American actor and director Nate Parker has said that he is “filled with profound sorrow” after it was reported that a woman who accused him of rape in 1999 had subsequently committed suicide.

Parker, then 19, was accused along with his college roommate of raping the woman when he attended Penn State University 17 years ago. He was acquitted, and although his roommate Jean Celestin was found guilty of sexual assault during the 2001 trial, that conviction was overturned when a 2005 re-trial was ordered and the unnamed woman chose not to testify again.

Nate ParkerNate Parker was acquitted of sexual assaulting the woman in 1999

The woman testified she was unconscious at the time of the incident and did not give consent to having sex. Parker argued that what happened was consensual, and that he and the woman had previously had sex.

She subsequently sued Penn State and won an out-of-court settlement, but she later ended her own life in 2012 at the age of 30.

However, details of the incident have re-emerged in the media recently, as Parker’s Oscar-tipped movie The Birth of a Nation, which won the jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in 2016, approaches on October 7th. In particular, people have seized upon the fact that Parker co-wrote it with Celestin, who is credited in the movie.

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Writing in a Facebook post on Tuesday (August 16th), Parker said that he was “devastated” to learn that the woman had taken her own life, having been unaware of it when it happened four years ago. “I can't tell you how hard it is to hear this news,” the director wrote.

“I can't help but think of all the implications this has for her family. I cannot - nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial. While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law.”

“There is morality; no-one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom. I look back on that time, my indignant attitude and my heartfelt mission to prove my innocence with eyes that are more wise with time. I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in.”

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