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Michael Odumosu. Photo:  Frank Pastizzo
Michael Odumosu. Photo: Frank Pastizzo

Foreign college student jailed for weeks in Adirondacks, raising questions

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A former student from North Country Community College in Saranac Lake remains behind bars this week, following his arrest in mid-December. Michael Odumosu traveled to the North Country from London, England, to play for the school's basketball team. He is accused of raping a young woman in a student apartment just off campus. The charges have also triggered an inquiry by Federal Immigration officials. As Brian Mann reports, Odumosu's supporters are raising questions about the way his case was handled, both by the school and by police.

Correction: North Country Community College officials did make an effort to reach NCPR before this story aired. Tomorrow during regional news, we'll hear from Ed Trathen, Vice President for Enrollment & Student Services.

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Odumosu, No. 35, with the NCCC Saints. Source: NCCC website

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Michael Odumosu's family comes originally from Nigeria, but he was born and raised in London and is a British citizen.Last autumn, the 19-year-old traveled on a student visa to Saranac Lake to play basketball for the North Country Community College Saints.  Odumosu spoke over a barely audible phone line from the Essex County jail in Lewis.

Actuality One:  Main reason I came to the States is to play basketball.  If I weren't going to play basketball, I wouldn't have come to the states.

He says he came to the US to play basketball but in September 2008, Odumosu met a young woman at a party. They had sex at the apartment house where he lived, which was owned by the college's basketball coach.  Odumosu says the encounter was consensual.

Actuality Two:  I removed her trousers on the end of the bed and we had sex and she was okay with it.

We had sex and she was okay with it, he says.  Odumosu acknowledges that the woman did ask him to stop at one point, when she thought someone else had come in to the room.

Actuality Three:  She said, no I don't want to do anything if someone's in the room.  And I was like okay, there's no one in the room.  And I got off of her to let her see what was happening and to show her that there was no one in the room and I'm not that kind of person.  And she was like, oh, okay, and we carried on.

Odumosu, who is black, says the woman didn't seem upset after their encounter. 

But later she began telling students and other athletes on campus that Odumosu had raped her.

 In court documents, the woman's name and identity are blacked-out.

Her account of that night, given to Saranac Lake police, is very different and includes a description of Odumoso pushing her onto the bed and kissing her.

The woman never states directly that Odumosu raped her.  But she does say that other students were present in the bedroom and she alleges that another male student, not Odumosu  -quote- started forcing oral sex on me.

The woman says she pushed the men off of her, dressed, and left -- after first returning to the room to collect her cell phone and purse.  'I called my mom,' she wrote in her police statement.  'My mom took me to the emergency room.'

Saranac Lake police investigated the woman's claims, and here's where the story takes a surprising turn.

Odumosu wasn't arrested.  Neither were any of the other student-athletes at the apartment house.  The case was left open but no charges were filed.

Saranac Lake resident Frank Pastizzo, a North Country Saints booster, has become one of Odumosu's supporters.

Actuality Four:  I would always kid Michael.  After he had made a shot, I would yell out, Odumosu!

Pastizzo says everyone in the college community knew about the rape charge, but he assumed that the case against Odumosu had been dropped because the charges weren't credible.

Actuality Five:  He went to all his classes, his practices. He traveled with the mens team and the women's team.  He traveled on the bus.  He befriended the women's basketball players and stayed at the same hotels.

Three months passed.  Saranac Lake police acknowledge that they placed no restrictions on Odumosu's activities or travel. 

In December he was preparing to return home to England for the Christmas holiday when police asked him to come to their office.  To his surprise, they handcuffed him and placed him under arrest.

Actuality Six:  They said the school had phoned them and asked them, they wanted to know what was going on with the case, and if they were going to do anyhthig further because I was leaving for Christmas.  I think that was kind of the heads-up why the police came to get me.

None of the other students present that night back in September were taken into custody, but police charged Odumosu with rape in the third degree -- a felony count that could carry up to four years in prison.

Saranac Lake village police chief Bruce Nason says his officers made the arrest at the appropriate time -- after wrapping up their interviews with witnesses and receiving evidence back from the State Police crime lab.

"Once we got the information that we are waiting for," Nason told North Country Public Radio, "we decided that it was time to make the arrest."

He says the arrest wasn't prompted by North Country Community College's phone call, or by Odumosu's planned trip to England.

But Odumosu says winding up behind bars was a complete shock - and he's convinced that the accusation was motivated by his race.

Actuality Seven:  The judge only had her statement and he judge me on only her statement, so he put me in jail basically -- I been waiting for that - I'm still waiting.

I'm still waiting, Odumosu says.  And here's the next wrinkle.  Odumosu's not in jail because of the rape charge.  

He's behind bars because North Country Community College quickly issued a statement in December distancing itself from their student student.

"Immediately upon his arrest," wrote Vice president Ed Trathen in a campus-wide email, "Michael Odumosu was suspended - and barred from all property - and activities."

North Country Community College officials didn't return repeated phone calls for this story. 

Their decision to suspend Odumosu meant that he was in violation of his student visa.  Despite the court's ruling that he posed no danger to society, Federal immigration officials ordered that he be held without bail - which means that he could be behind bars for months.

Again, supporter Frank Pastizzo.

Actuality Eight: When the law judge ordered his release with the surrendering of his passport, he was actually going to come spend the holidays with us, and then it turned out that because his immigration status has been pulled, he was not permitted to leave jail.

There have been more delays and complications.  The case was originally being handled by the Essex County prosecutor - but because a member of the DA's staff knows the alleged victim's family, Odumosu's prosecution was transferred last month to the DA's office in Franklin County.

For the 19-year-old college student from London, these weeks behind bars haven't been easy.  The Essex County jail houses dozens of high-risk Federal inmates and a brawl last week sent five corrections officers to the hospital.

The facility has been in lockdown ever since.  Frank Pastizzo has tried to visit Odumosu every week, and says the young man and his parents are frightened.

Actuality Seven: His family, they're very religious  - they're fasting and praying for his release over in England -- they're extremely worried.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for February 23red.  According to Saranac Lake police chief Bruce Nason the investigation of the alleged rape is continuing.  Nason says more arrests of North Country Community College students may be pending.   

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