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Rape charges dropped against Chartiers Valley High School graduate

Megan Guza
| Wednesday, July 26, 2017, 12:00 p.m.
Ross Wilkerson
Ross Wilkerson

Defense attorneys for a recent Chartiers Valley High School graduate charged with rape praised the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office for dropping the charges Wednesday and chastised the Scott Police Department for the "knee-jerk" decision to file the charges.

Prosecutors dropped all charges, which included rape, unlawful restraint and sexual assault, against Ross Wilkerson, 18, who earlier this year was led from school in handcuffs following the rape accusation.

Prosecutors said the young woman, who made the accusation, and her mother no longer wished to pursue the case and want to get on with their lives.

Wilkerson's defense attorneys, Michael and Michele Santicola, who are married, said their investigators uncovered communications between the accuser and others that painted "a different picture" about what happened.

"We've always maintained that it was a consensual relationship between Ross and her," Michael Santicola said during an interview with reporters after the charges were dropped. "She didn't tell us that at first. She told a drastically different story. She told us it was a violent rape at some point in time, and we knew that was completely false."

Michael Santicola called the potential for charges against the accuser a slippery slope.

"I think this was a troubled girl. She was a minor at the time," he said. "If we talked about this in a vacuum — absolutely, there should be some ramification for people who make these allegations when they're not true, but that's a slippery slope, and it's not always so clear."

The attorney criticized the police work that led to the charges, saying "basic research" would have led to a different outcome.

"We wouldn't be here. It doesn't happen in many situations where somebody tells a story and all of a sudden there's an affidavit of probable cause and, boom, there (are) charges," he said. "It's a burden."

Scott Police could not immediately be reached for comment.

Michele Santicola said the accusations have jeopardized college scholarship opportunities for Wilkerson, who played basketball and baseball in high school.

She said they plan to file the necessary legal papers to expunge any court records about the charges, but she acknowledged that reports about the accusations will likely always exist online.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib.

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