No DNA Match to Ex-Principal in Rape Case

By Patricia Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 17, 2000; Page B05 

A blood sample taken from former Fairfax County high school principal Anthony M. Rizzo Jr. does not match DNA newly discovered on the childhood nightgown of a woman who says Rizzo repeatedly raped her in the 1980s, authorities said yesterday.

Investigators in Orange County, Va., received the court's permission to take and test Rizzo's blood last month after the woman realized that she still had a nightgown from her childhood. Tests on the nightgown showed traces of semen.

Orange County Commonwealth's Attorney Timothy K. Sanner said that without the match or any other physical evidence to support the woman's allegations, investigators will not pursue a case against Rizzo, 63.

Rizzo was tried twice last year in Alexandria on charges that he raped the woman, now 25, when she was a child -- in the city and at his Orange County farm. Both trials ended in hung juries. The nightgown came to light after the second jury deadlocked and after investigators began looking into the possibility of charging him in Orange County, according to papers filed in Orange County Circuit Court.

"The hope was that the DNA would provide the crucial piece of evidence that was missing," Sanner said. "Is there any point to a third prosecution if you really have simply the same case again?"

Rizzo's attorney, Rodney Leffler, commended Sanner for quickly informing him of the DNA test results. "I am certain Mr. Rizzo will be relieved," he said.

Rizzo could not be reached at his Orange County farm.

Because the alleged crimes occurred so many years ago, the case against Rizzo in Alexandria was primarily her word against his. Rizzo took the stand and strongly denied the allegations. After both trials last year, some jurors said they believed the woman but felt they could not convict Rizzo without any physical evidence.

When the Alexandria prosecutor decided not to try Rizzo a third time, Orange County detectives began looking into charging Rizzo for the alleged offenses at his farm. According to court records, the woman, who contends that Rizzo raped and sexually assaulted her hundreds of times between 1984 and 1989, recalled that she still had a nightgown from that time.

Sanner said yesterday that the woman must have worn the nightgown in her adult life as well. "The only conclusion I could draw is that she had worn it later in life than she thought," Sanner said. "She's a small woman who is not much physically larger than she was when she was a child."

The Virginia Retirement System cut off disability payments of about $38,000 a year after Rizzo's attorney, citing the renewed criminal probe, advised him not to answer many of the questions during a mandatory psychiatric evaluation.

Rizzo, who contends that he has a permanent "psychosexual disorder," was asked to submit to an examination this year to show that he still has the disability. Rizzo has sued the retirement system and is going to court next month to try to regain the money.

William H. Leighty, director of the retirement system, said the decision not to prosecute Rizzo will have no effect on his disability payments.

Rizzo contends that his disorder makes him unable to supervise women without trying to coerce them into having sex with him. He sought disability benefits after he was fired in 1989 from his job as principal of Edison High School for sexually harassing female teachers.

State officials denied his claim, saying that giving him disability would be tantamount to rewarding him for the "reprehensible conduct" that caused his firing. They lost the case in 1998, when the state Supreme Court ruled that the state had missed a deadline for deciding his claim.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company 

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