While enrolled at Penn State University in 1999, Parker and his roommate Jean Celestin, who has since co-written the Oscar contender, were charged with raping a 20-year-old female student in their apartment. The woman claimed she was unconscious after a night of drinking and did not agree to have sex with either Parker or Celestin. She also accused both men of stalking and harassing her after she reported the incident to authorities.
Following the charge, Parker, then a student athlete, lost his spot on the wrestling team and transferred to another college in Oklahoma. He eventually was acquitted in a 2001 trial based on testimony that he and his accuser previously engaged in consensual intercourse. Although Celestin was found guilty, Parker’s former roommate successfully appealed his six month prison sentence after the victim chose not to testify again in a 2005 trial.
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life. It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that,” Parker told Variety in an exclusive interview. “Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is” — he took a long silence — “I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”
Despite his effort to bury the past, Parker understands his personal life will be up for grabs as he moves forward with press runs for his film centered on Nat Turner’s 1831 slave revolt. The actor, who has already been criticized about his marriage to a white woman, says he’s bracing himself for what more is to come with his burgeoning fame.
“My life will be examined and put under the microscope in ways that it never has. There are numerous things that are surfacing,” he continued. “But I’ve always been an open book. I’m an advocate of justice. I’m an older man. I’ve matured a lot. I’ve had many obstacles in my life. I grew up very poor. My father passed away. There are so many things that happened. At the same time, I am the man that I am. I am open to the scrutiny. I will never hide anything from my past.”
Fox Searchlight, who acquired the rights for Parker’s Sundance smash in a $17.5 million deal, has chosen to maintain their support in the wake of the resurrected ordeal. “Fox Searchlight is aware of the incident that occurred while Nate Parker was at Penn State. We also know that he was found innocent and cleared of all charges. We stand behind Nate and are proud to help bring this important and powerful story to the screen.”
The Internet, on the other hand, isn’t ready to forgive and forget.
Nate Parker wrote Birth Of A Nation with his rape co-defendant….I just….
— Tierra Stormborn (@PaintingDaBlues) August 8, 2016
I see Nate Parker is on a PR clean-up tour for his rape case before Birth Of A Nation is released. His response does him no favors….
— Slim Belushi (@AmazonCan) August 13, 2016
Very disappointed in this alleged Nate Parker college rape thing. Dudes gotta stop thinking they can “grow past” an atrocity they committed.
— Yung Metaphysique (@SoloExMachina) August 13, 2016
Nate Parker wrote a movie about something that happened in 1831 and then said his rape charge was a long time ago and he’s moved on.
— A$AP Aspie (@ProfessorBLove) August 14, 2016
I’m disappointed with Nate Parker’s response to questions about his rape case. Like most men, he fails to even engage the issue of rape.
— Ari C. (@lit_ari_ture) August 13, 2016
Nate Parker and his best friend gang raped a woman and got away with it. But that’s how rape culture works.
— olivia nope. (@keyerajay) August 15, 2016
Nate Parker would’ve been convicted of rape just like his co-defendant if he hadn’t had consensual sex the day before with her. That’s it.
— IG: Sil_Lai (Abrams) (@Sil_Lai) August 15, 2016
Hey! So y’all know how I was defending Nate Parker earlier? Yeah…I just found out he’s a convicted rapist & he’s homophobic. Cancelled.
— Problematic (@Mrknowitalll_) August 5, 2016
What are your thoughts?