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Judge rules key evidence was withheld, but won’t drop rape case against NIU cop

Updated: December 11, 2012 6:15AM

A judge refused Friday to toss out a sex-assault charge against a former Northern Illinois University police officer even though the judge said investigators intentionally withheld evidence that favors the ex-cop.

But jurors will be told of the misconduct by NIU police investigators when former officer Andrew Rifkin stands trial, DeKalb County Judge Robin Stuckert ruled. Rifkin, 24, is charged with raping a university student last year.

Rifkin’s attorney had asked that the charge be dismissed because of the actions by NIU police while they investigated the case.

“The whole thing stinks,” defense attorney Bruce Brandwein said.

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell said he wants the Illinois State Police to review how NIU police handled the investigation.

NIU officials restructured oversight of the police department by appointing a new acting director of public safety. But university spokesman Brad Hoey said NIU Police Chief Donald Grady will still directly run the department.

University officials also have asked the State Police to review and assist NIU police with ongoing investigations. That effort is intended to “reassure the public that these inquiries are without conflict of interest,” NIU President John Peters said in a statement.

Rifkin, who was then a police officer, was charged last November after an NIU student alleged he had sexually assaulted her.

During their investigation, NIU police interviewed two friends of the student who said she had talked about being involved in a consensual relationship with Rifkin.

But investigators never turned over those statements to prosecutors or Rifkin’s attorney. An NIU police investigator testified at a hearing last week that he had inadvertently put the statements in Rifkin’s personnel file, rather than turning them over to prosecutors.

Stuckert said in a ruling last week she didn’t believe that explanation, instead concluding there was a “purposeful hiding of information.”

But on Friday she said the actions weren’t damaging enough to warrant throwing out the charge against Rifkin, who has since been fired.

Brandwein had argued that the statements were so beneficial to Rifkin that if police had turned them over to prosecutors, Rifkin may not have been charged.

He couldn’t explain why NIU police would have withheld documents that might exonerate a fellow officer. “I can’t guess,” Brandwein said.

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