April 8, 1996
Dear Emory Community:
When I last wrote to all of you, on March 15, in a "Bulletin" of the Emory Report, I told you what I could then tell you about a painful episode of campus violence. I said: "Episodes such as this, complicated as they are by the recurring volatility of two powerful ingredients--race and gender--easily lend themselves to gossip, rumor, and a rapid rush to judgment.... Now is the time not to thrive on rumor. Now is the time to trust, and to draw forward, the essential goodness within each of us. I will do my best. I ask each of you to do the same."
I now must report to you what I feared has come to pass: some members of our community have spread accounts of the episode that have been saturated with error and misunderstanding and have been written, I believe, with the intention to deceive. Those accounts have been circulated throughout the country. They have damaged the University; more importantly, they have poisoned the well of truth.
Now, in order to establish a clear accounting of what has occurred during the last three months, we provide, for your inspection, a detailed chronology. It has been compiled by a group of 16 Emory professionals from the following offices who have used official reports and files from their investigations and meetings:
Emory Police Department
Office of Residence Life
Office of the Vice President for Campus Life
Multicultural Programs and Services
Office of the President
Office of Student Conduct
News and Information.
The six principal students involved in the episode, Brandi Lilly, David Nieder, Michael McKinnie,Tarik King, Kelvin Reese, and one witness, have edited this chronology for accuracy.
If carefully read, this chronology can leave no doubt about the degree of care and concern that have gone into the University's response to the nature of the assault on Brandi Lilly and the nature of the threats alleged against David Nieder. You will see that, from the very first night, staff members of Residence Life and the police have devoted themselves exhaustively to the situation. They have had to balance a respect for the privacy of everyone involved in the events and the greater community's demands--and needs--to know what actions the University has taken.
I am very angry about any kind of violence on the Emory campus. Violence simply has no place within an academic environment. But I am also angry that anyone at Emory would seize upon this episode and upon the privacy of those involved in it to generate falsehood and to capitalize upon pain. The chronology below is one step forward into truth. Please read it. I continue to welcome your responses and your expressions of concern.
William M. Chace, President
Pre-January 24, 1996
Kristin Smith, a freshman, approached her resident advisor (RA) in Dobbs Hall several times during the fall semester 1995 to discuss conflicts (i.e., issues such as lights being on when the other is asleep, noise, etc.) between her and her roommate, Brandi Lilly, another member of the freshman class. (Though widely circulated false accounts say that "Brandi complained about suffering the indignity of being forced to sleep on the bottom bunk while David and Kristin would engage in sexual intercourse on the top bunk," all three students, Lilly, Smith and Nieder, have told Frances Lucas-Tauchar, vice president of Campus Life, that Smith and Nieder never had sexual intercourse in Lilly's presence.) The RA offered to mediate a conversation between both parties, but encouraged Smith to initiate the conversation with her roommate first. During the first week of second semester (January 15), Lilly came to the RA with roommate concerns. At the RA's recommendation, Lilly initiated a conversation with Smith in an attempt to resolve the conflict, but Smith did not wish to discuss the issues. Smith decided to move out of her room to another location in Dobbs. She completed her room change on January 24.
Wednesday, January 24
During the move to a different room in Dobbs Hall, Smith prompted her boyfriend, David Nieder, also a freshman, to go to Lilly's room on the third floor to retrieve some of Smith's belongings. Finding Smith's belongings in the hallway, he attempted to push them back into Lilly's room; Lilly attempted to get Nieder to leave her room and a verbal and physical altercation then occurred between Nieder and Lilly. The resident advisor on the floor responded by escorting Nieder from the floor. Originally, though there were witnesses, it was unclear to those who were present exactly who had initiated the contact.
A personal friend of Lilly's, Aliina Johnson, stayed with Lilly while the RA escorted Nieder off the floor. The RA then went to her own room (directly across the hall) to call her immediate supervisor, the Dobbs Hall resident director (RD), who is a graduate student intern Residence Life staff member. The RD got dressed and went immediately to the third floor of Dobbs Hall. The RA briefly brought the RD up to date on what had occurred. The decision was made to check on Lilly and then call the Emory Police Department (EPD) immediately. While the RA conferred with the RD, Lilly simultaneously contacted her mother who advised her to call EPD immediately. When the RA and RD exited the RA student room, EPD had been called by Lilly and was already present on the floor. (Note: Approximately 7-10 minutes lapsed between the time the incident occurred and when the RA and RD went back to Lilly's room.)
