Actor, director, writer, and permanent #MCM of many ladies, Nate Parker, has been heating up headlines this new year when his movie The Birth of a Nation had a successful premiere at Sundance in January and scored the festival’s largest sale of $17.5 million from Fox Searchlight.
However, the multi-hyphenate’s hotly-anticipated film and its Oscar campaign is being overshadowed by a rape trial from his past. According to Variety, in 1999, Parker, a then student and wrestler at Penn State University found himself and his roommate Jean Celestin — who actually co-wrote the story for “The Birth of a Nation” — in a snafu as they were both charged with raping a 20-year-old female student in their apartment after a night of drinking.
“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” — he took a long silence — “I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”
During that time, Parker did admit to having sex but claimed that it was consensual. The young lady had an opposing view point, saying that she was not only unconscious, but did not consent to having sex with Parker or Celestin. “She also claimed that she was stalked and harassed by Parker and Celestin after she reported the incident to the police,” Variety reports.
The incident cost Parker suspension from the wrestling team. Subsequently, he later transferred to a college in Oklahoma. Two years later, he went to trial and was acquitted based on testimony that he had previously had consensual sexual relations with his accuser. However is roommate was found guilty and served six months in prison. Celestin appealed the verdict, and a second trial in 2005 was thrown out because the victim didn’t want to testify again.
After the young lady sued the university and was awarded a $17,500 settlement out of court, nearly a decade ago, the specifics of the trial are bound to be scrutinized as Parker begins a month-long press voyage.
“My life will be examined and put under the microscope in ways that it never has,” Parker said, referencing individuals on Twitter who criticized him for having a white wife. “There are numerous things that are surfacing, but I’ve always been an open book. I’m an advocate of justice. I’m an older man. I’ve matured a lot. I’ve had many obstacles in my life. I grew up very poor. My father passed away. There are so many things that happened. At the same time, I am the man that I am. I am open to the scrutiny. I will never hide anything from my past.”
During the interview with Variety, Parker, who brought along his 6-year-old daughter declined to speak about the case at length.
“Look at it through the context of 17 years,” he said. “It was a very painful for everyone who went through it. What I learned through 17 years of growth and having children and having a wife and building a family is that we have to fight for what’s right. We have to lead in love.”