Four Penn State University alumni who were enrolled at the college around the time of the alleged sexual assault incident involving 'Birth Of A Nation' star Nate Parker and the film's writer Jean Celestin are speaking out in their defense.
In a lengthy letter shared exclusively with The Root, former students LaKeisha Wolf, Assata Richards, Lurie Daniel Favors and Brian Favors share their experience as students, staff and alumni at the time that the trial took place.
"We are members of the Penn State community who were present during the time when Nate Parker and Jean McGianni Celestin were accused and charged with the rape of a fellow Penn State student," the letter reads. "We were present during the entire trial and ultimate exoneration of both Mr. Parker and Mr. Celestin. At the time, we were college students, staff and alumni who were deeply involved with countering the violently hostile racial climate that thrived in the Penn State community [pdf]. Today, we are educators, lawyers, professors, academics and entrepreneurs who are actively engaged in community development and advancing social justice.
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Parker was acquitted of all charges brought against him in the case, while Celestin was found guilty of sexual assault, but the group stands firm on their beliefs that both men were innocent. In the letter, the four provide a detailed account of several factors they believe have been overlooked in the media's recent reporting of the incident, many of which they say play a crucial role in supporting their stance that both Parker and Celestin are innocent.
"We have received several requests for comment on this matter by a wide array of parties and media outlets seeking additional information from people who witnessed the trial and were present during the time leading up to and after the trial. While we have refrained from making public statements, in light of recent media reports, we feel compelled to release this statement. To be clear: We are both dismayed and disappointed at the gross and blatant misinformation campaign regarding the events that took place during that time period. We feel compelled to speak truth to this situation as the media has cherry-picked the most salacious elements while ignoring the actual record."
You can read the statement in its entirety, here.