At approximately 10:59 p.m., EPD received Lilly's call that she had been assaulted. Officers were dispatched to Dobbs Hall. The First Responder Unit also was dispatched and offered medical assistance. Both Lilly and Nieder had sustained minor injuries, but neither required medical treatment. The victim and witnesses were interviewed by EPD officers. Nieder was located in the residence hall by officers and taken to EPD. Officer Elliott, the EPD investigator on call, arrived, began an interview with Nieder, and asked officers to bring Lilly to the EPD to talk with her also.
The RD provided consolation to Lilly while gathering information for the investigation until approximately 3 a.m. At that time, the EPD escorted Lilly to their office to file a formal complaint.
Investigator Elliott interviewed Nieder and Lilly and obtained statements and determined that criminal charges against Nieder of simple battery were supported by the evidence of the case. (Georgia law defines simple battery as a person intentionally making physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature; or intentionally causing physical harm to another.) Investigator Elliott explained to Lilly her options concerning criminal prosecution and the internal conduct process and asked Lilly to contact her at 10:30 a.m. the next morning to inform Investigator Elliott of her decision on whether or not to seek criminal prosecution. By the time the interviews were completed around 3 a.m. on January 25, the magistrate's court was closed and no warrant could be obtained.
The RA generated a residence life incident report (immediately following the incident) and submitted it to the Office of Student Conduct the next morning. The Dobbs Hall residence life staff provided support to Lilly that evening.
Thursday, January 25
By 8:30 a.m., unofficial reports of the assault were registered in the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life. Campus Life staff discussions began that morning to determine how they would proceed in this matter.
Lilly called Investigator Elliott at approximately 1 p.m. and asked her to call her mother to discuss the situation. Investigator Elliott called Mrs. Lilly and explained the situation and Lilly's options concerning prosecution. Mrs. Lilly told Investigator Elliott that her daughter would make a decision and call Investigator Elliott later.
At 10:45 p.m., a resident on the second floor of Dobbs Hall went to the sophomore advisor (SA), a sophomore staff member of the Residence Life staff, to make him aware that three male students had entered David Nieder's room on that floor and had locked the door behind them. Kristin Smith and others also were in the room initially. The SA went to the room and initially was refused entry. After several minutes, he was admitted to the room where he witnessed verbal threats made to Nieder by two of the three male students.
Later that evening, the EPD received a call from Dr. Smith, the father of Kristin Smith, Nieder's girlfriend, advising EPD of the incident that had just occurred in Nieder's room. He said that his daughter described three males threatening her and Nieder. Officers responded to Dobbs Hall and spoke with Nieder and Smith. Michael McKinnie, Tarik King and Kelvin Reese, all Emory students, approached an EPD officer at Dobbs Hall who was waiting for his supervisor whom he had called for assistance. They asked the officer about the incident involving Lilly the night before and, during the course of the conversation, they told the police they had gone to Nieder's room to talk to him about the incident and offered to talk to the officer about what had happened. The three students asked the officer several times if they needed to make statements. Since an EPD investigator was not yet on the scene, the officer asked the students for their names and phone numbers and said they might be contacted later to give statements.
On-call Investigator Elliott responded from home to Dobbs Hall, spoke with and took statements from Nieder and several other students identified as witnesses to the incident in the room.
While at Dobbs Hall during this incident, Investigator Elliott contacted Lilly to check on her and to find out if she knew anything about the incident that had occurred in Nieder's room. Lilly said she did not. During this time Investigator Elliott asked if Lilly had made a decision regarding prosecution and she said that she had not yet decided.
Investigator Elliott then returned to EPD about 2 a.m. and determined that she did need to speak with McKinnie, King and Reese that evening in hopes of resolving the incident. Lt. Howard and another officer picked up McKinnie and Reese at their dorm rooms and contacted King, who came in to EPD. The officer writing the initial report titled the report "terroristic threats" which is a title commonly used by EPD for reporting such incidents. (Georgia law defines a terroristic threat or act as threatening to commit any crime of violence.)
After interviewing the three students, Investigator Elliott determined that criminal charges against McKinnie, King and Reese were supported by the evidence of the case. Investigator Elliott explained to Nieder his options concerning criminal prosecution and the internal conduct process. Nieder indicated that evening that he did not wish to seek criminal prosecution.
