The Mysterious Case of Charlie Rogers

*** UPDATE *** 3/01/2015 – While we had hoped that our previous update had brought closure to this sad case, recent news reports indicate that Ms. Rogers was re-arrested in February for breaking the terms of her probation.

***  UPDATE*** 4/22/13 – Charlie Rogers was sentenced to one week in jail, two years of probation and 250 hours of community service in response to her hate crime hoax.

Lancaster County Judge Gale Porkorny also ordered Rogers to submit to a comprehensive psychological exam and allow her probation officer access to her medical records.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Charlie Rogers’ narrative of July 22, 2012, was an incredible and outrageous lie the second it passed her lips,” Pokorny said.”

With any luck, this will close out this bizarre, senseless story.

*** UPDATE ***12/19/12 – On December 10, Ms. Rogers entered a plea of “no contest” in regard to charges of filing a false police report and was found guilty of same. Sentencing to follow.

*** UPDATE ***11/29/12 – Ms. Rogers has withdrawn her request for a change of venue, to the consternation of the judge in the case, who had already rescheduled court business to hear the request.

“We set aside an entire afternoon,” [Judge Gale Pokorny] said to Rogers’ attorney, Brett McArthur.

Hopefully, Ms. Rogers isn’t paying for Mr. McArthur’s legal advice.

*** UPDATE ***11/20/12 – Ms. Rogers has requested a change of venue for her upcoming trial, citing concerns that the publicity surrounding her case could taint possible jurors.

*** UPDATE ***11/14/12 – Ms. Rogers released a YouTube video restating her claims that her story is true and that Lincoln police botched the investigation of her case.

Ms. Rogers urges her viewers to “be responsible.”

*** UPDATE ***9/30/12 – According to a report in the Omaha World-Herald, Ms. Rogers is sticking to her story and has waived her right to a speedy trial. A judge has set a November court date to review the status of the case. Ms. Rogers is facing a single misdemeanor charge for allegedly filing a false police report. Stay tuned for details as they emerge.

*** UPDATE ***8/22/12

Well, as mentioned, there really is no good outcome for this story. The media is reporting that Charlie Rogers turned herself in to Lincoln police on Tuesday in response to warrant issued for her arrest. The charge is filing a false police report and could carry fines and up to a year in prison.

Police listed a number of details they discovered in the course of their investigation that included some very damning evidence:

  • Rogers was identified as buying the zip ties, cotton gloves and box cutter used in the alleged attack, by a clerk at Ace hardware.
  • Rogers sent a photo of a cross-shaped cut on her chest to a friend a few days before the reported attack.
  • Rogers announced that she was planning a dramatic incident on Facebook, a few days before the attack: “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.”
  • Rogers said that the three men forced their way into her home and beat her, but there was no evidence of any forced entry and there were no bruises on Ms. Rogers.
  • Rogers said the men cut slurs into her stomach, arms and legs and then rolled her over on her bed in order to cut the backs of her legs, but police found no blood on the bed and described the bedspread as “undisturbed.”
  • Police say that the cut marks on Rogers’ body were too symmetrical to have been made during a violent struggle, all the cuts were made in areas Ms. Rogers could reach herself.
  • Media reports repeated used the term “carved” to describe the cuts on Ms. Rogers’ body, but police called the cuts “superficial” and believe that Ms. Rogers either made them herself or allowed an accomplice to make them.
  • The DNA found inside the white gloves belongs to Ms. Rogers. Rogers claimed that the gloves were worn by the men during the attack but no trace of male DNA was found. Rogers also said she had never seen the gloves before.

There are no “winners” here, beyond the Hate Industry vigilantes who claimed this attack actually happened before the police had even begun their investigation. Almost none of the media outlets carrying the story included the descriptor “alleged” in their reporting, and thus enjoyed a burst of lurid interest during the slow summer months.

A Lincoln tattoo shop was offering $50 dollar “NO H8” tattoos, with ten dollars from each sale going to the victim. At the time that story was written more than 50 people had gone under the needle in support of Ms. Rogers.

Now that news of the arrest is public, all reports on the case include “alleged” and the frothing comments that accompanied the early stories (and pilloried anyone who expressed doubts about the incident as a “homophobe” and “hater”) are now drinking deeply from the cognitive dissonance Kool-Aid.

“Well, if this is a hoax, she must have felt she had no other choice.”

“Things like this happen to LGBT people all the time, so she didn’t really do anything wrong.”

The coalition of Nebraska Gay Rights groups that originally called for the most severe charges possible to be brought against the three white monsters who committed this crime are saying that now is not the time to concentrate on the actions of any one person.

