With new-found mainstream fame and anticipation over his Nat Turner film, his 1999 rape case was dug out of the closet by major media outlets.
According to reports, when Parker was a student at Penn State University, he and roommate Jean Celestin were accused of raping a woman, then 18, who was unconscious at their apartment. According to court documents, she also claimed the two harassed and stalked her following her accusations. Both men maintained that the sex was consensual.
Because Parker had previously engaged in consensual oral sex with the victim, he was acquitted of all charges. Celestin, who has a writing credit on Birth of a Nation, was convicted, although the case was later appealed. In a 2005 retrial, the victim declined to testify again and Celestin’s conviction was then overturned.
The victim later sued the university for failure to protect her from harassment. She won a $17,500 settlement.
Parker, now 36, sat down with Variety and described the experience as “painful,” but something he had moved on from:
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life,” Parker told Variety. “It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. 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, I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”
But with those words came a slew of questions, with reporters digging further into the story. Many accused him of being insensitive to the unnamed victim and the struggles she faced.
On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that his accuser was dead — the woman, whose name has not been released, committed suicide back in 2012 by swallowing over 200 sleeping pills.
Her brother told Variety that following the case, she became “detached from reality,” adding that he believes Parker “got off on a technicality.”
Still, there is no technical proof that her death was connected to the trial. According to court documents, she also suffered from “major depressive disorder with psychotic features,” although one of those features was cited as being “PTSD due to physical and sexual abuse.”
The reports of her death were shocking not only to the world, but to Nate himself, who went on Facebook to address the controversy:
Fox Searchlight has said that they are aware of the accusations, but have yet to comment further on whether it would affect the film’s release.
Time will tell if this skeleton haunts the entire reception of the film and Nate’s career as an actor, producer, and leader going forward.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.