LINCOLN, Neb. – A former University of Nebraska basketball star convicted of lying to police about being attacked in her home by masked men who carved anti-gay slurs into her skin was sentenced Thursday to a week in jail and two years' probation.
Charlie Rogers, who maintains that the attack last July did happen, cried and hugged family and friends as she left the courtroom. Neither she nor her family would comment after the hearing.
The reported attack provoked outrage and spread fear among Lincoln's gay community, and hundreds of people turned out for a rally that weekend outside the state Capitol. At the time, Lincoln was debating whether to adopt a proposed "fairness ordinance" that would have banned discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, and tensions were high among those on both sides of the issue.
According to police, Rogers, who is a lesbian, said three masked men broke into her home, assaulted and subdued her, and carved anti-gay slurs and into various parts of her body before trying to set fire to the home and leaving. A neighbor told police Rogers crawled from her home naked, bleeding and screaming for help.
Prosecutors say her story quickly fell apart, and that she faked the attack because she thought it would inspire change in the treatment of gay people. They say Rogers purchased zip ties, a box cutter and white gloves shortly before the attack, and that the evidence didn't support what she said had happened.
Judge Gale Pokorny read a message on her Facebook page shortly before the alleged attack, in which she wrote, "So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me."
Rogers' attorney, Brett McArthur, said that Rogers maintains her innocence, asked Pokorny to sentence her to only probation because she had no previous criminal history and is receiving counseling. But Pokorny said the evidence shows she is guilty and that jail time is warranted, and that Rogers ended up harming the cause she meant to champion.
"It exploded in her face. Ms. Rogers has single-handedly managed to do a disservice to her cause of enormous proportion," Pokorny said. "For a long, long time to come, when a gay makes a legitimate complaint about unequal treatment or discrimination, there will be a knee-jerk reaction among many."
Deputy County Attorney Patrick Condon told the judge probation wasn't enough, considering the fear Rogers spread and the hours and resources police spent investigating her claims.
"It does have an effect on this community," Condon said.
Rogers must report to jail April 29. In addition to probation and jail, she was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service for the city parks service in Lincoln.
Rogers played for Nebraska from 1996 through 2000, and finished her collegiate career as the team's second all-time shot-blocker.
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