Entertainment:
Nate Parker's Penn State classmates write a compelling letter in support of the actor-director

Four Penn State University alumni who were students there at the time Nate Parker and his then-roommate were charged with the rape of a fellow student have written a compelling letter in defense of the “The Birth of a Nation” actor-writer-director. 

“We are both dismayed and disappointed at the gross and blatant misinformation campaign regarding the events that took place during that time period,” according to the letter, which can be read in its entirety at the Root and is signed by LaKeisha Wolf, an artist-entrepreneur and past president of the university's black caucus; sociologist Assata Richards, who teaches now at the University of Houston; activist and attorney Lurie Daniel Favors; and Brian Favors, an education consultant and officer for the Nate Parker Foundation.

“We feel compelled to speak truth to this situation as the media has cherry-picked the most salacious elements while ignoring the actual record,” they wrote.

In 1999, college roommates and wrestling teammates Parker and Jean McGianni Celestin were charged with raping a Penn State freshman (referred to as Jane Doe) who alleged that she was intoxicated and unconscious at the time. The men have said that the encounter was consensual.

Parker was acquitted in 2001 after testimony was given that he had previously had consensual sex with the woman. Celestin was initially convicted of sexual assault, but that verdict was overturned in 2005 when he was granted a mistrial on grounds that his counsel was ineffective. The case was dropped a year later when prosecutors could not gather enough witnesses to testify in a retrial.

The story has taken on a second life with the recent revelation that Jane Doe killed herself in 2012, at age 30. Parker, who hadn’t known about the suicide, shared his reaction to the news on social media and in an interview with Variety and Deadline. 

“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,” the 36-year-old wrote in a message posted to his Facebook page.

Since then, Parker’s Oscar-hopeful status has been clouded, and the American Film Institute this week canceled a planned Friday screening of “The Birth of a Nation.”

In the letter published Thursday, the four alumni alleged that witnesses were intimidated by investigators trying to build a case for the prosecution and discounted allegations that Parker and Celestin had harassed the accuser, as was alleged in a civil case against the university.

Additionally, they said that even though  the jury heard as evidence a number of phone calls, the media picked up excerpts primarily from one call between Parker and Jane Doe, in which she insisted she was too intoxicated to consent to sex.

"While we were deeply disappointed with the personal choices in this matter, we stood with and supported Mr. Celestin and Mr. Parker then because we believed they were innocent of the crimes of which they were charged," the four alumni wrote. "Our disappointment also stems from our belief that far too many young men participate in patriarchal, misogynistic structures without consideration of the long-term implications. 

"We acknowledge that we can be disappointed and desire that they had not been in that room, while recognizing that they should not have been jailed for something that they were not guilty of."

In the end, the former classmates urged a shift in the discussion toward healing. 

“It is our hope and prayer that the outpouring of emotion and discussion that this topic has generated can ignite a process toward healing in our families and communities — a process that is so desperately needed if we are going to bring about true social change,” they wrote.

“The Birth of a Nation” is set to hit theaters Oct. 7.

With the L.A. River, Frank Gehry thinks L.A. won’t need to import as much water, saving a lot of money Caption With the L.A. River, Frank Gehry thinks L.A. won’t need to import as much water, saving a lot of money

Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange: The Time’s Christopher Hawthorne in conversation with Frank Gehry at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In this clip, Gehry talks about the L.A. River Revitalization project and cost of imported water.

Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange: The Time’s Christopher Hawthorne in conversation with Frank Gehry at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In this clip, Gehry talks about the L.A. River Revitalization project and cost of imported water.

Watch Frank Gehry in conversation with architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne at the Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange Caption Watch Frank Gehry in conversation with architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne at the Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange

During a Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne spoke to Frank Gehry about why he never worked for Richard Neutra, his famous Santa Monica home, and the L.A. River revitalization project.

During a Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne spoke to Frank Gehry about why he never worked for Richard Neutra, his famous Santa Monica home, and the L.A. River revitalization project.

Follow Christie D’Zurilla on Twitter @theCDZ.

MORE NATE PARKER NEWS:

AFI cancels 'Birth of a Nation' screening after Nate Parker controversy. Will others in Hollywood follow suit? 

Should 'The Birth of a Nation' audiences care about Nate Parker allegations?

With a cloud over 'Birth of a Nation,' which awards contenders might avert #OscarsSoWhite3?

'Birth of a Nation' director Nate Parker responds after learning of the suicide of his college rape accuser

Complaint against Penn State University regarding Nate Parker rape case

A decades-old college rape case casts cloud over Oscar hopeful Nate Parker

Source:   latimes
Source Link:   latimes

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