In April 2001, a woman accused Daniel Purtell, a Penn State University student, of raping her in his room at his fraternity house in University Park, Pennsylvania.
The woman said she had gone to the fraternity house after having some drinks at a bar, and left her purse in Purtell’s room. When she returned, she saw Purtell and several others snorting cocaine. When the others left the room, Purtell closed his door and raped her.
Purtell claimed that the encounter was consensual. The woman also accused another fraternity member of assaulting her half an hour before Purtell assaulted her. When police obtained a search warrant for Purtell’s room, they found cocaine and other paraphernalia.
At trial, the victim’s testimony conflicted with her earlier statements to police. The trial judge ruled that the defense could not bring up the woman’s accusation against the other fraternity member under the Pennsylvania rape shield law. In June 2002, a jury convicted Purtell of rape and drug possession and he was sentenced to 3.5-to-6 years.
In April 2004, Purtell was given the opportunity for early release if he admitted to the crime. He refused and remained incarcerated.
In August 2004, Purtell’s conviction was overturned on appeal by the Superior Court after the court ruled that the trial court should have admitted evidence that the victim claimed to have been raped by another fraternity member only 30 minutes before she chose to remain alone with Purtell. The charges related to the sexual assault were subsequently dropped after the victim said she would not go through with a second trial. Purtell went on to attend law school.
- Stephanie Denzel