By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN — A 33-year-old Lincoln woman was charged today with filing a false report about a gay hate crime.
The woman, Charlie K. Rogers, is accused of telling police she was stripped naked, bound and carved with hateful homophobic words after three masked men broke into her home and then tried to light in on fire.
The arrest warrant accuses the former University of Nebraska basketball player of lying to police when she made the report July 22. Police were called to Rogers’ home on a report of a house fire and found her at the home of a neighbor.
She pleaded innocent Tuesday and was released on a personal recognizance bond.
The alleged hate crime made national news and prompted hundreds of local residents to take part in vigils and donate to a victim’s fund.
According to the warrant, Rogers told a police investigator she awoke early that day when she heard her dogs barking. Rogers said she saw three men wearing black ski masks standing around her bed in the first-floor living room.
Over the course of four interviews with police, Rogers said the men pulled her clothing off, bound her hands and feet with zip ties that she had on the back porch and carved derogatory words into her arms and stomach. The warrant says two men held her while one cut a cross on her chest and several linear cuts on the front of her thighs and shins, her buttocks, the back of her thighs and her right calf.
The warrant says she had a superficial cut on her forehead, although she was unsure how that occurred. After the cutting she heard the men go through the house and then smelled gasoline, she told police. She was able to get to her feet and hop to the back door, but while trying to leave she saw a match light, ignition and the door blow shut. She said she believed they used the gas cans from her back yard.
She told police she didn’t know how the men got into her locked house or how they left, but she was able to remove the zip ties from her feet, break through the fence in her back yard and go to a neighbor, Linda Rappl. Rappl told Nebraska Watchdog last month that Rogers was openly gay, but not particularly brazen about it. On the 911 tape, Rappl did not report any smoke or fire coming from Rogers’ house.
Firefighters reported that fire alarms were sounding when they arrived in the house, but no fire was found. The back door was open. A pile of Rogers’ clothing, including a pair of white knit gloves and red box cutter, were found on the living room floor.
Rogers said the gloves were not hers. Spray-painted graffiti — reportedly gay slurs — was found on the basement walls. Rogers initially told police about the graffiti, but then in a later interview said she didn’t know anything about it, according to the warrant.
Lincoln Police Chief Jim Peschong said in a news conference Tuesday that police aggressively investigated Rogers’ report, with assistance from the FBI and Bureau of Fire Prevention. He released an unusual amount of detail about the investigation to ease the public’s mind about the serious allegations, he said.
During the investigation, he said, physical evidence began conflicting with Rogers’ version of events. For example, the University of Nebraska Medical Center found DNA evidence matching Rogers’ in the gloves left at the scene, but no male DNA markers. DNA evidence from a female was found in the gloves, and Peschong said that could have come from another customer who tried on the gloves in the store or an employee who stocked them.
Rogers said she had not worn the gloves and couldn’t explain the DNA evidence. Investigators learned that on July 17, a pair of string knit gloves, zip ties, knife blades and a red utility knife were purchased at a local hardware store. Although police determined that she bought the items, she denied buying the gloves.
Forensic experts concluded the cuttings on her arms were either self-inflicted or she allowed someone to do them, Peschong said, because the lines were too straight to be accomplished during a struggle, and the cuts were in areas where Rogers could have inflicted them herself.
Another problem: Rogers said she was assaulted in her bed, and while her cuts produced blood, there was no blood on the bed, which was undisturbed.
Rogers also posted a cryptic message on Facebook four days before reporting the hate crime. She wrote, “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.”
Another piece of evidence: About a month before she reported the hate crime, she sent to a friend a photo of a cross carved into her chest. Initially, Peschong said she told police the assailants carved the cross. Then later, she said her father had carved it into her chest and the assailants cut it again. She also claimed her father had abused her twice before, a claim police said was unfounded.
Rogers deleted all text messages she sent and received the night of the incident.
The criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Lancaster County Court accuses Rogers of making a false report to police. False reporting is a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Several local gay rights groups issued a joint statement Tuesday, saying it’s important not to focus on the actions of any single individual.
“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,” said the statement by Star City Pride, PFLAG Cornhusker, UNL’s LGBTQA Resource Center and Outlinc. “We have come together to say that we will care for those in need. We must not forget what our city is capable of when we join together in one voice.”
Peschong said the case will not affect his department’s trust in crime victims, saying people shouldn’t hesitate to report crimes. He said the department spent thousands of dollars investigating the case. Police don’t know what may have motivated her, but have encouraged her to consider counseling.
“Obviously her welfare is a strong concern of ours,” he said. “There’s obviously some underlying issues that need to wind up being dealt with.”
Earlier this summer, Lincoln residents referred to voters a gay rights ordinance that would have extended civil rights protection on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Last week, the mayor’s office announced that vote will not take place during the November presidential election.
Email Winter at [email protected]
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