US actor Nate Parker has said he is “filled with profound sorrow” at the news that a woman who accused him of rape in 1999 later took her own life.
Parker was acquitted of raping the woman while at university.
But the details have re-emerged as the release of Parker’s Oscar-tipped film The Birth of a Nation approaches.
Parker said he had not been aware of the woman’s death until it was reported on Tuesday, adding he “should have used more wisdom” during that period.
The actor was 19 when he was accused along with his roommate of assaulting an 18-year-old fellow Penn State University student.
The unnamed woman said she was unconscious at the time and did not consent to having sex. Parker testified it was consensual and he and the woman had previously had sex.
He has gone on to appear in films including Beyond the Lights, Non-Stop and Red Tails.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, he said he was “devastated”.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this news,” he 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.”
He added he had “never run from this period in my life and I never ever will” and was not trying “to solve this with a statement”.
Parker’s roommate Jean Celestin, who has a story credit on The Birth of a Nation, was convicted of sexual assault, but that was later overturned when the woman opted not to testify again for a 2005 retrial. She sued Penn State and was awarded a settlement out of court.
The incident has come back into the press ahead of the October release The Birth of a Nation, a drama about Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion.
Parker, who plays Turner, has also written, directed and co-produced the film, which has been tipped for big things after winning a grand jury prize and an audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.