Four Pittsfield teenagers held on $10,000 bail after allegedly raping UMass Amherst student in dormitory
AMHERST — Calling the allegations “horrendous,” a judge Monday set bail at $10,000 each for four Pittsfield teenagers accused of gang-raping a University of Massachusetts student for hours on the morning of Oct. 13.
UMass police charged Emmanuel Bile, Justin King and Adam Liccardi, all 18, and Caleb Womack, 17, with three counts each of rape. Liccardi faces a fourth charge for allegedly continuing the assault after the other three left.
The suspects pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon in Eastern Hampshire District Court. None of them is a UMass student, and all are known to the alleged victim, according to police.
According to Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jennifer Suhl, the student did not invite the men to campus, but they were let in to her residence hall by a third party.
When the victim arrived back at her room she agreed to socialize with the men, and vodka was consumed by the victim and all four suspects.
According to Suhl, at some point one of the suspects shut off the lights in the room and the four of them attacked her, forcibly removed her clothing and continually raped her.
Suhl said after the other three left the victim’s room, Liccardi allegedly stayed behind and raped her again, leading to the fourth charge.
Suhl said the alleged victim wept openly and used the word “no” during the assault.
“Never in my time on the bench have I heard such an egregious recounting of facts,” Judge Mary Hurley said.
According to information presented in court, the victim texted Bile the next day, accusing the teens of raping her. Bile allegedly texted back an apology on behalf of himself and the others.
Defense attorneys claimed that the alleged victim asked each of the accused to pay her $500 or she would go to the police.
Suhl told Hurley that the victim was not trying to blackmail the men, but that the request was a “safety tactic” to mislead her alleged attackers into believing she would be silent while she sought out authorities.
King’s attorney, Terrance Dunphy of Springfield, asked Hurley to consider extending an 8 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew for his client, who has a restaurant job that would keep him out until at least 11 p.m.
“I want to keep (King) out of the public after 8 p.m.,” Hurley said, denying the request.
If any of the teens should post bail, they will need to remain in Massachusetts, surrender their passports, stay away from the alleged victim and any potential witnesses, stay out of the towns of Amherst, New Marlborough, and Great Barrington, submit to GPS monitoring, observe the curfew, report to probation at least twice a week, and avoid drugs and alcohol and submit to random screenings.
Copies of the criminal complaints were not immediately available Monday from the court clerk’s office. Information including the name of the alleged victim, potential witnesses, and the place where the alleged attacks took place has been impounded, Suhl said.
At a press conference at the UMass police station Monday afternoon, UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said maintaining a safe learning and living community is crucial.
“We will not tolerate this violent behavior,” Subbaswamy said. “The victim and her family are receiving support from our campus resources.”
This includes confidential crisis counseling from a number of resources available to students on campus, including the Center for Women and Community, he said.
Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan praised the student for her courage in stepping forward.
“We’ll be working on this case through the coming weeks and will be working zealously to bring the defendants to justice,” Sullivan said.
UMass Police Chief John Horvath said the investigation of the alleged rape began immediately after the incident was reported to police around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 14. Once police determined the campus community was not in danger and that no campus-wide alert was needed, the department began its investigation, Horvath said. The arrests were made with assistance from Pittsfield police and the state police detectives unit assigned to the Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office.
“This was an excellent job responding to a terrible incident,” Horvath said.
Horvath said the investigation continues and is centered on how the suspects got into the building.
Procedures require anyone entering a dormitory to either present a student ID or sign in as a guest. Once inside the building, the suspects also needed assistance to get into either the elevator or stairwell, he said.
“They were signed in as guests of the dorm,” Horvath said.
Horvath said the student’s roommate was not present at the time of the alleged attacks and was not the person who signed the visitors into the dorm. There were no signs of forced entry to her room.
“While campus security measures have generally proved effective in the past,” Horvath said, “the university will conduct a comprehensive review of security in our residence halls.”
Dean of Students Enku Gelaye said officials will examine sign-in procedures and determine whether they were followed. She said the campus will redouble efforts to improve safety protocols.
Horvath said in 2011, UMass police took reports of 13 sexual assaults, and 12 were reported the prior year.
Student Government Association President Akshay Kapoor expressed condolences to the alleged victim and her family and appreciation to the UMass police for their swift and professional handling of the case.
“Incidents such as these do not define the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Nor can we let them. This is not who we are, and we need to work to prevent this type of thing from happening,” Kapoor said in a statement posted online.
The four are due back in court Dec. 10 for a pre-trial hearing.