American in ‘so I raped you’ Facebook message case is arrested in France after global search

Ian Thomas Cleary was detained on the street in Metz on April 24 as part of a police check

Maryclaire Dale,Nicolas Vaux-Montagny
Wednesday 15 May 2024 08:58
The arrest warrant accuses Cleary of stalking an 18-year-old student at a party, sneaking into her dorm and sexually assaulting her while she texted friends for help
The arrest warrant accuses Cleary of stalking an 18-year-old student at a party, sneaking into her dorm and sexually assaulting her while she texted friends for help

A man accused of sexually assaulting a college student in 2013 and later sending her a Facebook message that said, “So I raped you,” has been detained in France after a global three-year search.

A prosecutor in Metz, France, confirmed that Ian Thomas Cleary, 31, of Saratoga, California, had been taken into custody last month and will be held pending extradition proceedings.

Cleary had been the subject of an international search since authorities in Pennsylvania issued a 2021 felony warrant in the case.

The arrest warrant accuses Cleary of stalking an 18-year-old Gettysburg College student at a party, sneaking into her dorm and sexually assaulting her while she texted friends for help.

He was a 20-year-old Gettysburg student at the time, but did not return to campus.

According to a French judicial official, Cleary was detained on the street in Metz on April 24 as part of a police check. He told a magistrate that he had “arrived in France two or three years ago” from Albania and had only recently come to Metz, but did not have housing there, the official said. A French lawyer appointed to represent him did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday.

Cleary, according to his online posts, had previously spent time in France and also has ties to California and Maryland. His father is a tech executive in Silicon Valley, while his mother has lived in Baltimore.

This wanted poster provided by the US Marshals shows Ian Cleary, of Saratoga

The Gettysburg accuser had a rape exam done the same day she was assaulted in 2013. She gathered witnesses and evidence and spent years urging officials to file charges. She went to authorities again in 2021 after discovering the Facebook messages that seemed to come from Cleary's account.

“So I raped you,” the sender had written in a string of messages.

“I’ll never do it to anyone ever again.”

“I need to hear your voice.”

“I’ll pray for you.”

According to the June 2021 warrant, police verified that the Facebook account used to send the messages belonged to Ian Cleary. Adams County District Attorney Brian Sinnett, who filed it, did not immediately return a call Tuesday.

A sign for Gettysburg College stands on April 7, 2021, in Gettysburg (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

After leaving Gettysburg, Cleary earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Santa Clara University, near his family home in California, worked for Tesla, then moved to France for several years, according to his website, which describes his self-published medieval fiction.

By 2023, two years after the warrant was filed, the victim and her lawyers wondered how he was avoiding capture in the age of digital tracking. The US Marshals Service thought he was likely overseas and on the move, even as he was the subject of an Interpol alert called a red notice.

Across the US, very few campus rapes are prosecuted, both because victims fear going to police and prosecutors hesitate to bring cases that can be hard to win.

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