A story published in The News & Observer on Tuesday brings to light a 20-year-old incestuous rape accusation against a Chapel Hill Town Council candidate’s husband. 

Anonymous emails sent to the N&O and other local media organizations resurfaced the issue, muddying the waters for restaurant owner Vimala Rajendran’s race. The public seems split over whether Rajendran’s husband’s status should impact her campaign, though the alleged victim herself says she believes it shouldn’t.  

Rajendran is running to serve in one of four open council seats in the November 2 municipal election. She’s well known in Chapel Hill as an advocate for small businesses, social justice, and domestic violence survivors, as well as the owner and namesake of Vimala’s Curryblossom Café on Franklin Street.

Rajendran’s husband, Rush Greenslade, is a registered sex offender, dating to an accusation that he raped his then 12-year-old daughter, Sarah Greenslade, in 2001. Sarah Greenslade told the N&O her father “raped her one night after she fell asleep in his bed during a story.”

In 2001, Sarah Greenslade told her mother she had a “very weird dream” and said she had dreamed about having sex with her father. Months later, following further conversations, her mother called the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.

Per the N&O report:

An investigation months later showed Sarah had ‘vaginal injuries,’ but because of the time that had elapsed, there was no DNA evidence, according to Rajendran and Greenslade. The court transcript mentions a medical record among the evidence but does not provide additional details. 

The N&O quotes Orange County Assistant District Attorney Kayley Taber, who prosecuted the case, saying, “physical evidence is rare in sexual assaults,” and that the “serious vaginal trauma indicative of forced penetration” investigators found was “compelling and diagnostic of sexual abuse.”

Sarah Greenslade’s mother, Rush’s ex-wife Diane Greenslade, corroborated her daughter’s account.

Rush Greenslade was charged with one count of first-degree kidnapping and one count of first-degree rape, but in a 2002 plea agreement, he pleaded no contest to two counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor. Rush Greenslade and Rajendran have maintained his innocence. 

Rajendran told the N&O that her husband’s 20-year-old conviction has nothing to do with her or her race for a Chapel Hill council seat. 

But some anonymous emailers sure seem to think it does. 

According to the N&O story, in the two months since the announcement of Rajendran’s campaign, tips regarding the accusation against Greenslade have been sent to multiple media outlets, Chapel Hill and Durham politicians, and other local organizations. 

In July, shortly after her campaign announcement, the N&O received an anonymous tip about Greenslade’s conviction, the report states. 

In response to the N&O’s story, some local residents have posted on social media disavowing her candidacy. 

But the story quotes Rush Greenslade, who said he welcomes the attention on the case and hopes it will bring answers to light. He and Rajendran said they are not accusing his daughter of lying, but that her memory is incorrect.

From the report:

“There’s no forensic evidence at all,” Greenslade said. “Something happened to her. She said I did it, and that’s it. I said I didn’t. But someone coming in from the outside who doesn’t know the details of our family, who’s going to believe me? Nobody.”

Greenslade attempted to get off the registry for the first time in 2011.

In 2015, a hearing in Orange County saw Greenslade, his daughter, ex-wife, Rajendran, her children, and friends presented testimonies about Rush Greenslade’s character and the alleged rape. Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour denied the petition, stating that the treatment that Greenslade had completed during probation was not certified or satisfactory and that he was not convinced that Greenslade was not a threat.

Greenslade has since said he regrets taking the plea, stating that he wanted to spare his children the trauma of a trial.

Those close to the case, including Sarah Greenslade herself, are quoted saying that they don’t think Rush Greenslade’s status should have any impact on Rajendran’s race:

Despite the dispute over what happened, Sarah Greenslade said she doesn’t think family history should preclude Rajendran from being “a positive force for Chapel Hill.” Diane Greenslade agreed, noting that her daughter only wants her father to admit his actions.

Former Orange County Superior Court Judge Carl Fox, who was the district attorney in 2001, said he is aware of Greenslade’s sex offender status but does not remember the case. He supports Rajendran’s campaign, Fox said, because her husband’s status “has nothing to do with her qualifications as a candidate.’”

“I would encourage voters to reject this kind of politics where people are bringing out these kinds of attempts to mud sling at people through their families or their spouses. I vote based upon the record and the qualifications of the candidate herself,” he said.

Along with Rajendran, incumbent council member Karen Stegman and challengers Robert Beasley, Camille Berry, Andrew Creech, Jeffrey Hoagland, Paris Miller-Foushee, and Adam Searing will duke it out over four open seats on the council. 

Rajendran has campaigned on issues of racial equity, environmental justice, sustainable growth, and affordable housing.

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