Three days before the College of Charleston announced a crackdown on excessive drinking and risky behavior among fraternity and sorority members, a 17-year-old college student told police she was raped at an off-campus party.
A week later, a 21-year-old C of C fraternity brother was charged with first- and third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. The campus chapter of his fraternity was closed on the same day the college instituted an alcohol ban at fraternity and sorority events.
Timothy Eli Seppi, from Rockville, Md., was arrested Sept. 2 after Charleston police found a photograph of the teen on his iPhone, “engaged in an act or simulation of sexual activity,” according to his arrest affidavit. The photograph showed the young woman undressed and sitting on a bed with a naked male standing in front of her. Charleston police Detective Doug Galluccio said the photo wasn’t posted online or on social media.
No one else is charged in the case, but police spokesman Charles Francis said the investigation is ongoing.
The teen was a student at the school at the time of her alleged assault. On Aug. 27, while at the emergency room at Medical University Hospital, she told police she had been raped that afternoon by two males she didn’t know at the Ashley Avenue apartment where Seppi lives, police wrote in an incident report. Police said the alleged assault occurred at a party.
Three days later, in the latest attempt by a major state university to rein in out-of-control Greek life, College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell announced the college was suspending all alcohol-related activities at its fraternities and sororities following “a series of dangerous behaviors ... ranging from disruptive parties out in the community this month to recent medical transports related to extreme intoxication.”
Seppi was a member of the Chi Omicron chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi. On Aug. 30, the fraternity’s headquarters revoked the chapter’s charter.
Jonathan Pierce, the fraternity’s spokesman and past international president, declined to specify exactly what led to the chapter’s closure.
“Earlier this semester, the staff at Alpha Epsilon Pi International became aware of an alleged incident and behavior which is clearly not in line with our fraternity’s values and violate our risk-management policies,” Pierce wrote in an email. “We immediately suspended the chapter pending an investigation.
During our initial investigation, we found enough issues to immediately close the chapter and move to remove all of the members from our fraternity. We are cooperating fully with the College administration and local authorities.”
On Aug. 28, a day after the alleged assault, police searched Seppi’s apartment, where they found about 1 gram of cocaine on a dresser in his bedroom, according to his arrest affidavit. Seppi was arrested and booked for possession of cocaine and marijuana. His iPhone was seized by police during the sweep.
He was released on bail and arrested again Sept. 2 on two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, according to jail records.
Seppi was released from jail Sept. 3 on $30,000 bail. He faces a minimum of three years in prison for the more serious sexual-exploitation charge and up to 30 years for both counts.
His attorney, David Aylor, said he could not comment on the details of the case but that “prior to the arrest, we’ve been in contact with the authorities.”
College of Charleston spokesman Mike Robertson told The Post and Courier the college “is aware of alleged off-campus incidents in late August that were connected to some members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity and is cooperating with the City of Charleston Police on its investigation.”
Asked about the alleged incidents, Robertson declined to comment.
McConnell has not responded to a request for an interview through his spokesman about the alleged assault and whether Seppi has been disciplined by the college for his alleged role.
However, in an email to students and staff regarding recent “off-campus allegations,” McConnell said the college “has taken firm and appropriate action under our student code of conduct process.” The arrested student, whom McConnell did not identify, has been barred from campus by C of C’s chief of police.
McConnell said the alleged crime also “was a contributing factor” in the college’s decision to suspend all alcohol-related fraternity and sorority events.
“It was not the sole reason,” he added. “It was the totality of risky and dangerous behavior at the beginning of the semester that made it necessary to take immediate action.
This conduct is in direct conflict with our core values of community, respect and integrity, and this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”
A Post and Courier report in May revealed the depth of the college’s alcohol and drug problem.
The story described a drug- and booze-fueled culture around the college that generates enormous profits for young drug dealers even as it increases risks of addiction and violence, including one killing.
The newspaper’s investigation showed how networks of students and former students, including some who held key positions in the college’s fraternities, stamped out pills by the thousands with a factory-grade press, obtained cocaine from suppliers in Georgia and marijuana by mail, and found a steady supply of customers among the thousands of students and other young people who pack downtown’s Historic District.
In March 2014, the fraternity was sanctioned after intoxicated members and their guests attempted to throw an “after party” at the college-owned fraternity house.
Members were dispersed by officers from the college’s Department of Residence Life after “verbally abusing” college staff.
On Christmas Day last year, Residence Life officers searched the fraternity house and found “a variety of alcohol and drug paraphernalia,” including a trash bin full of beer cans.
The fraternity was placed on probation until Dec. 31, 2016, and the college did not renew the lease of its chapter house.
Francis told The Post and Courier city police “have been working closely” with the college’s administrators and Department of Public Safety “to address risky and criminal behavior impacting the college and surrounding community.”
“The city police and public safety continue to collaborate on identified issues and have been proactive in their joint patrols to locate and intervene in situations, where possible, to prevent harmful outcomes,” Francis said. “Additionally, discussions are ongoing about enhanced cooperation relating to student conduct and administrative protocols.”
Doug Pardue contributed to this report. Reach Deanna Pan at 843-937-5764.