The controversy surrounding Nate Parker’s 2001 sexual assault case just got messier.
As if the complex racial politics of Parker’s upcoming film “The Birth Of A Nation” weren’t enough to stoke the flames of the 16-year-old trial, emerging details from the case could put Parker in even hotter water as Fox prepares the awards-season release of his $17.5 million film.
Parker and co-defendant John Celestin’s defense reportedly used race and their accuser’s sexual history in court to contest the legitimacy of her accusations.
According to Parker and Celestin, the charges were “absolutely a racial issue.” Both men claimed local authorities were aggressive and racist in their treatment of them. They also suggested their accuser only claimed rape because she felt guilty about sleeping with two Black men.
According to Parker, one investigator said to him, “You wrestlers for the past ten years have raped and battered this whole town. I’m going to get you.” Celestin claimed that he was told by an officer that what he had done was “unnatural.”
Parker and Celestin, who co-wrote Birth Of A Nation, were both attending Penn State on wrestling scholarships at the time of the alleged rape. The two Black men said their White accuser at first claimed to be unable to remember the incident before eventually changing her story.
During the trial, the prosecution was extremely critical of the defense for introducing the accusers sexual history into the case.
In a police statement, Parker said he turned to a volunteer wrestling coach at Penn State for advice after his accuser told him she was unable to remember what happened that night and said she was concerned that she may be pregnant.
Parker says Kerry McCoy told him, “These things come up from time to time with girls who feel guilty about what they did before, or may even find themselves pregnant with a multiracial child and rejected by their parents… Being a black athlete such allegations were not unusual.”
The alleged victim committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 30. Her brother said she never fully recovered from the alleged rape and its fallout.
In a Facebook post, Parker maintained his innocence while saying he did not wish to take away from the young woman’s pain.
The court acquitted Parker on all charges. Celestin was convicted of sexual assault, but had the verdict overturned after a 2005 retrial was cancelled because the alleged victim refused to testify.