Hennepin County prosecutors dropped all charges Thursday against a University of Minnesota professor accused of raping and stalking an ex-girlfriend.
Francesco Parisi, 54, had been in the Hennepin County jail for the past three weeks after prosecutors charged him with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and stalking. The charges were dropped after prosecutors spoke with Parisi's criminal attorney, Mike Colich, who said there was no evidence to support the allegations.
"Efforts to corroborate or verify a number of specific allegations against the defendant that were made to the Minneapolis Police Department and the Hennepin County Attorney's Office were unsuccessful," Assistant County Attorney Justin Wesley wrote in a court filing. "Considering all of the evidence that we have now, the charges are no longer supported by probable cause and are hereby dismissed in the interests of justice."
County Attorney spokesman Chuck Laszewski would not say whether Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman signed off on the charges, or why they were brought despite the lack of evidence.
Court records show that the 55-year-old accuser and Parisi already had an extensive legal history and were locked in a contentious property dispute.
"If the prosecutor had taken a few minutes to look, just five minutes of due diligence, it could have prevented an enormous embarrassment to all parties involved and a gross abuse of the legal system," said one of Parisi's attorneys, John Braun.
Braun said Parisi intends to sue the woman and possibly the county attorney's office for defamation.
Parisi had been held on a $350,000 bail, but that was reduced on Tuesday to $3,000 following a bail hearing.
He was released that night and is now traveling to Italy to attend his mother's funeral.
Parisi has taught law at the U and economics at the University of Bologna in Italy since 2006, according to the résumé posted on the law school's website.
He has three law degrees and two economics degrees, it says.
His U biography says he has written 10 books and roughly 200 papers in law and economics, and is editor-in-chief of the Review of Law and Economics. U spokesman Evan Lapiska said administrators are aware that charges have been dropped.
"He remains an active employee, but is focusing on his research and will not be teaching the remainder of the semester," Lapiska said.
Parisi and the accuser dated in 2014, and in December of that year agreed to buy a condo together.
But in January 2015 the relationship soured.
By March, Parisi filed a lawsuit to cancel the purchase agreement. She filed an order for protection against him that same day, accusing him of preventing her from leaving his apartment and yelling and screaming at her in January.
Early the next month she counter-sued him over the purchase cancellation attempt, but made no mention of an assault. In April 2015, the restraining order was dismissed following a settlement.
She filed two more complaints against him over the property, and for the first time in a January 2016 filing accused him of beating her — but she made no mention of rape.
Text messages provided by one of Parisi's attorneys, Barry Edwards, show that the two exchanged friendly messages three weeks after the alleged attack.
The two discussed the woman's dog, meeting for dinner and making trips to IKEA.
In June 2016, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Parisi in the property dispute.
Two weeks later, she reported to police that Parisi sexually assaulted her in January 2015, according to records, the first time there is any record of her reporting the rape.
According to the county attorney's office, that report was never forwarded for potential charges.
In August 2016, she filed for another order for protection against him.
That order was dismissed in October following another settlement. Court records show the woman had previously filed orders for protection against other people in unrelated cases.
Braun said the woman has presented no evidence she was assaulted in her lawsuit regarding the property and added that she had been living above Parisi since 2015.