The residence life staff completed and submitted a residence life incident report to the Office of Student Conduct that evening.
Friday, January 26
Frances Lucas-Tauchar, vice president for Campus Life, called together staff from Residence Life, the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, EPD and the Office of Student Conduct to discuss the January 24 and 25 incidents. Response plans were devised to support Lilly and to learn more about campus tensions surrounding these incidents.
An emergency meeting of the Dobbs Hall Residence Life Staff was called by Floyd Bushey, area coordinator in Residence Life, and Lauren Kent-Delany, director of Residence Life. Numerous staff members in attendance had already discussed the incident with one or both parties. At that time, the staff was advised to continue to support both residents involved and defer judgment to the conduct process.
Kent-Delany went to Lilly's room to offer support. Kent-Delany attempted to visit Nieder, but he was staying at an off campus location with his parents. A meeting was held with Lucas-Tauchar, Vera Rorie, director of Multicultural Programs and Services, Nieder and his parents later in the morning to discuss the incident.
Lilly contacted Investigator Elliott in the afternoon and indicated that she had decided to seek criminal prosecution. An appointment was made to take her to DeKalb Magistrate's Court to obtain the warrant the next day.
Vera Rorie and Sylvester B. Hopewell, associate director of Multicultural Programs and Services, met with the three students accused of threatening Nieder. Rorie also talked with Lilly to lend her support and has maintained contact with Lilly since then.
Saturday, January 27
A voice mail message was sent out to all Residence Life staff outlining the incidents that had occurred in Dobbs Hall the last few days.
Investigator Elliott met with Mrs. Lilly and her daughter that morning, took them to the DeKalb County Magistrate's Court, explained the situation to the judge and a warrant was issued by the judge charging Nieder with simple battery, a misdemeanor. Emory Police typically do not sign warrants for misdemeanors if they have not witnessed the crime.
Investigator Elliott contacted Nieder and made arrangements for him to turn himself in to be arrested. The warrant was served by EPD and Nieder was arrested that afternoon. An arraignment hearing was set by the court for April.
Director of Residence Life Todd Schill, Vera Rorie and Floyd Bushey met with Mrs. Lilly and her daughter to review the incident and discuss the conduct process pending against Nieder.
Sunday, January 28
Todd Schill and Floyd Bushey met with Nieder and his parents. At this meeting, the incident was reviewed, as well as the conduct process.
Monday, January 29
Frances Lucas-Tauchar, Todd Schill, Vera Rorie and Floyd Bushey mediated a family discussion between Mrs. Lilly, Brandi's mother, and Mr. Nieder, David's father.
Nieder was administratively moved by Residential Services out of Dobbs Hall and placed in another residence hall in a room that was empty so as not to disturb a student who had already settled in. The terms of the undergraduate housing agreement allow for Residential Services administrators to reassign students until student conduct proceedings can be completed.
The Office of Student Conduct assigned Nieder's case to student conduct officials.
Tuesday, January 30
Office of Student Conduct proceedings began in the case of McKinnie, King and Reese allegedly threatening Nieder's well-being on January 25. The case is still pending before conduct officials.
Investigator Elliott turned the investigation of the January 25 threats against Nieder over to EPD Investigator Hogan to avoid the appearance of a possible conflict of interest involving her simultaneous investigations of the two linked cases involving Lilly and Nieder. Investigator Hogan began to contact witnesses to the January 26 incident in Nieder's room to gather follow-up information.
Wednesday, January 31
Vera Rorie contacted Lilly again to offer support.
Thursday, February 1
Hogan spoke with Nieder and he again stated that he did not wish to seek criminal prosecution.
Ongoing throughout February
Vera Rorie maintained contact with Lilly on a weekly basis to see if there was anything she needed.
A full investigation of the January 24 assault of Lilly by Nieder was held by the Office of Student Conduct, followed by a full hearing; numerous witnesses and statements were included.
Monday, February 5
Mrs. Lilly wrote to Frances Lucas-Tauchar thanking her and her staff for the consideration and concern given their family.
Friday, February 23
A witness left a voice mail message for EPD Chief Craig Watson indicating that he wanted to retract a second statement given because he felt it had been coerced.
Friday, March 1
The Conduct Council decision was delivered by the Office of Student Conduct to Nieder. A federal law, protecting the privacy of students, prohibits Emory from releasing any information about the conduct proceedings.
