A South Setauket woman was sentenced by a Connecticut judge Thursday to a year in jail for making false rape allegations against two college football players in 2016, attorneys said.
Nikki Yovino, who turned 20 on Tuesday, took a plea deal on June 5 and immediately began serving her sentence, according to her defense lawyer and the case’s prosecutor. She pleaded guilty to two counts of falsely reporting an incident and one count of interfering with a police investigation, all misdemeanors. After she is released from jail, she will be on 3 years' probation.
Yovino, a 2016 graduate of Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, had faced up to 6 years of incarceration if she had been convicted on the original felony and misdemeanor charges, her attorney, Ryan O’Neill, said in a telephone interview.
In October 2016, Yovino was a student at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut when she reported that she had been sexually assaulted by two men at an off-campus house party. Detectives later confronted her and she admitted that the sex was consensual, police have said. The Associated Press reported that Yovino made it up so she could keep a friendship with a potential boyfriend, though her attorneys later said police pushed her into a false confession.
“It was significant that the state was willing to drop the felony and come down on the amount of jail time,” O’Neill said. “No matter what your stance is and what you believe either happened or not, there’s a risk of things not going your way.”
Before her February 2017 arrest, she had been taking classes at Suffolk County Community College after dropping out of Sacred Heart, O’Neill said.
Yovino was sentenced Thursday in Bridgeport Superior Court.
“This was not an easy charging decision for the state,” Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Tatiana Messina said during the proceeding. “But with the evidence we had against Miss Yovino, we do believe this disposition is both fair and appropriate. Many true victims of sexual assault are often disbelieved, but that is because of cases like this and the impact they have on public perceptions. Miss Yovino’s actions are a disservice to those true victims, in addition to the two young men whose lives were greatly affected, and that was not something that could have been ignored.”
One of the men, Malik St. Hilaire, addressed the court Thursday. The other man’s attorney read a statement from him.
“I went from being a college student to sitting at home being expelled with no way to clear my name,” St. Hilaire said. “I just hope she knows what she has done to me. My life will never be the same. I did nothing wrong, but everything has been altered because of this.”
— With AP