A man arrested over the weekend on a top-level rape charge has been freed and the charges dropped after the woman who made the accusations recanted, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
The woman, identified as Nicolia C. Steed, 22, of Odell Street, has now been charged with two counts of making a false written statement, a misdemeanor.
The rape case unraveled after the man’s arrest, prosecutor Tracey Brunecz said. A recorded phone call between the suspect and the complainant indicated that no rape took place, then Steed gave a statement to police taking back the entire story.
Brunecz also said prosecutors were satisfied after further investigation that there was no coercion or intimidation that resulted in the change of story.
“This was not a situation where he was threatening her or trying to convince or bribe her,” she said.
On the phone call, Brunecz said, the man essentially asked Steed what was going on and said he didn’t rape her. She then agreed.
Around that same time, Brunecz said, Steed went into the city Police Department and recanted the story, giving a full statement. She was then charged.
The Daily Gazette had not reported the arrest by the time the charges were dropped. The paper is withholding the individual’s name because he has been cleared. The man was arrested Saturday and released Monday by order of the court. The charges were formally dropped Wednesday.
The case began in early April, when Steed claimed she was raped and said she did not know the man who raped her. A rape evidence test was performed, and she also signed separate statements at Ellis Hospital and at the police station.
Sometime later, a suspect emerged through an entry on the woman’s phone. In what Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney called another red flag to the woman’s story, her boyfriend offered the suspicious phone listing as a possible suspect.
From this, investigators got a name and a photo of the man who eventually was arrested. The woman, though, could not pick him out of a photo lineup.
Had the case proceeded to grand jury, Carney said, the woman’s story would have faced scrutiny, particularly over why, if the rapist was a stranger, she had his number in her phone.
Authorities now believe they not only knew each other, but had a brief relationship. Results from the rape test kit came back with a DNA profile that matched one in the state DNA database. So an arrest warrant was obtained and the man was located and arrested, on charges of first-degree rape and second-degree burglary, Brunecz said. Steed not only said he raped her, but broke in to do so.
If the case did make it to trial and the man convicted, he would have faced up to 25 years in state prison.
Brunecz said it was an example of how cases are continually investigated, even after an arrest is made. Sometimes that investigation turns up more evidence of guilt. Other times, evidence exonerating the defendant is found. “That’s why investigations don’t stop with an arrest,” she said. “We continue to investigate these things. Fortunately, we were able to find in the situation here that it was false and we got it stopped right at the beginning.”
Brunecz said Steed was charged due to the seriousness of the case.
“A lot of time and effort was put into this,” she said. “It wasn’t until the results came back and he was picked up and arrested that she finally came forward.”