Four Pittsfield teens charged with raping UMass student

By Katie Landeck

Michelle Alcott/Collegian
Michelle Alcott/Collegian

Four Pittsfield teens have been arrested and charged with raping an 18-year-old female University of Massachusetts student in her on-campus dormitory, University officials said.

The alleged perpetrators, none of whom are UMass students, have been identified as Emmanuel Bile, 18, Justin King, 18, Adam Liccardi, 18, and Caleb Womack, 17. The incident occurred during the early hours of Oct. 13, and the men were arrested in Pittsfield last Friday.

All four were arrested on three counts of rape, with Liccardi receiving an additional charge. They have pled not guilty to all counts.

At their arraignment yesterday afternoon, Eastern Hampshire District Court Judge Mary Hurley set the alleged perpetrators’ bail at $10,000 cash and ordered GPS monitoring. The defendants were also each ordered to follow an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, submit to weekly random drug and alcohol screenings, and must comply with an active restraining order prohibiting them from being within 100 yards of the alleged victim. The suspects are also barred from entering Great Barrington, New Marlborough and Amherst.

Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Suhl, who represented the alleged victim, initially asked the court to set three of the defendants’ bails at $2,500, with GPS monitoring for Bile, King and Liccardi. Suhl asked that a $10,000 bail be issued for Womack, whose family is in the process of moving to Windsor Locks, Conn., making GPS monitoring not a feasible option, according to Suhl. The increased bail was an attempt by Suhl to compensate for the impossibility of GPS monitoring in Womack’s “unique position.”

But Hurley rejected Suhl’s proposal before arguments about whether or not any of the defendants posed a flight risk began.

“Never in my time on the bench have I heard such an egregious recounting of facts,” Hurley said.

She continued, “There is no way I will be part of an agreement of this sort. It’s just not going to happen.”

The incident occurred in the alleged victim’s residence hall room, officials said. The specific dormitory and the alleged victim’s collegiate year were not identified by the UMass Police Department or University officials.

Press Conference on Alleged Raping of UMass Student from Daily Collegian on Vimeo Video by Emily Felder and Taylor C. Snow.

At the arraignment, Suhl said that on Friday, Oct. 12, the four men, who are said to have been known to the alleged victim, texted the alleged victim requesting to visit her at UMass. At that point, the alleged victim told them she did not want them to come.

Despite her request, the alleged perpetrators came to the University, texting her once more to try to ask her for permission to visit. Her phone had died, so she did not receive the text message. Three of the four men were signed into the residence hall by a stranger, Suhl said. How the fourth man entered the building is still being investigated, according to UMass Police Chief John Horvath.

The suspects then went to the alleged victim’s room and waited for her to arrive, Suhl said.

When she later found them in her room, she was initially “OK” with socializing with them, according to Suhl.

The defense attorneys cited the police and said that the alleged victim said she had consumed eight to nine shots of alcohol, a couple of beers and had smoked marijuana by that point in the evening.

The prosecutor said that one of the men turned off the lights and the men then stripped the alleged victim before raping her repeatedly. Liccardi stayed in the dorm room after the other three had left and raped the alleged victim again, Suhl said.

Bile texted the alleged victim the next morning looking for Liccardi, the prosecutor said. She responded to the text saying the men raped her the night before.

According to Suhl, Bile then apologized to the victim, saying he was sorry and she did not deserve what happened. The victim texted Bile that she would not report the incident if they each paid her $500, which they agreed to, according to the prosecutor.

The defense attorneys attempted to use this demand as a leverage point to convince the judge to free their clients on bail.

The prosecutor argued the alleged victim never intended to go through with such a bargain, and had made the demand as a “safety tactic” because she feared the men would harm her if they believed she was going to report the incident to police.

The victim reported the incident to UMPD about 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 14. Five days later, the accused men were arrested in separate locations in Pittsfield by officials with the UMass Police Department, the Pittsfield Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police Detectives Unit, assigned to the Berkshire County’s District Attorney’s Office, officials said.

Horvath said the time lapse occurred because the “well-being and mental and physical care of the victim is a priority.”

UMPD did “an exhausting investigation,” Horvath said. “This was an excellent job responding to a terrible incident.”

The University did not send out a campus-wide alert when the incident was reported because “there was no one else in danger as a result of this incident,” Horvath said.

At a press conference held yesterday afternoon, Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan praised the alleged victim for coming forward and seeking help from authorities.

