NEW BRITAIN, Connecticut, July 5, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A lesbian student at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) won the sympathy of hundreds of students who rallied to her defense against anti-gay remarks before police say video evidence forced her to admit she planted the messages herself.
Alexandra Pennell, 19, has been barred from state universities for five years and faces several felony charges after the young woman was caught on tape planting the threatening notes that had been the source of campus-wide outrage.
When the notes were first discovered in March, hundreds decried the alleged hate crimes in a campus “Solidarity Rally.” There, Pennell told the audience, “I stand here today speaking to the person responsible for this, and all I have to say is I’m not going to be run out of my home and I will not be intimidated by hate.” CCSU President Jack Miller told rallygoers to speak up if they knew the perpetrator.
Campus police say that they began to be suspicious after the secret camera they had set up in Pennell’s dorm room to catch the individual had been conveniently unplugged on two occasions.
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The Hartford Courant reports that, just before heading off to speak at the March 13 “Solidarity Rally,” Pennell told police about a new note she had found. When asked about the fact that the surveillance camera had been unplugged shortly before the note was allegedly slipped under her door, Pennell said she may have accidentally pulled the cable when opening her desk drawer. An officer found that pulling the drawer didn’t disconnect the device when he tried it, and that it took “a fair amount of effort” to yank out the cable.
Police then installed another hidden camera without Pennell’s knowledge, and took the first device away for “repairs.” They said the second camera caught Pennell coming out of her room, looking around, and sliding the note under her door.
Pennell at first denied planting the notes, according to police, who questioned her on April 13. When confronted with the video evidence, Pennell said she had only planted one or two notes; after being told the camera had been running a long time, she admitted to all of them, saying she did it because she wanted her roommate to spend more time with her. Afterward, that roommate gave a letter to police in which Pennell said she was driven by the fear of losing friends and her girlfriend, and also claimed that she had “turned herself in” to police.
A phone call to Sargeant Jerry Erwin of CCSU Police was not returned as of late Thursday.
Pennell was expelled from CCSU and now faces eight felony counts of fabricating evidence, eight misdemeanor charges of lying to police, eight misdemeanor counts of filing a false police report and one count of making a false statement to police, reports the Courant, in addition to the five-year ban on attending any state university. Pennell has reportedly pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Mark McLaughlin, a CCSU spokesman, said the university remains proud of the “campus community’s response to what we believed was an act of bias, and we reaffirm now what was said then: acts of bias and hate will not be tolerated at CCSU,” according to the Courant. Other reactions at CCSU were less sanguine.
“I’m shocked that she would go to that length to get attention,” one CCSU student said, according to the Huffington Post.
“I’m happy that she was charged with those counts, and that she cannot attend a state school for five years, because she cannot cause that kind of drama. It’s sad because Central did show an outpour [sic] of support…when it was all kind of a hoax.”