His accuser killed herself in 2012.
There’s been plenty of buzz around Nate Parker’s soon-to-be released film, Birth of a Nation, which received rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival and is set to premiere in the US on October 7. The film, Parker’s directorial debut, depicts the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831 and is considered a top Oscar contender.
But excitement about the film is currently being overshadowed by a dark chapter in Parker’s personal life that has recently come to light.
When Parker was a student at Penn State in 1999, he and his roommate were accused of raping a fellow student, then stalking and harassing her after she reported the assault. They were brought to trial on rape charges, and Parker was acquitted. His roommate, however, was convicted of sexual assault.
The victim, whose identity is not public, also sued Penn State for failing to protect her after she brought charges against Parker and his roommate. She alleged that the two stalked, harassed, and threatened her, causing her to eventually drop out of college. She received a $17,500 settlement from the school.
In 2012, after at least two previous attempts, she committed suicide. Her brother told Variety that “she became detached from reality” and “the progression was very quick and she took her life.”
Yesterday, Parker posted a statement about the case on Facebook, saying he had just learned of the woman’s suicide and was “filled with profound sorrow.”
Parker is now married, with five daughters. He maintains that he is innocent of the charges brought against him, saying “the encounter was unambiguously consensual,” but concedes that “there are things more important than the law.”
“I look back on that time, my indignant attitude and my heartfelt mission to prove my innocence with eyes that are more wise with time. I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in.”
Parker’s former roommate, Jean McGianni Celestin, received a sentence of six months to a year in prison, which was later increased to two to four years by a higher court. That was still less than the three to six years recommended by state sentencing guidelines. Parker and Celestin were on the wrestling team together at Penn State; it’s not the first time a college athlete has been convicted of rape and been given a more lenient sentence than recommended.
Celestin appealed his conviction, but when his accuser declined to testify again, the case was apparently dropped. There are conflicting reports on the final outcome of the case, but we know this for sure: Celestin still works with Parker. He has a writing credit on Birth of a Nation.
Image via Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com.