First she said that two black men violently raped her. Then she said they didn’t. Then she said she’d only accused the men of rape because she was trying to gain the interest of a potential boyfriend. Then she said she never told police that she was raped at all. Now she admits that she lied about the lie she lied about.
On Tuesday, after a jury had already been selected and her trial was about to begin, Nikki Yovino changed her mind again; she stood in front of Superior Court Judge Maureen Dennis and pleaded guilty to making up the story of how a pair of Sacred Heart University football players had dragged her into a bathroom during a party and sexually assaulted her.
The Connecticut Post reports that 20-year-old Yovino accepted a plea deal and admitted to two counts of second-degree falsely reporting an incident and one count of interfering with police.
In February 2017, Yovino attended an off-campus party and loudly proclaimed to her friends that she was going to have sex with two fellow students. Witnesses say she coerced the men into the bathroom and engaged in sexual acts, but Yovino later filed charges against the men, saying that the sex was not consensual.
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The university quickly rescinded the players’ scholarships, forcing them to withdraw from college. But when police began investigating, Yovino reluctantly admitted that she made up the rape charges to get sympathy from a guy she was interested in.
While it is unclear whether adding “raped by two black guys” to her Tinder profile worked out as planned, authorities soon issued an arrest warrant for Yovino that stated:
She admitted that she made up the allegation of sexual assault against [the football players] because it was the first thing that came to mind and she didn’t want to lose [another male student] as a friend and potential boyfriend. ... She stated that she believed when [the other male student] heard the allegation it would make him angry and sympathetic to her.
But following her arrest on charges of falsely reporting an incident and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, Yovina doubled down on her accusations of rape, changing her story again. During a March pretrial hearing, her defense attorney told the judge, “Our defense is that these two young men did things to her that were a sexual assault and were against her will.”
By May, Yovino had concocted an entirely different defense. She didn’t say she was actually raped; nor did she admit that she’d fabricated the entire story. Instead of the infamous “Haters gonna hate, liars gonna lie” defense, Yovino testified that she never accused anyone of rape, insisting that it was police who created the story out of thin air.
“I never told him [police investigator Walberto Cotto Jr.] I was sexually assaulted,” Yovino testified in a different hearing. “I told him that something happened in the bathroom at the party with these two guys that I didn’t want to happen.”
Even after the prosecution played a recording of her telling the police investigator that “it never happened,” and acknowledging that she “went to the bathroom with the intention of having sex,” Yovino told the court that she “never said she was sexually assaulted.”
When asked why she thought the police were investigating a sexual assault, she testified, under oath: “I don’t know.”
But on Tuesday, Yovino finally came clean, pleading guilty to the reduced charges. Instead of facing six years in jail on felony charges, she was sentenced to three years, which will be suspended after she serves one year in prison. As part of her deal, all of the charges were reduced to misdemeanors.
“We were prepared to go to trial on the original felony charge,” Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Tatiana Messina told the judge. “But after lengthy discussions with all parties involved and considering all outside factors, this was an appropriate disposition that will hopefully set a precedent about how serious the state takes this conduct.”
According to their lawyer, Frank Riccio II, the falsely accused men are considering suing Yovino, who dropped out of school and went to work as a real estate agent. With her talented lying ability, she was a natural fit.
“While this disposition does not replace that which the boys lost, it does send a powerful message that lying about a serious incident carries serious consequences,” Riccio said.
The Root has not confirmed that upon her release, Yovino will replace Sarah Huckabee Sanders as White House spokesperson.