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DeKalb state’s attorney calls for NIU police probe

SYCAMORE – On the eve of the election, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell asked state police to investigate the Northern Illinois University Police Department for withholding evidence favorable to an NIU officer accused of raping a student.

A judge ruled Friday that NIU police intentionally hid statements from witnesses who said the alleged victim told them she had a consensual sexual relationship with then-NIU police officer Andrew Rifkin. Rifkin’s defense attorney asked Judge Robbin Stuckert to throw out the charges because of it; Stuckert is expected to announce her decision Friday.

Campbell did not attend Friday’s hearing, but said that after reading the transcript, he decided NIU police’s conduct warranted an outside investigation. He is asking state police to target NIU Police Chief Don Grady and the entire police department.

Meanwhile, NIU President John G. Peters asked state police to review and help with all of NIU police’s pending investigations as state police see fit.

“We want to reassure the public that these inquiries are without conflict of interest,” Peters said in a news release. “Therefore, I have instructed my general counsel and our outside counsel to begin a review of law enforcement protocols, and have requested the assistance of the Illinois State Police in this effort as well.”

Campbell said he had not received a response from state police about the outside investigation. NIU police spokesman Sgt. Alan Smith said Monday he was unaware of Campbell’s request. Grady could not be reached for comment late Monday afternoon.

“We haven’t received anything in writing, so we can’t comment,” Smith said. “Nobody in our department has received any information about it.”

Campbell denied the timing of his announcement was politically motivated.

Richard Schmack, the Democrat opposing Campbell in today’s state’s attorney election, argued the state’s attorney’s office also should be investigated. Schmack said the issue partly involved the communication between the two agencies, although he emphasized he did not know whether either agency had acted inappropriately.

“Clearly what happened in court is a result of the interplay between the state’s attorney’s office and the NIU police,” Schmack said.

Campbell said he would cooperate with a state police investigation, even if it led to his own office.

But, he pointed out the judge did not find the state’s attorney’s office did anything inappropriate at Friday’s hearing. NIU police Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan said in court that he put the witness statements in Rifkin’s internal employment file; Campbell said prosecutors did not receive the internal file.

“[The judge is] making it clear that the information was hidden from the state’s attorney’s office,” Campbell said. “I can’t imagine requesting an investigation and not cooperating with the investigation.”

The two witnesses who gave written statements to police also spoke with Grady at the NIU police station, according to court documents.

Grady testified Friday that he learned only last week that no report was made to prosecutors about the statements. Grady said Friday he did not suspend or fire the officers involved.

“I did talk to them,” Grady said in court. “Some people think that might be as stern as a termination.”

Rifkin’s case began Oct. 28, 2011, when a female NIU student told police Rifkin had raped her two weeks earlier on Oct. 14. Rifkin was fired the same day. University police have said NIU officers must adhere to a strict no-fraternization policy with students, faculty and staff.

On Nov. 3, 2011, two other students went to the NIU police station, where they gave signed, written statements to NIU police, in which they said the victim in the case had discussed her ongoing consensual relationship with Rifkin. However, they told police they were worried about going to court.

One of the NIU students said the investigating officer told her she could think about whether she wanted her statement to go to prosecutors, court records show. The officer also told her she would have to hire an attorney and the process would be complicated, court records show.

Court records also indicate two NIU police officers told the victim not to discuss the case with anyone but police, which Rifkin’s attorney asserts is a violation of Rifkin’s due process rights.

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