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American sought after ‘So I raped you’ Facebook message detained in France on 2021 warrant

In World
May 14, 2024

LYON, France (AP) — An American accused of sexually assaulting a Pennsylvania college student in 2013 and later sending her a Facebook message that said, “So I raped you,” has been detained in France after a three-year search.

A prosecutor in Metz, France, confirmed Tuesday that Ian Thomas Cleary, 31, of Saratoga, California, had been taken into custody last month and will be held pending extradition proceedings.

Cleary had been the subject of an international search since authorities in Pennsylvania issued a 2021 felony warrant in the case weeks after an Associated Press story detailed the reluctance of local prosecutors to pursue campus sex crimes.

The arrest warrant accuses Cleary of stalking an 18-year-old Gettysburg College student at a party, sneaking into her dorm and sexually assaulting her while she texted friends for help. He was a 20-year-old Gettysburg student at the time, but did not return to campus.

According to a French judicial official, Cleary was detained on the street in Metz on April 24 as part of a police check. He told a magistrate that he had “arrived in France two or three years ago” from Albania and had only recently come to Metz, but did not have housing there, the official said. A French lawyer appointed to represent him did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday.

Cleary, according to his online posts, had previously spent time in France and also has ties to California and Maryland. His father is a tech executive in Silicon Valley, while his mother has lived in Baltimore. Neither he nor his parents have returned repeated phone and email messages left by the AP, including calls to his parents on Tuesday.

The Gettysburg accuser, Shannon Keeler, had a rape exam done the same day she was assaulted in 2013. She gathered witnesses and evidence and spent years urging officials to file charges. She went to authorities again in 2021 after discovering the Facebook messages that seemed to come from Cleary’s account.

“So I raped you,” the sender had written in a string of messages.

“I’ll never do it to anyone ever again.”

“I need to hear your voice.”

“I’ll pray for you.”

According to the June 2021 warrant, police verified that the Facebook account used to send the messages belonged to Ian Cleary. Adams County District Attorney Brian Sinnett, who filed it, did not immediately return a call Tuesday.

The AP does not typically name people who say they are sexual assault victims without their permission, which Keeler has granted. Her lawyer, reached Tuesday, had no immediate comment on Cleary’s detention.

After leaving Gettysburg, Cleary earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Santa Clara University, near his family home in California, worked for Tesla, then moved to France for several years, according to his website, which describes his self-published medieval fiction.

Keeler, originally from Moorestown, New Jersey, stayed on to graduate from Gettysburg and help lead the women’s lacrosse team to a national title.

By 2023, two years after the warrant was filed, Keeler and her lawyers wondered how he was avoiding capture in the age of digital tracking. The U.S. Marshals Service thought he was likely overseas and on the move, even as he was the subject of an Interpol alert called a red notice.

Across the U.S., very few campus rapes are prosecuted, both because victims fear going to police and prosecutors hesitate to bring cases that can be hard to win, the AP investigation found.

Keeler, when the warrant was issued, said she was grateful, but knew it only happened “because I went public with my story, which no survivor should have to do in order to obtain justice.”

___ Dale reported from Philadelphia.

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