UAlbany Police arrest Guilderland man for rape of sleeping student

Franklin Casatelli

GUILDERLAND — “Let me finish.”

That’s what a rapist said to the University at Albany student who awoke in her dorm room at 4 a.m. Sunday morning to find a stranger on top of her, having forcible intercourse with her, according to an accusatory instrument filed with the City of Albany’s criminal court.

University Police and the Albany County District Attorney’s office say the rapist is Franklin Casatelli, 25, of Guilderland.  

Casatelli is from an old Guilderland family that has served the town for years. His grandfather, Frank Casatelli, who died in 2010, was a volunteer firefighter with the McKownville Fire Department for 59 years and a decorated World War II veteran. In 2012, the McKownville firehouse was dedicated to him.

The victim told her assailant “no” and told him to get off of her several times, court documents say, and he refused to comply, until she managed to get him off of her; he then left the room, the accusation says.

Her assailant fled after the woman awoke and confronted him, university police announced in a mass email alert sent out to students and staff on Sunday.

Less than 12 hours after the student says she was attacked, university police arrested Casatelli — who was not a student, they said — for first-degree rape and second-degree burglary, both felonies.

The burglary charge was brought for entering and remaining in the building without having legitimate reason to be there and with the intent to commit a crime, said Deputy Chief Aran Mull of the New York State University Police at Albany.

“We began looking at data from video cameras and swipe cards, to help us identify who’s been in the building, and interviewing people that way to see if they’ve seen anything,” Mull said, describing the process investigators used. “We check out all of the normal criminal-justice records including parole records of those who have been recently released. We make some sort of suspect pool and then see if one of them could be involved,” Mull said.

He continued, “We pulled in all of our investigators and they focused solely on this issue for about 12 hours, until we locked it up.”

Police were able to “establish his identity” and “reached out to him,” said Joseph Brennan, the university’s vice president for communications and marketing.

Casatelli chose to turn himself in, Brennan said.

The accusation says that evidence against Casatelli includes “the verbal statements of the victim, the statements of witnesses, suspect identification using a photo array, and video surveillance.”

Asked if the woman plans to bring this to trial, Mull said, “At this particular time, we are moving forward with prosecution. The university, university police, and the DA’s office are committed to listening to victims of sexual assault and to giving them the power to decide how to move forward.”

At Casatelli’s arraignment on Monday, his defense attorney, James Tyner of Sacco Tyner, entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. Casatelli is due back in city criminal court on Thursday for a preliminary hearing. He is being held in Albany County’s jail without bail, according to a court clerk.

UAlbany’s programs to prevent sexual assault

Chantelle Cleary, the university’s Title IX coordinator, was asked if sexual attack by a stranger is rare on the UAlbany campus. She said, “On our campus and in society in general, only 10 percent of sexual assaults are committed by a person that the victim does not know.”

She added, “Sexual assault is the most underreported crime in our society,” and said that it is underreported regardless of who the perpetrator is. It is not only underreported in cases of date rape. “Even when the attack is by a stranger, often the crime is not reported,” she said.

 

Photo from the University at Albany
Empowering bystanders: On the University at Albany campus earlier this month, students Imani Tate, left, and Cassandra Edwards — both members of the women’s basketball team — tried to interest others in undergoing bystander-intervention training to prevent sex crimes.

 

The university has implemented a program of bystander-intervention training and hopes to train 25 percent of its students this year, Cleary said. “Research tells us that, if we can change the behavior of 25 percent of the culture, we can change the entire culture,” she added.

This training helps give people the ability to recognize when someone may be in danger, Cleary said, and the tools to “intervene positively” in a way that they are comfortable with. For instance, she said, one person may have no problem intervening directly and asking someone, “Hey, what are you doing?” Someone else may prefer to intervene by going to get help. Still another bystander might want to ask the person in danger to go with her to the bathroom, and, there, ask her if she is all right.

The university — which is partly in Albany and partly in Guilderland — currently mandates that all athletes on university teams take the intervention training, in order to continue in their sport, and all student officers of recognized student organizations must also take it. “That’s about 2,000 students,” Cleary said. “We are hoping to train about 2,500 more this year,” for about a quarter of the university’s approximately 17,000 students, she said.

In addition, she said, the university is unusual for its dedicated Advocacy Center for Sexual Violence, which supports and advocates for victims, as well as many different kinds of educational and prevention programs for the university community.

Asked if the university had created these programs in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Enough Is Enough legislation — enacted in July 2015 to protect students and combat sexual assault on college and university campuses — Cleary said, “We were doing these things before Enough Is Enough was passed. I think we go above and beyond the mandates of Enough Is Enough.”

The number of sex assaults reported did rise from 2014 to 2015, according to the university’s Clery Report — the result of a federal statute requiring campuses to track and make public crime statistics — which may suggest that university efforts to create an environment that encourages reporting are working.

In 2014, there were four rapes reported on campus, and that number rose to 11 in 2015. The number of fondling incidents rose from one to six in the same period, and stalking incidents from four to 11. This is well under 1 percent of the female population at UAlbany. A report from the White House Council stated that 20 percent of female college students are victims of sexual assault.

Mull of the university police said that the amount of reporting to police may have increased slightly, but that most of the increase seen in the Clery Report comes from information reported to “other reporting avenues that the university has developed,” the two largest of which are the Advocacy Center for Sexual Violence, directed by Carol Stenger, and the Title IX office, headed by Cleary.

At the end of each year, Mull said, representatives of the three offices sit down and look at all the incidents that have been reported and, first, determine which are duplicates — reported to more than one office — and which are separate events, in order to come up with an accurate figure. For that reason, none of the offices alone can give an accurate rough number mid-year, Mull said.

“I will say that Chantelle Cleary and Carol Stenger have been doing an amazing job creating an avenue for students to come forward and get the help that they need and give us the information that we need, to get better at understanding what’s happening and why it’s happening,” said Mull.

“Students are coming forward to us more, but very often it’s because they’ve talked with Chantelle or with Carol first, and gotten a really good understanding of the process, so they walk into it with eyes open,” he added.

More Guilderland News

  • Calling Guilderland’s fall reopening plan “a work in progress,” Superintendent Marie Wiles said, “We have not made any decisions on the structure … We’re doing our homework. We’re waiting for key guidance on the amount of distance we have to provide between and among students.”

  • Asked why Guilderland was eager to change now when earlier administrations had been unwilling, Superintendent Marie Wiles said, “We’re at a watershed moment in our country. George Floyd and what happened to him just woke people up. Great numbers are starting to see there really is systemic racism that we haven’t been really appreciative of.” She also said, “We’ve got the trifecta,” and referenced the coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty, and social unrest. “Maybe that’s what it takes to wake us up,” said Wiles.

  • At its June 24 meeting, the Guilderland Planning Board was asked by the town board to “make a decision on what improvements, if any, will be required at the Church Road/Western Avenue intersection and Church Road/Great Oaks Boulevard entrance.”

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.