A 22-year-old upstate college student was arrested for allegedly raping a fellow student at her home in February, authorities say, even though an independent investigation by the school found no evidence of a rape, according to the suspect's lawyer.
Bard College student Sam Ketchum was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree rape, a felony. He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. Police say he allegedly raped the female college student early on the morning of Feb. 8 at her home in Red Hook, not far from the Annandale-on-Hudson school campus.
Ketchum was arrested after the woman's attorney notified detectives last week, more than two months after the attack, police said.
Mark Primoff, a spokesman for Bard College, told NBC 4 New York the student reported her attack to university officials in early February and the college immediately initiated an internal investigation, as required by law.
Primoff said colleges are required to inform a complainant at the time the report is made that he or she can choose to go to the police, and "we offer to help them to actually do that."
As for why Ketchum was arrested several months after he allegedly attacked the student, Primoff said a school can't force a complainant to go to the police and can't file a complaint on his or her behalf, nor can a college advise the person which course of action to take.
But the woman's friends said she felt the school was unhelpful when she reported the alleged rape.
"She was absolutely discouraged from going to the police," said a student who only gave her first name as Morgan. "That was her feeling."
Another friend, Jordan Bodwell, said, "She feels absolutely unsafe and she feels the school has failed her in almost every way and she went to to police because of that."
For its part, the school immediately took action and began investigating pursuant to Title IX, Primoff said.
That investigation concluded late last month without finding a rape had occurred, according to a lawyer for Ketchum, Michael Pollok. The complainant's attorney is trying to appeal the finding, and his client is opposing it, Pollok told NBC 4 New York in an email.
"As a result of that Title IX investigation, my client was placed on social probation and a no contact order imposed on both my client and the complainant," Pollok said. "Thus, it was only after this Title IX finding, which did not indicate a rape that the complainant went to the police with her uncorroborated allegation without physical evidence that might have existed had she called 911 when this allegedly occurred."
Dutchess County Sheriff's Department Captain James Watterson acknowledged, "When you find out about something weeks or months after it happened, it puts you behind the 8-ball, and you have a lot of work to make up."
The sheriff's department said deputies were at the woman's home on an unrelated matter earlier in April when a deputy saw a letter from Bard referencing the investigation into the alleged sexual assault. The deputy left his business card and asked for the woman to contact him if she wanted to report it, and she went to the sheriff's office with her lawyer the next day.
Pollok said, "The facts of this case are preliminary and no conclusions should be drawn until the matter has been fully heard in a court of law."
Bard acknowledged that the complainant was appealing the school's investigation findings, and "that process should be concluded soon."
One student who works as a peer counselor supports the school's process, reiterating that it was up to the victims, not the college, whether to go to police.
"Bard doesn't just ignore things like this," said Kelly Pancrall. "I'm sure there are other things going on."
-- Jen Maxfield contributed to this report