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Rifkin re-indicted on sexual assault charges

DeKALB – Rape charges have been reinstated against the former Northern Illinois University police officer whose case originally was dropped after a judge ruled NIU police intentionally mishandled evidence.

A DeKalb County grand jury indicted Andrew Rifkin, 25, of Northbrook, on Friday on a single count of a criminal sexual assault. He is accused of forcing a sex act on an NIU student with whom he had an ongoing relationship. The incident allegedly happened in October 2011 while he was off-duty and off-campus; he was fired the same day the woman reported her allegations.

NIU officials cited Rifkin’s case as the main reason they fired NIU police Chief Donald Grady on Tuesday. Grady, who has questioned if race played a role in his dismissal, denied any knowledge that Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan placed two witness statements favorable to Rifkin in Rifkin’s personnel file rather than turning them over to prosecutors.

But DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert ruled Nov. 9 that NIU police had intentionally withheld the evidence and that jurors would learn of the police misconduct if the case went to trial. Former DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell, who lost a re-election bid by 739 votes, dropped the charges days before he left office at the end of November.

State’s Attorney Richard Schmack said charges were refiled after consulting with the victim, who Schmack said had no knowledge the charges would be dropped until she read media reports.

“It will always be the policy of my office to consult with victims of violent crime before any dispositions are reached, especially one so drastic as a dismissal,” Schmack said in a prepared statement.

A warrant has been issued for Rifkin’s arrest and bond has been set at $75,000. The sexual assault charge is a felony punishable by between 4 and 15 years in prison; probation is not an option.  

Rifkin’s attorney Bruce Brandwein said Friday afternoon that he would make arrangements for Rifkin to turn himself in to authorities in the next day or two.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed based on the circumstances surrounding this case that the state’s attorney would chose to file charges,” Brandwein said. “But here we go again.”

Bill Nicklas, acting director of public safety for NIU, said the refiling of charges had no effect on the university’s decision to fire Grady. He said the department was not involved in pursuing the charges against Rifkin again.

“We just learned of this and of course will cooperate with the state’s attorney in whatever way is appropriate as they prosecute the case,” Nicklas said.

Brandwein said he was not sure how Grady’s dismissal would affect the case, but it would likely play a role.

“I’m not sure how its going to play out right now,” Brandwein said. “He’s a potential witness in this case and he is no longer in the police department and that may have consequences.”

In January, Rifkin sued the university and the police officers involved with withholding evidence, claiming they had conspired against him. Rifkin is seeking more than $50,000 in damages and legal fees from the NIU Board of Trustees and NIU police officers including Grady, Ramakrishnan, Jason John and RaMon Holland.

Campbell could not be reached for comment and Schmack declined comment beyond his official release.

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