The attorney for Allen Artis, the University of North Carolina football player who is facing misdemeanor charges of sexual battery and assault on a female, is calling bluff to a photo his accuser’s attorney released, saying it appears to have been altered. The image of the accuser, Delaney Robinson, shows what appear to be bruises on her neck.
Robinson came forward in a press conference in early September, claiming she was raped by Artis at an on-campus apartment after drinking on Valentine’s Day. Robinson said she spoke after investigators within the university’s Department of Public Safety and the Orange County District Attorney’s office had not brought charges.
Artis has maintained that he and Robinson had consensual sex and he “did not rape her.”
Robinson’s attorney, Denise W. Branch, on Sept. 13 released a photo purportedly taken the morning of Feb. 14, showing what Branch said was bruising on Robinson’s neck.
Artis’s attorney, Kerry Sutton, contacted CNN last week after she received 13 evidentiary photos of Robinson from District Attorney Jim Woodall’s office. She sent them to CNN, including one that is similar to the photo issued by Branch.
All the photos were taken at a hospital by the campus Department of Public Safety at 9:47 a.m. on Feb. 14, several hours after the alleged assault, Sutton said.
Sutton said the shading along the neck in the photos she received is drastically different from the one provided by Robinson’s attorney.
Sutton said a dark circle is a shadow from Robinson’s earring. She said she believes the vertical line along her neck is the shadow of Robinson’s tendon due to the way her head is turned, and the dark mark in the middle is a shadow in the hollow of her neck. The other red marks on her neck are what appear to be “hickeys,” Sutton says.
During a press conference this week, Artis was asked about the disseminated photo and he, too, said he could only assume those were hickeys.
Sutton told CNN she believes the photo released by Robinson’s attorney was “enhanced” or altered, and that the contrast and color of the picture had been manipulated. Sutton said she is working with a forensic expert to further examine the two different versions. She would not comment on who possibly may have altered the image.
“We’ve had this information from the DA and had hoped to be mitigate the damage done to Mr. Artis’ reputation without disclosing this sort of evidence. But, certain media outlets persist in using the photo we believe has been enhanced and is an inaccurate depiction of Ms. Robinson and we cannot let that image be presented as fact,” Sutton said. CNN is among the news outlets that have used the photo.
CNN requested the police photos directly, but Woodall said he is unable to provide these, as they are being used as evidence in the criminal investigation.
Branch, Robinson’s attorney, provided the following statement.
“The photograph I presented at the press conference was given to me by Investigator Barbee with the UNC Department of Public Safety. Ms. Sutton has not requested nor has she received any photographs from me or my office. We have no idea from whom or from where Ms. Sutton obtained the photograph she submitted to the forensic analyst, and there is no way we can attest to the authenticity or alteration of Ms. Sutton’s photograph.”
When asked in what format the photo came and how it was prepared for distribution, a publicist for Branch said the lawyer had no further comment and referred questions to Woodall.
CNN reached out to UNC public safety officials to confirm the format, dimensions and technology used to take and disseminate the photos — factors that could affect their appearance. The department released this comment to CNN on Monday: “The information requested is integral to an ongoing investigation. There’s nothing we currently have to release over and above the statements already issued by UNC in this matter.”
Sutton said she received the digital photos on a disc provided by prosecutors.
Typically, CNN does not name alleged victims of sexual assault. In this case, Robinson came out publicly.
In North Carolina, as happened in this case, anyone can go before a magistrate and swear to criminal acts they assert happened against them. A magistrate then determines whether there is enough evidence to go forward. But charges that start that way can be only misdemeanors; felonies must be brought by the district attorney’s office.
Woodall said a felony investigation is still underway. He said the UNC Department of Public Safety “took investigatory steps” on Aug. 26 and 29 and consulted with his office.
“These are very serious charges, and before we go forward we would like to have the investigation completed or close to being completed,” he said.