By Joshua Rhett Miller
TWO college football players who were expelled last year after rape accusations have been cleared by police after authorities say their accuser recanted her story.
Nikki Yovino, 18, of South Setauket, New York, has been charged with second-degree falsely reporting an incident and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence in connection to an incident at a Sacred Heart University football party in October, the Connecticut Post reports.
When pressed about inconsistencies in her original statement, Yovino admitted that she made up the rape allegations against the two football players in hopes of gaining sympathy from another man — a prospective boyfriend, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
The two players were expelled from the university in Fairfield and saw their scholarships revoked in October.
Police said Yovino told them on October 15 at a hospital where they responded for a sexual assault complaint that she attended a Sacred Heart football club party the night before at a house on Lakeside Drive in Bridgeport.
Investigators said Yovino claimed two men pulled her into a bathroom in the basement of the house and held her down, taking turns sexually assaulting her, the Connecticut Post reports.
“I don’t want to be in here, I don’t want to do anything,” police said she claimed she told the men. “My friends are waiting for me outside, let me go outside.”
Both men admitted having sex with Yovino, but claimed it was consensual. Bridgeport Police Detective Walberto Cotto Jr. later questioned Yovino after other students said it appeared Yovino went into the bathroom willingly with the two men.
One student, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, said he overheard Yovino telling the men she wanted to have sex with them.
“She admitted that she made up the allegation of sexual assault against (the football players) because it was the first thing that came to mind and she didn’t want to lose (another male student) as a friend and potential boyfriend. She stated that she believed when (the other male student) heard the allegation it would make him angry and sympathetic to her,” according to the affidavit.
Mark Sherman, Yovino’s lawyer, said he had not yet been provided with police reports and video footage pertaining to the case, but told The Post he expects Yovino to plead not guilty at her arraignment on March 3.
“The details of what happened here will come out at the appropriate time during the court process,” Sherman wrote in an email.
Yovino, who was released after posting $5000 bond, faces up to five years in prison if convicted on the tampering charge, a felony, the Connecticut Post reports.
Sacred Heart officials declined to provide information about specific students, including the identities of the two former football players and whether they will be reinstated by the university, citing federal privacy laws, in a statement to The Post.
“However, I can say that the facts as presented in the Connecticut Post article you are referencing are not entirely accurate,” university spokeswoman Deborah Noack wrote in an email. “Whenever there is any kind of incident at Sacred Heart University, we go to great lengths to ensure due process for all parties involved. The way that this particular case is playing out certainly demonstrates the validity of our procedures.”
Noack also declined to indicate whether Yovino was a current or former student at the university. Her Facebook page identifies her as a psychology and pre-med student at Sacred Heart University and Suffolk County Community College.