“We’ll be working on this case through the next coming weeks,” Sullivan said. “We’ll be working overzealously to bring these men to justice.”

Defense lawyers David Pixley, who represents Bile, and Raymond Jacoub, who represents Womack, both asked the judge to recuse herself.

In an interview in the courthouse parking lot after the arraignment, Jacoub said it seemed the judge had made up her mind before the bail arguments began.

Jacoub was particularly upset because Womack’s impending move to Windsor Locks was to be closer to his grandfather, who has cancer.  GPS monitoring is not feasible, Jacoub said, since the devices cannot be used in another state. His protests were dismissed.

“I don’t think it’s the court’s duty or responsibility to make orders based on the convenience of the defendant,” Hurley said during arraignment.

Jacoub also asked that an allowance be made in the curfew so Womack could attend a Monday class at Springfield Technical Community College running until 9:30 p.m. Hurley said the details could be worked out at a later point.

But when defense attorney Terrence Dunphy, who represents King, asked for his client’s curfew to be extended to 11 p.m. due to the hours King works as a cook in a pizza shop, Hurley denied the request.

All of the defense attorneys stated that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for their clients to post the $10,000 bail.

The defendants are due back in court on Dec. 10.

UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said disciplinary actions on the accused perpetrators will not be drawn from the UMass Code of Student Conduct because they are not University students. He and Enku Gelaye, the University’s dean of students and associate vice chancellor of student affairs, both said the individual who signed in the suspects could face disciplinary action.

In an email to the campus community yesterday, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy wrote that “maintaining a safe learning and living community is of the most importance of our campus.” He reiterated this sentiment at the press conference.

He also said the victim and her family are receiving help from University resources, including the Center for Women and Community.

Gelaye said it was important that the University ensure the victim could “exist in this environment.”

She also said that current security procedures, including signing guests in, may be under review.

“It would not be unprecedented for the University to review the sign in procedure,” Gelaye said. “We’re reviewing this incident exclusively and then on a broader scale, we’re going to look at all residential hall procedures.”

This is the second time within the last two years that University administration has formally announced comprehensive reviews of its policies in the aftermath of an alleged rape. While the University is now focusing its attention to security protocols and policies, its last highly publicized review of policies emphasized disciplinary sanctions for perpetrators.

In 2010, University officials admitted to improperly sanctioning a student who allegedly confessed to raping a 2009 UMass graduate in her on-campus residence, according to a Collegian article published in April of that year.

This prompted the University to create a special commission to begin preliminary moves toward amending the Student Code of Conduct, particularly regarding its sexual misconduct policies. The commission looked to develop minimum sanctions for perpetrators of serious offenses. A change recommended by the committee allowing for alleged victims to appeal alleged perpetrators’ sanctions is currently listed in this year’s Student Code of Conduct.

The alleged victim in the 2010 incident was reportedly raped in the North Apartments, and the alleged confessed rapist was given a deferred suspension. The punishment was not seen as severe enough by campus community members and others across the state when The Boston Globe and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting broke the story that year.

The four alleged rapists arraigned yesterday will not face University sanctions, as none are University students.

Last week, a former Amherst College student gave an account detailing her rape by a peer in her dormitory in an Op/Ed for the college’s student-run newspaper, The Amherst Student. As her alleged rapist graduated with honors, Angie Epifano wrote that she withdrew from Amherst College citing some administrators’ handling of her painful experience and inability to support her in its aftermath. The story spread like wildfire on social media sites, drawing national attention and an outpour of support for Epifano.

Meanwhile, a critical and disgusted eye shifted toward the prestigious college’s policies and practices regarding situations of rape.

“In response to her story, still more accounts of unreported sexual violence have appeared in social media postings and in emails I have received from several students and alumni,” said Amherst College President Biddy Martin in a release last week. “Clearly, the administration’s responses to reports have left survivors feeling that they were badly served. That must change, and change immediately. I am investigating the handling of the incident that was recounted in The Student. There will be consequences for any problems we identify, either with procedures or personnel.”

Last Friday, the day the four suspects were arrested on rape charges, a large protest was held in Epifano’s honor.

In 2011, five forcible rapes were reported on the UMass campus, four of which were in residence halls, according to the Annual Security Report for 2011 published by the UMPD. In 2010, three forcible rapes were reported on campus, all of which occurred in the residence halls.

University officials are instructing UMass students in need of support to call the CWC, which provides free and confidential crisis services for the entire campus, at 545-0800.

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]. Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]. Alyssa Creamer can be reached at [email protected].