Nate Parker's 1999 sexual assault case: What we know

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Nate Parker Confronts Growing Controversy over Rape Charge, Suicide

The retreading of a 17-year-old rape case involving director Nate Parker has sent the awards campaign for his critically acclaimed film "The Birth of a Nation" into a tailspin — but what exactly happened nearly two decades ago?

In 1999, Parker and his longtime friend, Jean Celestin, were arrested and tried for the sexual assault of an unnamed woman and fellow classmate at Penn State University, where both men were sophomores and members of the wrestling team.

Parker was acquitted of the charges in 2001, while Celestin was found guilty of sexual assault (a verdict that was later overturned on appeal and never re-tried in court). But the case is mired with claims of emotional distress by the accuser — who took her own life in 2012 — and charges of intimidation and stalking on campus once she came forward.

See photos of Nate Parker through the years:

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Nate Parker out and about
Nate Parker during AFI Film Fest 2005 - 'Dirty' Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by M. Phillips/WireImage)
Nate Parker during 'Beerfest' Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals at Grauman's Chinese in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by J.Sciulli/WireImage)
SANTA MONICA, CA - NOVEMBER 02: Jurnee Smollett and Nate Parker from 'The Great Debaters' attend the Weinstein Company AFM party at Akwa on November 2, 2007 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: (L-R) Actress Jurnee Smollett, producer Oprah Winfrey, and actor Nate Parker arrive at the MGM premiere of 'The Great Debaters' held at the Arclight Cinerama Dome on December 11, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Nate Parker is an actor who appears in The Great Debaters, as one of three African American members on the winning 1930sÂera Wiley College debate team. Denzel Washington directs and stars in the film. He was photographed at The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on December 8, 2008. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Nate Parker at the premiere of The Great Debaters at the Arclight Theater on December 11, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 06: Actor Nate Parker from the film 'The Secret Life Of Bees', poses for a portrait during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival at The Sutton Place Hotel on September 6, 2008 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Matt Carr/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 06: (L-R) Actors Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys, Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, actors Dakota Fanning, Tristan Wilds, Jennifer Hudson, producer Lauren Shuler Donner and actor Nate Parker from the film 'The Secret Life Of Bees', pose for a portrait during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival at The Sutton Place Hotel on September 6, 2008 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Matt Carr/Getty Images)
Actor Nate Parker speaks at the 'The Secret Life of Bees' press conference during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival held at the Sutton Place Hotel on September 6, 2008 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Leonard Adam/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 14: Actor Nate Parker attends the annual Oxfam party at the Esquire House on November 14, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Actor Nate Parker arrives at the 40th NAACP Image Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on February 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for NAACP)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 06: Actor Nate Parker and Tristan Wilds arrive at the premiere of 'The Secret Life Of Bees' held at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on October 6, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/WireImage)
Actor Nate Parker arrives at the 40th NAACP Image Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on February 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 17: Actor Nate Parker (L) and wife Sarah Parker attend the G-Star Fall 2009 Fashion Show at the Hammerstein Ballroom on February 17, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage for G-Star)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 16: Actor Nate Parker attends the G-Star Raw Fall/Winter 2010 fashion show at Hammerstein Ballroom on February 16, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Wintrow/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Actor Nate Parker walks the red carpet at the G-Star Raw Fall 2011 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at The Theatre at Lincoln Center on February 12, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Miller/FilmMagic)
(L-R) Nate Parker and Tyson Beckford attend the NY RAW Special Edition Autumn/Winter 2011 Collection presented by G-Star RAW during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at The Theatre at Lincoln Center on February 12, 2011 in New York City.
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 13: Nate Parker appears on the red carper for the 4th Annual Manifest Your Destiny Toy Driv at Drai's Hollywood on December 13, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 10: (L-R) Andre Royo, Tristan Wilds, and Nate Parker attend the 'Red Tails' premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on January 10, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 20: Actor Nate Parker attends the 'Aint Them Bodies Saints' premiere at Eccles Center Theatre during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2013 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 20: Nate Parker attends the TR Suites Daytime Lounge - Day 3 on January 20, 2013 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Michael N. Todaro/WireImage)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06: (L to R) Terrance Brown, Janelle Monae, Kellindo Parker and Nate Wonder pose for a photo backstage at the 2013 National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in President's Park on December 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Actor Nate Parker attends the GQ Men Of The Year Party at The Ebell Club of Los Angeles on November 12, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Actor Nate Parker attends the premiere of Universal Pictures and Studiocanal's 'Non-Stop' at Regency Village Theatre on February 24, 2014 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 06: Actor Nate Parker arrives at the premiere of 'About Alex' at the Arclight Theatre on August 6, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
