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Police Investigating Two Reported Sexual Assault Cases On UAlbany Campus

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Two reported sexual assault cases at the University at Albany have officials reexamining security measures.

Campus police have released information about two separate cases in recent days. The first was an alleged forcible touching incident in a parking lot. The second came over the weekend in a residential tower, where police say a woman told authorities she woke up to a sexual assault in progress.

Thanks to campus surveillance cameras, it didn't take long for law enforcement to identify a suspect.     "We have made an arrest, we do have the individual in custody and there's no ongoing threat to the university community."

Police arrested 25-year-old Franklin Casatelli.  Deputy Chief of the University Police at the University at Albany Aran Mull says the man snuck into the secure Stuyvesant Tower behind other students.  "Whether it's a university residence hall or it's an apartment building anywhere in the United States you are going to see, I mean it's colloquial known as 'tailgating,' you're going to see people walking in behind other people. You're going to see people doing what they feel is the nice thing, and letting somebody in who looks like they might legitimately have access there."

UAlbany sophomore Dority Mensah tells NewsChannel13:   "Anybody can just walk in. If I'm swipin' in and somebody's tryin' to come in behind me, they can just get in easily. You never know who's a student, who's not."

Casatelli is accused of raping a student while she slept in her unlocked dorm room. The Guilderland resident appeared before a judge and pleaded not guilty to rape and burglary charges.

Felix Abreu  is president of UAlbany's student association: "Usually students are the ones that tend to open the door. And that tends to increase the risk, the likelihoods of something taking place. And one of the issues, one of the ways of addressing that issue, is you know, have resident assistants go ahead and inform the students not to make, not to make that call, to go ahead and open the door to just any individual, which is what they usually do. Resident Assistants instruct their residents into not opening the doors for people that they may feel like, you know, don't belong, you know. So it's unfortunate that we had to go through this. We're thankful that the matter was addressed and there are services being provided to the victim to allow for them to, you know, recover from this traumatic event."

Deputy Chief Mull says incoming freshmen, as a matter of policy, are always briefed on maintaining security on campus. The drill begins during midsummer orientation, before they begin classes, and focuses on keeping residence halls secure.   "And the fact that we are in a partnership and that we do need the members of community, if they see something suspicious, to call us and let us know. The university is spending a lot of time and effort teaching the students about what's called 'bystander intervention,'  which really is the new word for 'community-police relationship.' It's the new, the buzzword for 'if you see something, engage other resources,' whether it's police or other campus resources to address that situation instead of letting it spiral potentially out of control." 

Mull says police are still searching for two men involved in the other incident, the case of "forcible touching." He adds despite the incidents, the UAlbany campus is very safe. "Safer than most other college campuses."

The college has 7,700 students living on campus.

Casatelli, a recently freed parolee who has a long record of past crimes, is in Albany County Jail without bail, due back in court Thursday. An order of protection was issued for the victim.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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