Again, it is important to recognize that Ms. Rogers has only been charged with a misdemeanor, and that she is presumed innocent until after she has her day in court.

***************************************************

[Original post — 8/10/12]

Several weeks ago, a very disturbing news story broke reporting a violent attack on a lesbian in Lincoln, Nebraska. The way the media has reported this story, the wording of these reports and certain details and conclusions make this a story of interest to those of us who study hate in America and the Hate Industry in particular.

According to police reports, in the early morning hours of July 22, three men wearing ski masks allegedly entered the home of the 33 year old woman, pulled her from her bed, stripped her naked and bound her hands and feet with zip ties. The men then allegedly proceeded to “carve” anti-gay slurs into the woman’s arms and stomach, spray-paint the same slurs on her basement walls and then poured a small amount of gasoline on her kitchen floor, which they ignited.

Because the woman was allegedly attacked because of her sexual orientation, Lincoln police are reportedly investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

NOTE: All violent crimes are attacks on the safety and liberties of individuals, and hate crimes are among the most serious, and so it is the job of law enforcement officials to investigate all claims thoroughly. As of this writing the Lincoln report is still being investigated by the Lincoln police and the FBI and no definite conclusions have yet been reached.

And while the benefit of the doubt always should go to the person reporting such incidents, the law enforcement agencies investigating this report have not ruled out the possibility of a false report, or hoax, as is the standard operating procedure in all criminal investigations.

As Will Rogers used to say, “All I know is what I read in the papers,” and in the 21st century news appears online simultaneously and in addition to being printed in the newspapers. All we really know is what has been reported on the Internet and in the Blogosphere and it’s these reports that warrant closer inspection.

One of the most striking features in the news reports of this case is the lack of the use of the standard qualifier “alleged” when describing events that have yet to be proven. You might expect this from bloggers, who are not professionally trained and some tend to have partisan views, but so-called Mainstream Media outlets ought to know better.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the consensus of the Associated Press and New York Times style books is that the modifier “alleged” should never be applied to an accused person, but to an event that has yet to be proven to have taken place.

The Lincoln Journal Star made no such qualifying comments in its early reporting of the story:

Hundreds of people gathered with rainbow flags and candles outside the Capitol for a nighttime vigil sparked by a woman’s account of a violent, hate-fueled attack that spread rapidly over the Internet on Sunday.

The paper’s account gives the impression that events happened as described and that the motive was undoubtedly anti-gay hatred. The paper also left no room for the very plausible possibility that the report was false.

Omaha TV station WOWT responded likewise:

Police are looking for three men who bound and beat a woman, before setting her home on fire. It’s an attack that many in Lincoln are calling a hate crime; they say it was because of the victim’s sexual orientation.

It wasn’t until several days later, when the Lincoln police announced that they would be looking into the possibility of a false report, as a matter of course, that the media began to qualify its statements on the story, and even then it referred to the woman as “the victim of an alleged attack.”

Well, as the CJR and the aforementioned style guides point out, calling her an alleged victim is inaccurate, but can one be a victim of an attack that has yet to be proven? The choice of language leads the consumer to foregone conclusions. The media is leading the witness, your Honor.

Several stories describe the three men as “possibly white,” but otherwise police have no leads on them. It’s definitely unusual for the media to release such sketchy details regarding race, and it can be legitimately questioned if they would have done so if the perps had been of any other racial group. How many times have you read of police seeking a dangerous killer or rapist on the loose only to be given the useless information that “the suspect was last seen in blue pants and a dark cap”?

Another curious gaffe in the reporting of this story was that, while the woman requested anonymity and went into hiding after making her report to police, the local media gave all kinds of reckless information about the woman’s identity.

While WOWT had the common sense to limit its report on the location of the alleged attack as “the 1000 block of South 22nd Street,” the folks at the Journal Star blurted out that “officers were called to 22nd and E streets.”

If the woman was indeed in fear for her safety, thanks to the Journal Star, any boob with access to Google Maps could pinpoint her neighborhood and even obtain street view photos of the homes there.

Click image to enlarge

CNN went one better by reporting the name of the next-door neighbor to whom the bleeding, naked woman turned to for help after the alleged incident.

After the attack, the woman made her way to the home of a neighbor, Linda Rappl…

Other sources identified several close friends of the woman by name. So much for protecting the woman’s identity, or those who would help her. Doesn’t this kind of information invite copy-cat attacks on the woman and retribution attacks on her friends?

As it turns out, once the word came out that the police were investigating the false report angle, the woman came forward and revealed her identity as Charlie Rogers, a former women’s basketball star for the University of Nebraska.

