Sex assault charges dropped against ex-NIU police officer

Special to the Tribune

Sex assault charges against a former Northern Illinois University police officer were dropped Tuesday after new revelations of possible irregularities in the investigation surfaced, the officer’s attorney said.

The charges against Andrew Rifkin were dropped following a hearing where a campus police IT specialist testified that he was summoned around 10 p.m. on Nov. 9, by NIU Police Chief Donald Grady and was told to remove between 60 and 70 files from the chief’s computer, Rifkin attorney Bruce Brandwein said.

Earlier that day, university administration had appointed a new supervisor to oversee Grady and the department. That same day, a DeKalb County judge had ordered the NIU police to sign an affidavit confirming that all evidence in the Rifkin case had been handed over to county prosecutors, following a previous finding that the department had withheld evidence.

Grady was placed on administrative leave the following day.

Brandwein said the specialist did not know whether the files he removed pertained to the Rifkin investigation, but Brandwein said he found the timing curious.  After hearing about the removal of the files, DeKalb County State’s Atty. Clay Campbell told the judge that prosecutors would drop the charges against Rifkin, Brandwein said.

“It was incredible,” he said. “I applaud the state’s attorney for doing the right thing.”

An attempt to reach Campbell for comment was not successful Tuesday night.

Rifkin, 25, was fired from the department in October 2011 after it was alleged he sexually assaulted an NIU student. However, the NIU police’s investigation of the case came under fire this month when it was learned that the department had failed to turn over reports of witnesses who indicated that Rifkin and the student had engaged in consensual sexual activity.

Those reports ended up in a personnel file in what the NIU police said was an oversight. But DeKalb County Judge Robin Stuckert called it an “egregious” error and ruled that the department had purposely withheld the evidence.

That prompted university officials to place Grady on leave, pending a final disciplinary action. NIU also said it plans to terminate the officer who conducted the investigation against Rifkin.
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