AUSTIN (KXAN) — Luke Armstrong, son of world-famous cyclist Lance Armstrong, was arrested and accused of sexual assault with a child, according to an Austin Police Department affidavit.
The affidavit says 21-year-old Luke David Armstrong sexually assaulted a 16-year-old after a party in south Austin in June 2018. He was 18 at the time.
Armstrong’s attorney, Randy Leavitt, denied the allegations and claimed that the two were in a consensual relationship that lasted months. He said the Armstrong family is supporting their son and is gathering evidence to present to the district attorney which dispute the victim’s claims.
“What occurred three years ago in high school was not a crime and was not a sexual assault. It was a consensual relationship then and continued consensually between two young people with both ultimately going their separate ways,” Leavitt said. “These charges should not have been filed and certainly not three years later.”
The victim told police in November 2020 that she asked Armstrong to pick her up from the party after she had been drinking. The victim says she didn’t remember the ride in Armstrong’s truck but remembered waking up on a couch at a house where Luke lived and being sexually assaulted, the affidavit says.
In a December 2020 phone call between the victim and Armstrong, the affidavit says Armstrong admitted to having sex with the victim at his dad’s house. Police say the assault happened at a home in the 1700 block of Windsor Road. The Austin Business Journal reported in 2018 that Lance Armstrong put a home on that block of Windsor Road on the market in March 2018 and it sold in June.
Leavitt said the claim that sexual contact between the victim and Armstrong solely occurred on that one June night is false. The attorney said that the two maintained a relationship for several months that summer.
“It wasn’t a one-time thing,” Leavitt said. “They had something of a relationship going on for a brief period of time.”
APD interviewed multiple people who were connected to the victim and had previous conversations about the incident. Most told police that the victim indicated that she was sexually assaulted. One friend, however, told police that the sex was consensual, the affidavit says.
Armstrong was granted and released on a personal recognizance bond Tuesday, Armstrong’s attorney Randy Leavitt said. The family is fully cooperating with the district attorney’s office and Leavitt said he is actively gathering evidence and witness testimonies to prove Armstrong’s innocence.
“A complete review of the facts will confirm what has been alleged absolutely did not occur. And a proper and thorough legal process will exonerate Luke,” Leavitt said.
Armstrong was a walk-on member of the Rice University football team in 2018 and 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season, due to COVID-19, according to a spokesperson with Rice Athletics. Rice University confirmed Armstrong is still a student at the school.
Difficulty proving sexual assault cases
Elizabeth Boyce is general counsel and director of policy and advocacy for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.
She says of the sexual assault cases that are actually reported to police, they are difficult to prove.
“Less than 10% of those report,” Boyce says. “Then, of the amount that actually report, less than a percent actually get through the legal process, the criminal justice process, and actually are resulting in conviction.”
That becomes more challenging without any physical evidence.
“The primary source of evidence is the victim themselves. So their bodies are the crime scene and if they were not able to get a forensic exam, then they are the primary witness for what happened,” Boyce explains.
“It kind of comes down to investigation tools such as maybe pretext phone calls that law enforcement can look at, where they have the survivor call the alleged perpetrator, to get them to talk.”
That’s exactly what officers did in the December 2020 phone call, according to the police report, when Armstrong reportedly admitted to having sex with the victim that night in 2018.
The fact that they were 18 and 16 at the time may trigger what’s known as the “Romeo and Juliet” defense.
Boyce says that’s used to protect lovers within three years’ age difference. But the arrest warrant does not outline a simple statutory rape case.
“Even if the Romeo and Juliet law applies — even in cases where the relationship is consensual — that doesn’t mean that a rape did not occur in that relationship,” Boyce says.
Armstrong’s accuser came forward last November.
Boyce says there are many reasons why sexual assault survivors may not come forward right away, including fear of retribution or of not being believed.
“What we hear a lot from survivors who do choose to come forward, is they just do not want this to happen to anybody else.”