PALOS VERDES ESTATES, CA - AUGUST 29: Actor Nate Parker attends the 1st Annual Swing For Education Golf Classic Benefiting Asomugha College Tour For Scholars at Trump National Golf Course on August 29, 2014 in Palos Verdes Estates, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/WireImage)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 06: Actor Nate Parker of 'Beyond the Lights' poses for a portrait during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Maarten de Boer/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 06: Actors Nate Parker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw attend the 'Beyond The Lights' Premiere during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival at The Elgin on September 6, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Leonard Adam/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 06: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, producer Amar'e Stoudemire, actors Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker of 'Beyond the Lights' poses for a portrait during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Maarten de Boer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 13: Actor Nate Parker attends the 'Beyond The Lights' New York Premiere at Regal Union Square on November 13, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
BURBANK, CA - JANUARY 29: Actor Nate Parker attends Saudi Producer Mohammed Al Turki guest lectures at New York Film Academy on January 29, 2015 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/WireImage)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 21: Nate Parker is seen at the Salt Lake City International Airport on January 21, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by gotpap/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 22: Nate Parker attends the Stella Artois Kick-off Party in the Stella Artois Filmmaker Lounge during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Stella Artois)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 25: Writer/director/producer Nate Parker in The IMDb Studio In Park City, Utah: Day Four - on January 25, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for IMDb)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: Actor Nate Parker attends the Creative Coalition Spotlight Initiative Awards Gala Dinner at Cisero's Bar on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been digitally converted to black and white.) An alternative view of Nate Parker at the SAG Indie Brunch for Directors at Cafe Terigo on January 25, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Fred Hayes/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 25: Nate Parker attends the SAG Indie Brunch for Directors at Cafe Terigo on January 25, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Fred Hayes/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 25: Director/actor/producer Nate Parker attends the 'The Birth Of A Nation' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 25, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 25: Actors Gabrielle Union (L) and Nate Parker from the film 'The Birth of a Nation' pose for a portrait during the Getty Images Portrait Studio hosted by Eddie Bauer at Village at The Lift on January 25, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Maarten de Boer/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Actor Nate Parker attends the 68th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 05: Actor Nate Parker attends the 47th NAACP Image Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 5, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Director Nate Parker speaks onstage at the 68th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Actor Nate Parker attended the 2016 Pan African Film And Arts Festival - A Conversation With Nate Parker at Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Actor Nate Parker attended the 2016 Pan African Film And Arts Festival - A Conversation With Nate Parker at Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 14: Director Nate Parker, recipient of the Breakthrough Director of the Year Award, attends the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards brought to you by the Coca-Cola Company at Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, on April 14, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by C Flanigan/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 14: Director Nate Parker (L), recipient of the Breakthrough Director of the Year Award, and actress Aja Naomi King attend the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards brought to you by the Coca-Cola Company at Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, on April 14, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by C Flanigan/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26: Actor Nate Parker attends the 2016 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 04: Nate Parker arrives at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Grants Banquet at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on August 4, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
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Accounts of the woman's life between the incident and her suicide are grim, with family members claiming she suffered from both post-traumatic stress and drug abuse. Parker, historically vocal about his innocence, said he was "devastated" to learn of her death but refuses to run from his past.

Here's what we know, per court documents and family accounts, about the case:

The Sexual Assault Accusation

The unnamed woman, an 18-year-old Penn State student, alleged that Parker and Celestin both engaged in nonconsensual sex with her while she was unconscious, according to criminal complaints reviewed by The Daily Beast. The events were said to transpire "on or around" October 1999.

The accuser addressed the incident with her college counselor two and a half weeks after it allegedly occurred, according to a civil complaint obtained by TheWrap, which was filed after criminal charges. The counselor advised the woman to call the police and see a doctor.

A trial would not be held for two years. In November 1999, the accuser made one of two attempts on her life, according to the Daily Beast.

Both Parker and Celestin, who were then 19, said at the time the sex was consensual, and Parker has restated this position in interviews throughout the years, and again on Tuesday by calling the encounter "unambiguously consensual."

