BELCHERTOWN – A judge this afternoon set bail at $10,000 cash for four Pittsfield men accused of raping an 18-year-old University of Massachusetts Amherst student inside her dorm room on Oct. 13.
District Court Judge Mary Hurley said it was the worst assault she had heard of in her career as a judge.
“Never in my time on the bench have I heard such an egregious recounting of facts,’’ Hurley said from the bench. She set another hearing for Dec. 10.
Northwestern District Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Suhl provided a graphic account at the men’s arraignment of the alleged sexual assaults in the early morning hours of Oct. 13 inside the woman’s darkened dormitory room. Defense attorneys fired back, saying the woman was inebriated and has tried to extort money from their clients.
According to the prosecutor, the men texted the victim on Oct. 13, saying they wanted to stop by her dormitory. She told them in a text message that she did not want them to come. However, the men came to Amherst anyway, and were signed into to the dormitory by a stranger, the prosecutor said.
The men went to the woman’s room and discovered she was not home but also found that the door was unlocked. So they let themselves in and waited for her return. When she did return, the woman agreed to let the men stay in her room and agreed to socialize with them, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorneys, citing police reports, said the woman told investigators that she drank eight or nine shots of vodka, a couple of beers, and smoked marijuana while the men were in her room.
The prosecutor said that at one point during the gathering, one of the men shut off the lights. The victim was stripped and then repeatedly raped. After the sexual assaults, three of the men left the dorm room; the fourth, Liccardi, stayed behind and raped the woman again, the prosecutor said.
According to both the prosecutor and defense, the woman texted Bile the following day and accused the four of raping her. Bile sent a text back, apologizing for his actions and that of his friends, the lawyers said. Bile also asked the woman if she knew where Licciardi was, the lawyer said.
As they pushed the judge to allow their clients to be freed on bail, defense attorneys said the woman also texted Bile to make an extortionate demand. She allegedly texted that if they each paid her $500 cash, she would not report what they had done to her to police, a demand that defense attorneys said their clients were trying to meet when arrested.
The prosecutor, however, said the woman was not blackmailing anyone, but was instead trying to protect herself by misleading her attackers into believing she was willing to keep silent, even as she turned to authorities for help.
Suhl said it was a “safety tactic.”
The four men were arrested on Friday — almost a week later — at four separate locations in Pittsfield.
UMass Amherst Police Chief John Horvath said his department learned quickly about the sexual assault, but did not issue a campus-wide security alert because they saw no security threat on campus, given that none of the defendants are UMass Amherst students. He also said the news was not released “for investigative purposes.”
“It’s a terrible incident, but the outcome, with the arrest of these individuals, is something that we’re very happy to see come to fruition,” he said in a telephone news conference.
Horvath said in a statement that after police learned about the incident “we communicated with security personnel and residence hall staff to reiterate current security procedures.’’
He added, “In addition, while campus security measures have generally proved effective in the past, the university will conduct a comprehensive review of security in our residence halls.’’
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said the woman is receiving support services from the school.
“Maintaining a safe learning and living community is of the upmost importance to our campus. We will not tolerate this violent behavior,” Subbaswamy said in a statement issued by school officials. “The victim and her family are receiving support from our campus resources. I know that I speak on behalf of our university community when I say that they are all in our thoughts during this difficult time.”
Robert Caret, president of the UMass system, said in a statement that he was “profoundly disturbed to learn of these allegations and want to express my heartfelt concern. Student safety is of paramount importance, and we are committed to ensuring that each of our campuses provides students with a safe and secure environment.”