'I am filled with profound sorrow,' he writes

By Oliver Gettell
Updated August 16, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Aaron Davidson/WireImage

Birth of a Nation filmmaker and star Nate Parker has responded to news reports that the woman who accused him of raping her in college 17 years ago took her own life in 2012, expressing his “profound sorrow” while maintaining his innocence.

Parker, who was acquitted in a 2001 trial, published a lengthy statement to Facebook on Tuesday in which he said, “I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow…I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this news. I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family.”

He continued, “I cannot- nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial. While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law. There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom. … I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name.”

In 1999, Parker and Penn State roommate Jean Celestin (who co-wrote Birth of a Nation) were charged with raping a fellow student while she was unconscious after a night of drinking. Parker was acquitted, while Celestin was convicted but appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial. The case was never retried because the woman decided not to testify again.

Variety reported Tuesday that the woman died by suicide in 2012. There is no evidence that the her death was directly linked to the trial, although the woman’s brother told Variety the case marked a turning point in her life. “If I were to look back at her very short life and point to one moment where I think she changed as a person, it was obviously that point,” he said. “The trial was pretty tough for her.”

Parker concluded his statement by saying, “I have never run from this period in my life and I never ever will. Please don’t take this as an attempt to solve this with a statement. I urge you only to take accept this letter as my response to the moment.”

Read the full statement below.

The Birth of a Nation

  • Movie
  • R
  • 120 minutes
  • Nate Parker