Amid yesterday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. parade on Milpas Street, approximately 40 people held a rally in support of recently convicted UCSB soccer player Eric Frimpong.
Frimpong, who was found guilty of felony rape against another UCSB student on Dec. 17, is currently awaiting a Jan. 31 sentencing and could receive up to eight years in prison. Those rallying at the event allege that the former soccer player received an unfair trial.
Kim Seefeld, a trial lawyer, said she believed the investigation into the rape was poorly conducted due to mishandled evidence. She also alleged that Frimpong was a victim of prejudice during the trial.
“I don’t go marching around like this,” Seefeld said. “I’m actually pretty conservative. But I believe in justice, and if this is who we are as a community, then we’re in deep trouble.”
While Seefeld did not attend the trial, she said she has investigated the case on her own and believes Frimpong is innocent.
During the trial, the victim testified that she met Frimpong in front of a party on Del Playa Drive on the night of Feb. 16 and returned to his house to play beer pong. She said the two later went down to the beach where he forcibly raped her, leaving large bruises on her face, buttocks and inner thigh. Although the victim had a blood alcohol level of .20 when police interviewed her, officers testified that her account seemed vivid.
Additionally, Frimpong supporters supplied event-goers with fliers about the case. The fliers predominantly focused on the fact that while the victim’s DNA was found on Frimpong, the former UCSB soccer player’s DNA was not discovered on the victim. Supporters also argue that police should have investigated the woman’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, Benjamin Randall, whose DNA was found on her panties. At the trial, the victim testified that she had consensual sex with Randall three days before she was raped, and police concluded he was not a suspect.
Cam Camarena, a retiree and former UCSB soccer player, said he follows campus sports and met Frimpong after watching him play. Camarena said he and another family member paid Frimpong’s $250,000 bail.
“We attended the trials everyday and they never proved the case,” Camarena said.
He said he believes the victim does not really know who attacked her.
“The detectives are planting seeds in her mind,” Camarena said.
Third-year psychology major Yesenia Prieto, Frimpong’s girlfriend for the last two years, said she helped organize the rally.
“I’ve known Eric [Frimpong] and spent the most time with him since he arrived,” Prieto said. “He’s never shown aggressive behavior. … I know he’s innocent, and the truth needs to be heard.”
Prieto said Frimpong’s supporters are hoping for an appeal.
“Eric’s a person of strong faith and he is not giving up,” Prieto said. “He’s aware we’re all behind him.”
Andy Iro, a fourth-year sociology major and Gaucho soccer player, said all the soccer team supports Frimpong and over half the team came to rally for his freedom.
“All of us just want everyone to know the truth and understand all the facts and then make a decision,” Iro said. “I do think something happened to the girl, but at the same time, it’s not clear it’s the accused.”
Camarena said Frimpong’s ethnicity and financial situation hurt his defense.
“They arrested him only because of the color of his skin,” Camarena said. “I feel bad for the victim, because something did happen to her, but it was not Eric [Frimpong].”
After initial news of his arrest, a second woman came forth and claimed that she, too, was attacked by Frimpong on an Isla Vista beach. A sexual battery charge was added to the felony rape charge and both were tried together in front of a jury. However, Frimpong was acquitted of the second charge.
Kim DeVenne, a local writer and rally co-organizer, said the point of joining with the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade was to fight for justice as the minister did himself.
“Martin Luther King said, ‘all people, working together to achieve justice through peace and nonviolence’, and we showed that here today with all people working together for justice,” DeVenne said.
Devenne also said the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity has invited the ralliers to join in its annual silent march today in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The march will start in front of Cheadle Hall at 11:47 a.m. She said though they cannot verbally fight for Frimpong’s freedom, the group will carry signs demanding for his release.
As of press time, the district attorney’s office was unavailable for comment.