After the meeting with Nieder, the Office of Student Conduct made an appointment with Lilly to discuss the outcome of the hearing.
Monday, March 4
Nieder contacted Investigator Hogan and stated that he had decided to seek criminal prosecution against McKinnie, King and Reese for allegedly threatening him in his room on January 25. He was told by Investigator Hogan and Investigator Elliott that he had a choice of a charge of simple assault or terroristic threats. Nieder told Hogan that his attorney had specifically instructed him to seek warrants for terroristic threats and nothing else.
Investigator Hogan took Nieder to the magistrate's court and explained the circumstances to the judge, including the fact that Nieder had been charged in the related incident, the night before this incident and that he had waited this extended period of time to decide to prosecute. Nieder then described to the judge the incident and what had been said to him. The judge issued the warrants and asked Investigator Hogan to sign them. Emory Police typically sign warrants in felony cases. The three students involved were notified, and arrangements were made for them to turn themselves in at the court the next day.
Tuesday, March 5
McKinnie, King and Reese, charged in the warrants being prosecuted by Nieder, were accompanied by Vera Rorie and Sylvester B. Hopewell to their attorney's offices and to the DeKalb County Magistrate's Court to turn themselves in. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 3.
A witness in the incident in Nieder's room, who had called on February 23, met with EPD Chief Craig Watson and indicated that he wished to retract the second written statement that he had provided during the investigation. He indicated that the first statement he had given, in which he had described what he had seen and heard during the evening of the incident, was correct.
He was informed that his request to retract his second statement would be forwarded to the officers responsible for the investigation and to representatives of Campus Life so that it could be handled appropriately. The second statement provided additional information but did not change or alter any information contained in the first statement.
A student rally was held to protest the arrest warrants being issued for McKinnie, King and Reese. Numerous Campus Life and other Emory administrators attended the protest. Student leaders were invited to meet with Emory President William M. Chace and Frances Lucas-Tauchar after the protest. A two-hour meeting was held and plans were made for a follow-up meeting after spring break.
A representative of the Office of Student Conduct met with Lilly to discuss the outcome of the Nieder hearing and to express support for Lilly. An offer was extended to provide her with any future support she feels necessary.
Frances Lucas-Tauchar and Investigator Elliott spoke with Lilly at the rally held at the administration building. Vera Rorie spoke with Lilly later that day. Lucas-Tauchar called Lilly in her room that night to see if she was okay and gave Lilly her home phone number.
Wednesday, March 6
Mrs. Lilly called Investigator Elliott and left a voice mail message thanking her for all the assistance EPD had provided her daughter in dealing with the incident.
Thursday, March 7
Another student rally was held and a list of demands was presented to EPD. Erick Gaither, director of Community Services, offered to meet with student leaders following the presentation of demands, but that offer was declined by the students.
Vera Rorie and Sylvester B. Hopewell met with officers of the Caucus of Emory Black Alumni, Herbert Marbury '91C and Shamanda Joseph '92B, to discuss the events of recent weeks.
Monday, March 11
President William M. Chace met with officers of the Caucus of Emory Black Alumni, Herbert Marbury '91C and Shamanda Joseph '92B, to discuss the events of recent weeks.
Thursday, March 14
Investigator Hogan was notified by a clerk in the magistrate's court that McKinnie's attorney had a schedule conflict with the April 3 preliminary hearing date and the judge had approved a new date of April 9. University officials have not asked and will not ask for court dates to be moved.
Friday, March 15
President William M. Chace sent a letter to the campus community which stated that Emory will not tolerate threats or violence of any kind and promised that Emory is pledged to the equal treatment of all its citizens.
March 9-17 Spring Break
Monday, March 18
Investigator Hogan interviewed Kristin Smith to verify her statements regarding the incident in Nieder's room.
Tuesday, March 26
Lilly called Investigator Elliott to ask why the arraignment date for Nieder had been changed in the DeKalb County Magistrate's Court. Investigator Elliott told her that EPD did not know. (Officers normally do not appear at arraignment hearings held for misdemeanor charges.)
Thursday, March 28
A follow-up meeting was scheduled for the Black Student Alliance leaders to meet with President Chace, Vice President Lucas-Tauchar, Chief Watson, Dean Schill and Dean Rorie. The meeting took place, but the BSA leaders chose not to attend.