The 19-year-old Long Island woman — who claimed she was raped by two Sacred Heart University football players, then admitted months later to police that she lied to impress a prospective boyfriend, then claimed on the witness stand she was forced to have sex without her consent, and then pleaded guilty to criminal charges, admitting her deceit to a judge — stood handcuffed Thursday morning, rolling her eyes as one of her victims poured out his heart in court.
“I just hope you spend the time reflecting on what you did,” Superior Court Judge William Holden told Yovino, sentencing her to three years, suspended after she serves one year in prison, followed by probation.
Malik St. Hilaire had been content to remain in the background during the nearly 18 months the case has been pending in the Golden Hill Street courthouse. He didn’t want his name to get out, he said, or to be pursued by the media the case had attracted.
But Thursday morning, he told his lawyer, Frank Riccio II, he wanted to finally confront Yovino for what she had done to him.
“I went from being a college student to sitting at home being expelled, with no way to clear my name,” St. Hilaire told the judge, as Yovino smirked just a few feet away. “I just hope she knows what she has done to me. My life will never be the same. I did nothing wrong, but everything has been altered because of this.”
Riccio then read a statement from the second young man, who is not being identified.
“The last almost two years have been definitely my most difficult of my life,” the statement read. “The roller-coaster of emotions: fear, anger, sadness, embarrassment, depression, anxiety and the list goes on. She accused me of what I believe to be a horrendous, horrific crime out of her own selfish concerns. I lost my scholarship, my dream of continuing to play football and now I am in debt $30,000 and I’m simply trying to get ahead as best as I can.”
Yovino agreed to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree falsely reporting an incident and one count of interfering with police, all misdemeanors, as the case was about to go to trial. She has already served three months in prison and likely faces another three months before she is eligible for release.
“This was not an easy charging decision for the state,” Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Tatiana Messina told the judge. “But with the evidence we had against Miss Yovino, we do believe this disposition is both fair and appropriate. Many true victims of sexual assault are often disbelieved, but that is because of cases like this and the impact they have on public perceptions. Miss Yovino’s actions are a disservice to those true victims, in addition to the two young men whose lives were greatly affected, and that was not something that could have been ignored.”
Yovino’s mother, the only family member in court to support her, was sent out of the courtroom after her cellphone went off.
On Oct. 15, 2016, police were dispatched to St. Vincent’s Medical Center to investigate a sexual assault complaint. Police said Yovino told them she had attended a Sacred Heart football club party the night before at a house at Lakeside Drive in Bridgeport.
Police said the girl claimed the two men pulled her into a bathroom in the basement of the house.
Police said she told officers that she had the men, “I don’t want to be in here, I don’t want to do anything. My friends are waiting for me outside, let me go outside.”
She told officers that the two held her down and each took a turn sexually assaulting her.
Police said both men admitted having sex with Yovino in the bathroom, but said it was consensual.
Detective Walberto Cotto Jr. questioned Yovino again three months later at her Long Island home.
“She admitted that she made up the allegation of sexual assault against (the football players) because it was the first thing that came to mind and she didn’t want to lose (another male student) as a friend and potential boyfriend,” according to the arrest warrant affidavit. “She stated that she believed when (the other male student) heard the allegation it would make him angry and sympathetic to her.”