Grand jury investigates Copperfield allegations
A Seattle federal grand jury is investigating allegations by an aspiring model from Washington who said she was raped, assaulted and threatened by the famous magician.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Seattle federal grand jury is investigating allegations by an aspiring model from Washington who said she was raped, assaulted and threatened by magician David Copperfield at his private island in the Bahamas in July, at least three federal law-enforcement officials have confirmed.
The Washington woman has told law enforcement that she and her family were approached at a Jan. 25 performance in the Tri-Cities area by a member of Copperfield's entourage almost as soon as they entered the auditorium. They were led to special seats, and Copperfield selected the woman to come on stage as part of his act, the federal sources said.
Sources confirmed that the woman told investigators Copperfield later promised he could help with her modeling career and invited her to his isolated $50 million private retreat at Musha Cay, in a tiny string of white-sand islands 85 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas.
She told investigators Copperfield assured her that there would be other guests at the 150-acre resort, which is restricted to a maximum of 24 guests and rents for up to $50,000 a night. From Nassau, the retreat is accessible only by charter plane and then private boat.
When the woman, 21, made the trip in late July -- after exchanging e-mails with Copperfield, 51 -- she found herself the only guest on the island with him, she told investigators. She has told Seattle police, and later the FBI, that Copperfield raped and struck her during her two days on the island, said sources familiar with her allegations.
She said that, afterward, Copperfield threatened her, telling her she'd better keep quiet, and then escorted her onto a plane, sources said.
Copperfield's attorney, David Chesnoff of Las Vegas, reiterated Friday that "Copperfield has never forced himself on anyone."
After leaving Nassau, the woman flew to Florida and then Seattle, where she told her family what happened and went to the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress, sources said. A rape kit was assembled, and a federal source has confirmed that some of her clothing was taken into evidence.
The woman also reported the matter to Seattle police, who said a report was taken but will not release it. Federal sources and others said the woman was told that the department had no jurisdiction to investigate a crime that occurred in another country, and that the department took no other action.
The woman then went to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which asked the FBI to investigate. The woman and her family live in Washington and, because her trip began and ended in the U.S. -- even though the alleged crime occurred elsewhere -- federal agents have claimed jurisdiction in the case.
Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said the office would not comment. Two of the office's top prosecutors have been assigned to oversee the investigation and evidence is being presented to a grand jury, according to law-enforcement sources. No indictment or criminal charges have been filed.
Chesnoff, Copperfield's attorney, said Friday he could not comment on the allegations.
"We have said we are going to honor the confidentiality of the investigation," he said, adding that he was disappointed that some in law enforcement have chosen not to do the same. "Apparently [they] don't have the same respect for the law, and it casts doubt on the integrity of this investigation."
The Seattle office of the FBI, which is heading the investigation, raided Copperfield's property warehouse and magic museum in Las Vegas last week. The search warrant remains sealed.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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