Charlie Rogers will serve a week in jail and two years on probation for faking the anti-gay hate crime that stunned Lincoln last summer and captured the country’s attention.
Lancaster County Judge Gale Pokorny on Thursday morning also ordered the 34-year-old to do 250 hours of community service for lying to police when she told investigators three men broke into her house, tied her up, carved anti-gay slurs into her skin and tried to light the house on fire.
“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.
Rogers will start her jail sentence April 29. She could do another 90 days behind bars in 2015 if she does not complete probation.
Pokorny also ordered her to take a comprehensive psychiatric exam and give her probation officer access to all her medical records.
Rogers, a former Husker basketball star, pleaded no contest in Lancaster County Court in December, a reversal of the not guilty plea she made three months earlier. Pokorny found her guilty of making a false report to police.
Her attorney, Brett McArthur, noted that his client had no previous criminal history and is in counseling, and asked the judge for probation and no jail time.
Later, he said he was happy with the sentence, considering Rogers faced as much as a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
“We’re very pleased with the sentence,” McArthur said, adding that Rogers looks forward to fulfilling her court-ordered 250 hours with Lincoln Parks and Recreation and giving back to the community.
Rogers herself, who cried and hugged supporters at the end of the hearing, declined to speak with reporters.
Deputy County Attorney Pat Condon said probation alone would be inappropriate because since her story scared people in Lincoln -- particularly those in its LGBT community -- and cost a lot of time, energy and money.
“It does have an effect on the community,” he said
Pokorny agreed, saying Rogers damaged the cause of gay rights she had said she tried to help by staging the attack.
“It exploded in her face," the judge said. "Ms. Rogers has single-handedly managed to do a disservice to her cause of enormous proportion.
“For a long, long time to come, when a gay makes a legitimate complaint about unequal treatment or discrimination, there’s going to be a knee-jerk reaction among many: ‘Yeah, well Charlie Rogers said the same thing.’”
Her “horrific, kick-in-the-face accusations” and decision to plead no contest and avoid trial denies Lincoln closure, Pokorny said.
“It doesn't give Lincoln’s citizens any chance to see for themselves, to evaluate, to reach their own conclusion as to what really happened. The people who came out on those dark July nights to hold a candle in one hand and their child’s hand in the other deserve a better explanation.”
Then, the judge laid out the backbone of what he thought the prosecution’s case would have been had Rogers gone to trial.
Experts found no trace of blood on her neatly made bed, even though she said her attackers bound, cut and pinned her down on it, Pokorny said. Photographs taken the day after Rogers reported the attack show her wounds oozing blood, he said.
“I was kicking, wrestling, punching trying to get up,” Pokorny said she told police. “I was fighting the whole time.”
A forensic pathologist concluded Rogers cut herself, saying an attacker struggling with a victim could not have spent the time or care to make the short, superficial, uniform cuts.
The cuts were all in areas accessible to Rogers and avoided sensitive body parts, the pathologist said. And the anti-gay slurs were written from her perspective, not an attacker’s.
A police investigator discovered that the white knit gloves, zip ties and utility knife used in the attack were purchased July 17 at ACE Hardware on 27th Street. During one of four interviews, Rogers said she regularly shops at the store to buy supplies for her lawn-mowing business.
The employee who sold the items identified Rogers from a photo lineup as the customer who bought them. Rogers said the gloves were not hers, but investigators found her DNA inside them.
She maintained her innocence after she pleaded no contest in December, and Pokorny found her guilty. McArthur declined to comment on whether, four months later, she is sticking to her version of events.
“We need that to be a closed subject,” he said.
Pokorny praised Lincoln police for working the case well after tensions spiked in the wake of the reported attack, all in the limelight of national media.
“Lincoln should be proud of the women and men of its police force who quietly navigated a minefield of political correctness, endured Ms. Rogers’ vitriol, repeatedly gave her the benefit of a doubt at every twist and turn in a long road of contradictory versions, and then when the inevitable led them to the inevitable, professionally assembled the case.”
The judge ordered Rogers to return money she got from donors after she reported the attack. If a donor can't be found, the money will go to Lincoln police toward the cost of the investigation. Any cash that’s left after that will go to the department’s Santa Cop charity.
McArthur said neither he nor Rogers had access to money but said her former lawyer Meg Mikolajczyk controls it.
Mikolajczyk said she's more than willing to follow the judge's orders if she's needed, but stressed she's no longer Rogers' attorney.
She declined to say how much people donated.
Pokorny also ordered Rogers to get a “legitimate,” full-time job, not mow her friends' lawns while taking money from her parents."
“It is time to give up this Peter Pan existence,” he wrote in his sentencing order, adding that Rogers, a high school valedictorian and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who earned a 3.7 GPA, shouldn’t have a problem finding work.
Now, he said, Lincoln residents can feel safe and know that masked men did not break into a lesbian woman's home and brutally attack her.
“Lincoln can breathe a collective sigh of relief. This is not a community where masked nor hooded men secretly meet to come out of the dark to terrorize and burn out those who might be different from themselves.”