Parker and Celestin charged with "rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault and indecent assault," according to The Daily Collegian, an independent publication run by Penn State students.

Still, Parker acknowledged in his Tuesday Facebook post, "While I maintain my innocence ... there are things more important than the law. There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation."

"I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom," he added.

A trial would not be held until 2001.

RELATED: Watch below for more on Nate Parker's growing controversy:

Nate Parker Confronts Growing Controversy over Rape Charge, Suicide

Claims of Harassment on Campus

According to the civil complaint the accuser filed in 2002 against Penn State with the help of Philadelphia-based firm Women's Law Project, the alleged assault itself was only the start of the emotional trauma she suffered.

The filing claims that the November 1999 attempt on her life was the result of a harassment campaign undertaken Parker and Celestin, whom she alleged had hired a private investigator who circulated photos around campus revealing her identity.

"Parker and Celestin hired a private investigator who showed an enlarged photograph of Jane Doe to students on campus, including to Jane Doe's acquaintances and friends, and sought information about Jane Doe," the civil filing said.

"The private investigator's actions disclosed to parts of the campus community the identity of Jane Doe, whose rape had been publicized but whose name had, until then, been kept confidential."

The woman claimed that she felt unsafe to eat or socialize in common areas, a condition that denied her equal access to education.

Penn State sent notice to all three involved in the case warning them not to engage in any contact at the consequence of disciplinary actions from the university, but the accuser's filing claimed that Parker and Celestin persisted.

The document reads:

Parker, Celestin, and their friends constantly hurled sexual epithets at Jane Doe while shadowing her as she moved throughout campus and frequently made harassing phone calls to Jane Doe's dorm room. The harassment and intimidation made Jane Doe fear for her general safety on campus.

"As a result of the harassment, Jane Doe suffered severe depression, sleeplessness, and anxiety attacks. She was unable to attend classes or even leave her room," the civil filing said.

The college settled the suit in December 2002 for $17,500.

The Criminal Trial

Parker was acquitted of all charges in a 2001 criminal trial that some outlets described as "swift."

Celestin, who is listed as a story contributor on the "Birth of a Nation" screenplay, was convicted sexual assault and sentenced to six months of jail time. He appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial. The case was eventually dropped.

The Aftermath

In 2002, the accuser gave birth to a son whom her family referred to as the only bright spot in her adult life. "That brought her a good bit of happiness. I think the ghosts continued to haunt her," the accuser's brother, identified only as "Johnny," said in an interview with Variety.

The accuser's sister, whom the New York Times identified as Sharon Loeffler, was not as gentle in describing the case's effect on her deceased sibling.

"These guys sucked the soul and life out of her," she told the Times, adding that if her sister could comment, she would say, "'I fought long and hard, it overcame me. All I can ask is any other victims to come forward, and not let this kind of tolerance to go on anymore.'"

The woman took her own life in 2012.

Parker's Road to Hollywood

Parker left Penn State and earned a bachelor's degree in computer programming from Oklahoma State in 2003. He later pivoted to acting, landing a role in Denzel Washington's "The Great Debaters."

Parker's hometown newspaper the Virginian-Pilot profiled him for the film, and made mention of the case.

"[It's] something like that turns you into a man real fast. It teaches you the world doesn't owe you anything," Parker said at the time. "If I had it my way, it would never be brought up again. It's taken six years of my life to get past it," he added.

He went on to to win roles in films like "The Secret Life of Bees" and the acclaimed 2014 Relativity film "Beyond the Lights." He also expanded his efforts as a filmmaker, developing the Nat Turner story into a debut writing-director effort that won wide acclaim at Sundance and prompted a bidding war before Fox Searchlight scooped up the rights for $17.5 million.

Accuser's Suicide and Parker's 'Devastation'

On Tuesday, Variety revealed the accuser committed suicide, leaving behind her 10-year-old son. Parker responded to the news, as well as numerous reports that Fox Searchlight was scrambling to re-position "Birth" in advance of an expected awards campaign.

"I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow...I can't tell you how hard it is to hear this news. I can't help but think of all the implications this has for her family," Parker wrote.

At one point in the statement, he wrote: "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 concluded by asking his response not be taken "as an attempt to solve this with a statement. I urge you only to take accept this letter as my response to the moment."

Read original story Nate Parker's 1999 Sexual Assault Case: What We Know At TheWrap


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