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A reporter looks at complex sexual assault cases nationwide and in CT

Investigative reporter Rachel de Leon.
Provided by Netflix
Investigative reporter Rachel de Leon.

Rachel de Leon is a reporter for the investigative reporting podcast and radio show Reveal. She's investigated cases across the country in which people reported sexual assaults to police only to find themselves investigated.

She recently produced a one-hour piece that focused on a 2017 case in Canton, Conn. She joined Connecticut Public Radio’s Lori Mack to talk about it.

Lori Mack: Without giving too much away, tell us about this case in Connecticut.

Rachel de Leon: In 2017, Nicole Chase was a single mother, she was working at a restaurant. She did everything — served customers, made food — she was doing well. And she's a good employee, and she likes to work for the most part. But there were things that were happening at the restaurant that made her concerned. And it really escalated one night when she says that her boss, Calvin Nodine, pulled her into the bathroom and did something very inappropriate. And she had to decide whether or not she was going to tell anyone about it. The police were one of those people she had to think about telling.

Mack: You obtained video through a public records request, and it shows the questioning of both Nicole and the man that she's accusing, Calvin, of sexual assault. (In the video, the officer tries to convince Calvin to take a polygraph.)

de Leon: The strategy that he's using here is he's trying to have Calvin Nodine take a polygraph. And even though those aren't usually admissible in court, it's an indicator. It's just another tool that police can use to figure out where they want to go next in their investigation, no problem there.

But what's happening [in the video is] that you hear him say is that if Calvin passes the polygraph, then he will be able to use that as leverage against the person who has reported Calvin, which is Nicole, the reporting victim.

That is very questionable, because we know what ends up happening is that she does become the suspect. She does ultimately get charged with a crime by the police.

Mack: And the charge is making a false statement to a police officer. I'll just say, as far as this case goes, it goes on for years. And there are many more twists and turns in this story.

Rachel, you've looked into more than 50 cases of alleged sexual assault across the country where the accuser finds themselves the subject of an investigation. What stuck out about this particular case in Canton to you?

de Leon: This case was so interesting, because it was one where essentially, Nicole was being blamed for leaving out a part of the story. And everything surrounding that she says is completely 100% truthful. But this is so common.

I really want people to remember that yes, investigating sex crimes is complicated. It is hard. I am not sitting here saying that it is easy to do. But reporting one is also extremely complicated. So, someone like Nicole — who has a daughter, a mother, a partner that she's thinking about — you don't go to the police necessarily sure exactly how you're going to say what happened to you. In the first account, in the second account, I mean, it is just so complicated.

I really found myself being very understanding that Nicole was not ready to tell the full story. And it's just too bad that when she did feel like she told her complete story, that this is what happened to her.

Mack: This case, as I said, goes on for years. It winds its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. To learn more about Nicole's story, listen to Reveal.

Rachel, as an investigative reporter, you spent years just on this case. Why did it take so long? And is that common in your other investigative reporting?

de Leon: I have been working on reporting on stories like this for several years now. And this was shortly after the "Me Too" movement really took off on Twitter when I started looking into it. It felt like such a saturated space. And so, I like to take a lot of time. I'm a pretty patient person. I found this was an opportunity to cover something that hadn't been covered very much. And this is quite unusual to have years to work on something. I understand that and I'm so grateful for that.

I just want everyone to know that it's actually really helpful for some stories, because you're dealing with a very vulnerable population who, you know, you've heard Nicole go on the record. I have talked to many other people who were not ready to go on the record. And I'm very grateful that they said no, because it meant that they did what's best for them. This was what was best for Nicole. And she needed the time. She needed the time that it was going to take to process this. And today, she was ready to speak out, and I'm so grateful.

Mack: Rachel de Leon is a reporter for the investigative reporting podcast and radio show called Reveal. She has been looking at cases across the country in which people reported sexual assaults to police only to find themselves investigated.

De Leon’s work is also the subject of a forthcoming documentary called "Victim/Suspect," which debuts on Netflix on Tuesday, May 23. It does not feature this story, but it does include a case in Bridgeport.

This interview has been edited for clarity and for length.

Lori Connecticut Public's Morning Edition host.

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