Click image to enlarge

It’s at this point that other aspects of the story become mysterious.

According to media reports, the three perpetrators “barged in,” “burst in,” or even “broke down the door,” yet police could find no evidence of a forced entry.

The woman’s hands and ankles were bound with zip ties, which would be a fast way of doing it for three thugs in a hurry. It’s also a fairly easy way for Ms. Rogers to do it herself, even binding her own hands behind her back.

Police report that anti-lesbian slurs were found cut into the skin on Ms. Rogers arms and stomach, although the word “carved” is the most common descriptor. While “carve” is a relatively ambiguous term, it tends to imply cutting that is somewhat deeper than, say, scratches.

Carved implies that the flesh was cut through to the muscle, or possibly through the muscle itself. To date, no descriptions of the weapon have been given, or photos of the wounds, but there is evidence to suggest that carved is a bit inaccurate.

For one thing, as the photo of Ms. Rogers above shows, (as does the KETV interview footage), she’s sitting on a tall chair or stool and not showing any signs of discomfort for one who may have received deep cuts and possible stitches on her stomach and arms just days earlier.

Another factor that seems strange is that while Ms. Rogers claims she was stripped naked during the attack, and the “carving” of the slurs was seemingly meant to disfigure her, the perpetrators chose areas that were easily covered by clothing, rather than, say, her face, and did not disfigure her chest area, which seems incongruous with the nature of the attack.

Ms. Rogers’ arms and stomach are also areas she could easily reach herself. Her neighbor, Ms. Rappl, also states that Ms. Rogers was bleeding from the forehead after the incident, but close-ups of Ms. Rogers’ face show no scars or cuts on her forehead.

The key anti-lesbian slur referred to in the story is “dyke,” which can be a disparaging name for lesbians, but not necessarily between lesbians, just as certain unutterable racial slurs are frequently exchanged between members of certain groups.

The term “dyke” also turns up in the next phase of the attack, where at least one of the perpetrators spray painted the term and other remarks on the wall of her basementGiven the violent nature of the described incidents, wouldn’t the perpetrators choose a far more visible site for their hate slurs? Say, the living room walls or even an outside wall?

It just seems unusual that three men would commit to undertaking this crime, which almost certainly would carry the most severe penalties if they were caught, only to hide their dirty work where no one would see it.

Hopefully, police officials are also considering the actual writing itself to see if there are similarities between the lettering and the handwriting of known criminals, or even of Ms. Rogers herself.

And the final mystery is the use of a small amount of gasoline to start a fire in Ms. Rogers’ kitchen. Allegedly, the gasoline was poured on the kitchen floor and soon burned itself out, doing about $200 dollars in damage.

Why bother? For a lousy five bucks the perps could have pumped enough gas into an everyday, ordinary lawnmower gas can to set the entire house on fire, while attracting exactly zero attention at the gas pumps.

And why just a piddling puddle in the middle of the floor? If the intent was to burn the house down, and presumably kill Ms. Rogers in the process, why not pour it on the bed, the couch or anything that would maintain and spread the flames? Why not, God forbid, on the victim herself?

As hate crimes go, this one seems to have been designed to maximize outrage while causing the victim a minimum of discomfort in the aftermath. It certainly seems like an awful lot of risk for such little actual damage to Ms. Rogers and her property.

So what is the aftermath of this story? As the numerous media accounts cited show there was a large anti-hate rally held on the grounds of the state capitol building in Lincoln, with hundreds of people attending.

Several fundraising efforts have been made on behalf of Ms. Rogers, including dozens of people who got “NO H8” tattoos because a portion of the proceeds would go to the victim. Ms. Rogers says she will not accept a dime until police definitely rule out the possibility of a hoax.

And of course, all of the usual non-profits and special interest groups, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, jumped to denounce this crime before police have even determined that there was a crime committed. The legal brains at the SPLC did at least have the common sense to go back and add a proviso to their earlier statements, however:

Editor’s Note: Police subsequently said they had not ruled out the possibility that the attack was staged.

Perhaps even the SPLC has learned that, while hate crimes are all too real, there are some who make false claims to further their own agendas, as seen here, here, here and here.

Sadly, it’s because of craven hoaxers like these that there is a need to examine Ms. Rogers’ story. Several bloggers have performed statement analyses on Ms. Rogers’ interview statements and found them suspicious, though the accuracy of these analysts is anyone’s guess. Until the final police report comes out we have no way of knowing exactly what happened that night.

All we do know is that a crime was committed. Now it’s up to the police to determine who the victim or victims turn out to be.

