a model for how to handle similar cases in the future.

UI police arrested former student Evan M. Pfeifer, 18, Lake Barrington, Ill., last week for allegedly forcing a female student to have sex with him under a tree on the Pentacrest while she pleaded for him to stop during the early hours of Oct. 3, 2010.

Pfeifer was charged April 4 with third-degree sexual abuse — a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He was released from the Johnson County Jail on April 8 on a $10,000 bond. The UI had indefinitely suspended him and banned him from campus Jan. 28.

“UI leaders are confident that this process was handled properly,” UI spokesman Tom Moore wrote in an e-mail. “The right decisions were made in this case, and officials believe it should serve as a model for similar cases in the future.”

The UI revamped its sexual-assault policies after officials wrongfully handled a reported rape in Hillcrest three and a half years ago. The controversial incident, involving two former Hawkeye football players, resulted in UI President Sally Mason firing two vice presidents and carrying out a review of all procedures.

One of the changes included creating the position of sexual-misconduct-response coordinator, in which Monique DiCarlo has served since September 2008.

DiCarlo confirmed she was involved in the Pentacrest case, and she believes it was handled in accordance with the UI’s updated policies. She declined to comment further.

Moore would not say whether there would be an official review of how the UI internally handled the incident, instead saying “UI departments routinely review their processes to ensure compliance with a wide range of requirements.”

Police officially charged Pfeifer April 4, but police reports were not released until April 8.

According to the complaint, the alleged victim told police she was walking to the dorms when a male stranger pushed her to the ground under a tree on the west side of the Pentacrest, put his hand over her mouth, and had non-consensual sex with her when she begged him to “stop,” and said “no.”

An Iowa City resident reportedly saw the alleged sexual assault and reported it to UI police at approximately 3:45 a.m. The witness told police he saw a white man with his pants down to his knees, kneeling toward the woman.

The witness said the man was “watching him nervously” and the woman was “just lying there.” Soon after, the witness told police he saw the man go southbound and the woman head northbound, sobbing as she walked away.

The witness told police he then asked the woman if she had been raped, she nodded her head “yes,” and he reported the incident to authorities. The witness described the suspect as wearing a black jacket with yellow sleeves.

On Oct. 15, 2010, the alleged victim reportedly saw the man who she believed assaulted her on his bike, and her sister approached him using a guise, getting the man to tell her that his name was Evan.

The sister told police she gave the man her name so he could friend her on Facebook.

When the sisters found Pfeifer on Facebook, the alleged victim said she was sure it was him who assaulted her.

A video from Rienow Hall shows Pfeifer entering the dorm on Oct. 3, 2010 at roughly 4:10 a.m. wearing a jacket matching the witness’ description.

Documents also stated Pfeifer’s DNA is consistent with DNA found on the alleged victim.

Calls to Pfeifer and his lawyer were not returned over the weekend.

A user named EvanMPfeifer posted a YouTube video earlier this year as a part of a contest to select the freshman speaker at the UI Convocation. In his “audition” tape, Pfeifer — wearing a Hawkeye T-shirt — addresses the class of 2014, saying he’s excited to join his new “extended family” at the UI.

“The path of our lives has brought us here together to make a difference in the lives of others, as well as our own,” he says to the camera. “Our continued dedication, creativity, wisdom, community service, and most importantly, our integrity, will make the difference for future generations.”

Pfeifer also talks about overcoming teasing associated with “motor-ticks” — a condition which causes him to blink and shrug his shoulders intermittently.

The UI police deferred all comments on this investigation to Moore, who did not provide specific answers to several questions about the case.

Moore did not answer specifically as to why there was such a large time gap between the incident in October and the UI sanctioning Pfeifer in January, nor did he say if Pfeifer lived in the dorms and attended classes during that time. Moore also did not provide specific reasoning as to why Pfeifer was not charged until April other than to say criminal charges require a higher burden of proof than the UI’s decision to suspend him.

“Cases that are investigated by the UI police or any law-enforcement agency often follow no set timetable,” Moore wrote in an e-mail. “It may take varying lengths of time to identify a person of interest, determine that person is indeed a suspect, gather evidence against that person, and complete the reviews of the cases.”

Many UI students said they were shocked to hear about the reported rape, especially because it allegedly happened in the heart of campus.

But Karla Miller, the executive director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, said the alleged incident should serve as a reminder to students that sexual assault is common. At least one in four women are victims of sexual assault during their academic career, according to a 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We just really have to stay vigilant about it,” Miller said. “And it’s not a matter of staying freaked out all the time, but it’s a matter of being aware and refusing to believe it can’t happen here.”

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