- (Photo: Lincoln Police Department)
When former basketball star Charlie Rogers crawled naked and bleeding to her neighbor's home on July 22 claiming that she had been the victim of a hate crime, it was all part of a staged plan to "make things better for everyone," according to the police in Nebraska.
Rogers, a lesbian who formerly played for the University of Nebraska's women's basketball team, had allegedly carved anti-gay slurs herself or with help into her arms, abdomen and buttocks, and slashed a cross into her chest. Police officials claim the timing of the incident, which Rogers alleged was carried out by three masked men who broke into her home, was not coincidental.
Police Chief Jim Peschong shared during a press conference on Tuesday that investigators believe the 33-year-old Lincoln, Neb., resident had revealed her motivation for the fake attack in a July 18 post on Facebook.
"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," the post read, according to The Associated Press.
Police point to evidence found in Rogers' home that seem to indicate that she had purchased the items used in the alleged attack, including a pair of cotton gloves heavily lined with her own DNA and none belonging to a male. It was also reported by the AP that the former college basketball star had sent a photo of a cut on her chest resembling a cross to a friend days leading up to the purported attack.
In addition, Lincoln officials had just voted to approve a "fairness ordinance" that would benefit the city's LGBT residents. However, the ordinance still has to be approved by popular vote before going into effect – reportedly due to a signature campaign by conservative groups.
Although Rogers has admitted to purchasing the items found by police, except for the gloves, she pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday to the misdemeanor charge of making a false police report, and was released on personal recognizance bond. Rogers, who is scheduled to return to court Sept. 14, maintains that the attack did happen.
"This has been a very traumatic event for her, and having the focus of the investigation turn toward her has been really hard," said her attorney Brett McArthur. "She has no reason to lie about what happened. She's pretty devastated, when you go to authorities and things kind of get turned around on you."
Local gay rights groups, who had rallied around Rogers and launched candlelight vigils on her behalf, have accepted the police's investigative findings concerning Rogers, four of them saying in a joint statement: "It is important not to focus on the actions of any single individual. As residents of Lincoln we must continue to bring our community together to declare that violence and hate are not the values of our city."
When talking with police in the wake of the alleged attack, Rogers claimed that she had broken out of the zip ties the purported assailants had used to restrain her, made her way through the gate in her backyard and ran to her neighbor's home across the street.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Rogers can be heard on a 911 tape saying she believed she was targeted because of her appearance at a gay pride rally.
Members of the public have expressed outrage and disappointment over the possibility that Rogers did indeed stage a hate crime.
"Her community? I am in the LBGT community and she is a nut-job that did, indeed, set back progress," wrote a reader commenting on the case. "It is sad and I sincerely hope she understands the severe damage she has caused. She should be ashamed, mentally evaluated, and serve some time for this."
Another reader suggested that Rogers' alleged stunt was akin to those who falsely claim rape.
"I am sure she is ashamed now that she's been caught. The question was why was she not ashamed to even pull such a low stunt?" the male reader wrote. "This is as bad as people who fake being raped – it distracts attention from the ACTUAL victims that need support and protection. What was she thinking?!?!"
Linda Rappl, the neighbor who called 911 after Rogers appeared bloodied and naked on her doorstep, said she found the allegation of a staged attack too shocking to believe.
"I'm just dumbfounded. I'm sick to my stomach. I can't believe it," Rappl told the Lincoln Journal Star. "I'm still having a hard time believing it's a hoax." The incident "really shakes my faith in humanity, if it is a hoax," she added.