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7 Responses to “The Mysterious Case of Charlie Rogers”

  1. Peter Hyatt Says:

    This is one of the few places where the facts, as reported, is being questioned beyond a single line saying police are investigating all angles. Well written article. Here is analysis of the appearance of Ms. Rogers on television, going solely by her words. The point of her lack of discomfort, pointed out here, is well taken.

    http://seamusoriley.blogspot.com/2012/08/charlie-rogers-complete-statement.html

    Her friend’s wording also suggests “carving on” and not “in” to the flesh. The lack of words such as “attack” and “cut” or “carve” is important to note.

    I appreciate the article’s author looking at various aspects of the case that have been ignored by main stream media.

  2. rkeefe57 Says:

    Thanks, Peter,

    This is definitely a no-win situation for anyone involved, except the Hate Industry groups that will exploit the incident for donations.

    Nobody ever wants to question the veracity of someone who claims they are the victim of a violent crime, especially a hate crime, but I think I’ve echoed some legitimate questions about the events, based on the second-hand accounts we’re seeing in the media.

    If it turns out that things happened exactly as Ms. Rogers reported, then her life has been changed forever, just as she says in her interview. No amount of prison time for the perpetrators will ever give her back what she has lost.

    If it turns out to be a hoax, and unfortunately we’ve already seen several hate crime hoaxes this year, then Ms. Rogers’ life will also be changed forever, and probably not in a positive way. She’ll face legal charges and the scorn and ridicule of those who believed in her. Her hoax will be added to the list of others that cast a pall of doubt over so many genuine hate crimes.

    As for the hundreds, if not thousands of decent, caring people who have turned out in support of Ms. Rogers, they represent the best in human nature for stepping in to help a neighbor who is down.

    But if it does turn out to be a false report, those people will feel cheated and embittered, and less likely to help next time. For what it’s worth, though, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves because they didn’t wait until all the facts were in. In effect, they believed the unsubstantiated media accounts because they WANTED to believe them to be true.

    Only time will tell, but it’s good to know that I’m not the only one still following this case, especially since it has dropped off the news radar entirely.

  3. John Says:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/splc/

  4. Big Ramifications Says:

    Cheers for this. I’ve been checking for updates regularly since I first read about it, and it’s been veeery quiet.

    There was a ding-dong argument regarding this story in a Fark thread. Three or four of us had the TEMERITY to interrupt the gay-self-pity-a-thon by suggesting it was a hoax, and boy, you should have seen the teddy bears come flyin’ out of the prams.

    I smelt BS immediately. I mean, I’m only half way thru the article and I’m thinking “can’t wait to read the comments to see if anyone’s called hoax yet.”

    Then I discovered a few more titbits in the comments [eg. neatly written graffiti in the BASEMENT] that put it beyond doubt for me.

    As far as I could tell, the argument for it being true was “gays are good you are making me sad you must be a homophobe blame the victim boooo!” Kinda funny and infuriating and pathetic at the same time. Mostly pathetic.

    • rkeefe57 Says:

      The jury is still out on this case, which is why it’s dangerous to put too much stock in either position until all the facts are in.

      It would be nice, though, if this story hadn’t vanished from the radar all together. I wrote to the reporters who broke the story in the Lincoln Journal Star, asking for an update, but three days later and I’ve still yet to hear back from them.

      Nobody wants to be guilty of accusing a genuine victim of perpetrating such a vile hoax, and, on the other hand, many of Ms. Rogers’ supporters are all to eager to shift into lynch-mob mode in search of those three “evil white men” who supposedly committed this crime.

      As you note, the level of truly hateful rhetoric found on the Fark site and any other comment section in the Blogosphere tops anything put out by the KKK or neo-Nazis.

      Self-described Liberals have a blind spot when it comes to recognizing their own bigotries and hatreds.

      You don’t have to look like them, you can pray at almost any church you choose (unless it’s conservative) or none at all, but heaven help you if you think differently than they do. They’ll castrate you with a rusty spoon.

      Lofty concepts of “diversity” and “multiculturalism” are shredded when it comes to ideology. It’s not really hate if the other guy isn’t thinking “right thoughts,” right?

  5. Big Ramifications Says:

    Not sure if you allow links in your comments. Here’s the argument in question – including quite a few comments from a supposed friend of the victim.

    http://www.fark.com/comments/7229080

    Supposed victim, sorry.

  6. SPLC — “200 Post-Election Hate Incidents” | Watching the Watchdogs Says:

    […] be hoaxes perpetrated in the name of “advocacy” as we have reported in the past, here, here and here. If this turns out to be the case in any instance, it is even more sincerely hoped that […]

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