Charlie Rogers on Tuesday avowed she was attacked over the summer in a brutal hate crime and accused Lincoln police of botching the investigation.
In an email sent to the Journal Star and other media organizations this week and in a YouTube video posted late Tuesday, Rogers, 34, said she probably will go to jail for a crime in which three men broke into her house on July 22, bound her arms and legs, carved anti-gay slurs into her skin and tried to light her house on fire.
Police arrested her Aug. 21 for allegedly staging the attack, and prosecutors charged her with making a false report to police, a misdemeanor. She pleaded not guilty Sept. 27.
"The perpetrators of my crime are still out there. They are. It wasn’t me,” Rogers said in the 15-minute video. “I wouldn’t say I did it then, and I won’t say I did it now. I am innocent.”
Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly said Tuesday no plea agreement is in the works and his office is ready to go to trial. Rogers’ attorney, Brett McArthur, said in September he expects the case to go to trial.
In her email, Rogers said she’s set on getting the chance to tell her story.
“I will keep fighting. I will keep trying to be heard. I will keep telling the truth,” Rogers wrote in her letter.
The Journal Star contacted Rogers, McArthur and some of her friends after receiving the email. Rogers declined to speak over the phone or meet in person in a reply message.
In her original email, Rogers accused the Lincoln Police Department of not taking her report seriously. Investigators immediately homed in on her as a suspect, she said, and didn’t seriously consider any option other than that she staged the attack.
Investigators failed to follow up on promising leads, Rogers said. They didn’t interview a woman who had a key to Rogers’ house, didn’t check out suspicious men taking photographs of her at a public event and didn’t secure the crime scene in the days after the attack, which probably led to evidence being lost, she said.
“The police got away with an inadequate investigation by calling me guilty, by publicizing the details of my case without me being able to defend myself and by keeping a case open against me.”
Police Chief Jim Peschong challenged Rogers’ accusations. Investigators worked the case hard, he said Tuesday. Police brought in an FBI agent to put an outside set of eyes on the case.
The chief said investigators interviewed all the key players at least once, and several of them multiple times.
“We took this particular case seriously from the get-go,” Peschong said.
Investigators, he said, never found evidence to back up Rogers’ story.
He declined to say exactly when investigators started to suspect Rogers lied, but said it was “awhile after” the alleged attack.
“It was quite a bit later on, and then all of a sudden, things that she was telling us were not adding up,” Peschong said. “We couldn’t get anything to support some of her claims she was making.”
Police said they found no sign of a struggle at Rogers’ house, no blood on the bedspread where she said the men cut her and a forensic pathologist from the FBI determined that Rogers made the cuts herself or they were done with her permission, according to her arrest warrant.
Rogers said police released “an alarming” amount of details to the press and more or less convicted her in public opinion without a trial.
“I am perceived as guilty by my community. No trial needed. No questions asked,” she wrote.
Rogers, who has declined all interview requests from the Journal Star, said in her email that investigators questioned her mental health during one of her interviews with police and tried to place her in emergency protective custody. Initially they were unsuccessful, but she was committed after her arrest.
Rogers said she suffers from depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, all conditions she said she had before the attack, and that colored police and public opinion against her.
“All they have to do is call me crazy and I'm guilty,” Rogers said in her video.
Rogers said she’s not doing well in the wake of the attack and the charges against her. She says she can’t sleep, has trouble eating, suffers from stomach bleeding, nightmares and tremendous anxiety.
“I lost virtually all of my friends. I lost family members. I lost my reputation. I lost my past. I lost my future. I was declared guilty without a trial. I was isolated. I can’t talk about this to anyone. I can’t defend myself to the media.
“I sit alone, day after day, unable to deal with the trauma. I am afraid. I am alone.”
But she vowed to rebound, from her attack and from the accusations against her.
“It’s not right. It’s not fair, and I’m done with this victim stuff. I’m done, because you know what I did? I survived. I got myself out. I picked myself up every damn day, and I’m taking steps forward.”