When 21-year-old Christopher Precopia met with a recruiter to enlist in the U.S. Army in October, he was rejected because of the violent offense for which he had been charged last year.
Precopia, of Williamson County, Tex., was arrested Sept. 22, 2017, after his ex-girlfriend told police that he’d broken into her home and assaulted her — using a box cutter to carve an “X” just below her neck.
Except there was one problem: Precopia didn’t do it.
In oral and written statements to police, his accuser detailed how Precopia had forced his way into her home, pushing her to the ground before punching her in the face and slicing her with the box cutter.
That was news to Precopia.
He was given minimal information when police took him into custody, according to defense attorney Rick Flores.
When Precopia asked police why he was being arrested, Flores says police told his client, “Don’t act like you don’t know.”
And when police said they had a warrant for his arrest in Bell County, Flores said Precopia’s response was: “Where is Bell County?”
He was charged with burglary of a habitation with the intent to commit other crimes, a felony offense that carries the possibility of a life sentence.
“I had no idea who accused me of this; I had no idea why everything was happening,” Precopia said. “I was constantly fearful as to what could happen the next day . . . I was going to sleep hoping I wouldn’t wake up, just to get away from it.”
After he spent more than a day in jail, Precopia’s parents took out loans to post his $150,000 bond and pay for a lawyer in an effort to prove their son was innocent, Flores said.
What would have happened to him if his parents had not been able to obtain those loans?
As Precopia’s family worked to clear his name, his mother, Erin, realized she possessed a piece of evidence that could exonerate him: a selfie taken at 7:02 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2017, at the Renaissance Austin Hotel.
His accuser had told police that she was attacked by Precopia at 7:20 p.m. that same day in her Bell County home, nearly 70 miles away in Temple. Cellphone towers also helped pinpoint Precopia’s actual location, Flores said.
“He was very fortunate that she chose a date and time that he just happened to have a rock-solid alibi for,” Flores said. “He and I have talked many times about how lucky he is, whether you believe in a higher power or good old-fashioned luck.”
If his accuser had claimed that the attack had taken place the day before or after, Flores said, his client’s only excuse would have been that he was sitting at home watching TV — a much less convincing alibi.
With no evidence other than a young woman’s accusation.
The charge was dropped on June 21 after Flores took the evidence to the Bell County District Attorney’s Office, he said.
“We were able to corroborate the basis of what was presented to us, and in due course, we determined the proper action was to dismiss the charge, and that’s what we proceeded to do,” Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza said in an interview Thursday.
Garza added that the Bell County Attorney’s Office will ultimately determine if charges will be made against Precopia’s accuser for making a false statement. As of this time Precopia’s accuser has not been charged with a crime.
The Temple Police Department did not return a call Thursday afternoon requesting comment on the case.
Until the charge was dropped, Flores said Precopia and his family were terrified for his future. While they are not planning any civil action against the police department, Flores said the family is exploring a lawsuit against his accuser.
His accuser told police that the two had a “troubled” relationship in high school, which she cited as the reason she reported that Precopia assaulted her, according to KVUE. Flores said he had not spoken with the accuser and could not comment on this allegation.
“His entire family had trouble sleeping at night, wondering what was going to happen, if anyone would believe them, if there would be a trial, prison time or a life sentence,” Flores said, adding he doesn’t blame police for taking action on the accuser’s allegations.
“We’re more upset with this person that blatantly made up a lie and got him in this mess to begin with,” he said.
Even though Precopia’s name was cleared, he and his family now wonder how the accusation will affect him moving forward.
“While [his family] is happy it ended up with a dismissal, and that it will be expunged from his record, the damage is kind of done,” Flores said. “Nothing will ever be completely scrubbed from the Internet.”
Flores pointed to Precopia’s encounter with the Army recruiter as “a small example of how this will follow him around forever.”
He added that Precopia’s application to enlist is “currently being reviewed by someone higher up at the U.S. Army.”