A UNC-Chapel Hill football player accused of sexual assault says he’s innocent, describing a Feb. 14 encounter with another student as consensual.
Allen Artis, 20, a junior from Marietta, Ga., was flanked by his mother and aunt during an interview Tuesday at the Durham home of his attorney, Kerry Sutton.
“Everything was completely consensual, what happened that night. That’s the truth,” Artis said in his first public comments about the case. “I did not rape her.”
Artis was suspended from the football team on Sept. 13, the same day that Delaney Robinson, 19, a sophomore from Apex, went public with allegations that she was raped on Feb. 14 at an on-campus apartment when she was intoxicated after after drinking. Robinson swore out warrants charging Artis with sexual battery and assault on a female. Robinson’s attorney, Denise Branch, said she took that step because the case was not moving forward in the courts or in the university’s internal judicial process.
For several months, the case had been under investigation by UNC police and by the university’s Title IX office, which looks into sexual assault and harassment complaints by students. Artis said he learned in a text message that he was hit with criminal charges in the case two weeks ago.
“I was surprised, hurt, distraught,” he said, “just thinking about my reputation and how false accusations like that can affect my reputation.”
In her news conference Sept. 13, Robinson contended that the case had been mishandled by the university and the police, who she said asked her inappropriate and accusatory questions.
“I was treated like a suspect,” Robinson said. “My humiliation turned to rage when I watched the recorded interview of my rapist by [UNC police] investigators. ... They even laughed with him when he told them how many girls’ phone numbers he had managed to get on the same night he raped me. They told him, ‘don’t sweat it, just keep on living your life and playing football.’”
UNC investigators obtained search warrants to examine text messages in several cell phones in the case. In affidavits for the warrants, an investigator said that Robinson believed she had been drugged that night.
Artis insisted Tuesday that he did not give Robinson a drug. He said he had been drinking, but he did not know whether Robinson had been drinking. He had met her for the first time that night. Artis said he cooperated with campus police and the university investigation and was waiting for those processes to conclude.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall has said the case is still under investigation by UNC’s Department of Public Safety. A court hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday.
Artis is continuing to go to class at UNC, where he is majoring in economics and management. He is due to graduate early, in May, but his football career may be over. He hopes to get back on the field, he said, and he’s been buoyed by the support of teammates who have called him, texted him and hugged him.
“It’s just good knowing that I have 100-plus brothers who are in there supporting me,” he said. “I mean, I’m not playing, but I know I’m in their hearts and they’re in my heart.”
His mother, Stephanie Artis, a middle school teacher, said she had to stop reading reports and social media about the case. Instead, she said, she downloaded a Bible app on her phone and turns to that for comfort.
“You feel like, ‘Why my son, why is this happening?’” she said. “And then I say, ‘Well, why not him? This could be any of our sons. ... God has a purpose and a reason and I trust in that.”
Artis’ attorney questioned photos presented by Branch that appeared to show bruises on Robinson’s neck. In a blown-up version of the photograph, Sutton said, dark areas on Robinson’s neck are actually shadows from her earring and from the way her head is turned. She said a forensic examiner said the photograph that appeared on the Daily Kos website appeared to be doctored to make the dark areas more pronounced.
Sutton also presented the results of a lie detector test conducted Sept. 16 by Robert Drdak, a former FBI agent and now independent polygraph examiner. Drdak wrote in his report that there was “no deception indicated” and that it was his opinion that the examination “strongly supports the truthfulness” of Artis.
In a statement Tuesday, Robinson’s attorney dismissed the lie detector test. “Any purported, and inherently unreliable polygraph test does not alter the fact that my client never consented to have sex with Allen Artis,” Branch’s statement said.
Branch also said the photograph she referenced two weeks ago was from a UNC police investigator, and she couldn’t attest “to the authenticity or alteration” in the photographs presented Tuesday by Sutton.
A decade ago, Sutton was a lawyer in the Duke lacrosse case, in which three players were falsely accused of rape. She now has a practice that focuses on defending students accused in sexual assault cases. Watching Artis’ case, and others like it, is overwhelming, she said. “It’s crushing to see these young men, young people, have the arc of their lives changed for no good reason,” she said.
Artis said he wanted to speak out to fight for his family’s name. “I’m trusting in the process, that the criminal process will take care of itself and the truth will come out,” he said. “The one thing that isn’t going to change no matter what is my reputation. My name is all over the media, and that’s hard to change. My kids, when I have kids, they’re going to be able to Google my name and that’s going to pop up.”
His aunt, Dr. Avis Artis, said there is a now an unfair public perception of her nephew, magnified by the fact that he’s an athlete and football player.
“That’s part of what breaks my heart for my nephew, when I sit and listen to him being called ‘that rapist,’” said Artis, a retired physician in Durham. “He’s bright, he’s articulate, he’s a fine young man.”
Sutton said Artis had received “disgusting, racist emails” from around the country.
“I’m not saying she’s lying,” Sutton said, referring to Robinson. “I’m saying we have facts that support that what happened that night was completely consensual. In every one of these cases that we work on ... both sides completely believe what it is that they believe. I don’t think we’ve had a case since Duke lacrosse where someone was just lying.”
The News & Observer’s policy is not to identify people who report they were sexually assaulted, but it is doing so in this case because Robinson publicly identified herself.