One of the oldest lawsuits brought by a male college student against his university alleging a violation of his due process rights has settled, nearly four years after the complaint was filed and more than five years after the alleged sexual assault.
It was late August 2015 when the male student, whom The Daily Wire will refer to as John, and his female accuser, who will be referred to as Jane, attended an off-campus party with other University of Cincinnati students. Some witnesses would later describe Jane as slurring her words and stumbling while at the party. Between midnight and 1 a.m., some of the students, including John and Jane, went to a pizza restaurant. John’s lawsuit asserts that Jane kissed him at the restaurant and also grabbed his crotch outside.
John and a friend offered to walk Jane home when she said she wanted to leave, but the friend was separated from him when stopped by a police officer.
John texted his friend around 3:30 a.m to say that Jane couldn’t remember where she lived and couldn’t find her way home. John again texted his friend between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to say that Jane no longer wanted to return to her home and wanted to go back to John’s apartment. John would later tell investigators that Jane “expressly consented” to sexual intercourse upon returning to his apartment, John’s lawsuit stated.
John says that after the two had sex, Jane left and he didn’t walk her home because she said she was going to another party. After leaving, Jane apparently texted friends to say she was okay.
Days later, however, Jane spoke to her boyfriend and her mother, and her mother called the UC Police Department to report that her daughter had been raped. The mother spoke to Officer William Richey, who is named in John’s lawsuit. That same day, Jane reported the incident as sexual assault to UC’s Title IX coordinator, Jyl Shaffer. Jane also spoke to Richey that day. Richey would be the only person to interview Jane and several of witnesses who spoke on her behalf.
Jane told Richey that she blacked out the night of the incident but did not believe she consumed enough alcohol to do so, saying she believed she had been drugged. Though typically associated with high amounts of alcohol, people can black out with varying degrees of alcohol consumed. By the time Jane ended up in John’s room, hours had passed since she last consumed alcohol, and she had eaten.
Jane told Detective Richey that she woke up in her apartment not feeling well and missing her underwear, assuming she had been sexually assaulted while unconscious. John’s lawsuit says UC waited until Jane filed a criminal complaint against John before it sent out Title IX notification. Richey, according to the lawsuit, knew by September 5, 2015, that Jane would pursue criminal charges and a Title IX complaint against John.
John was interviewed on September 16 of that year. He says in his lawsuit that he was not informed he was the subject of an investigation and therefore waived his Miranda rights to speak to officers. Richey was the main interrogator, according to John’s lawsuit. Two days later, John was informed that he had been accused of sexual assault by UC’s Title IX coordinator.
One month later, John was placed on an interim suspension. It wouldn’t be until four months after that, on February 3, 2016, that Shaffer provided her investigative report to UC’s assistant dean of students, who then told John a procedural review would be held on February 12. John was told he could bring an attorney.
Just days ahead of the review, UC was notified that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights had opened an investigation into the school’s handling of Jane’s complaint. Jane claimed the school did not promptly respond to her allegations and therefore subjected her “to a sexually hostile environment.” Jane had filed her complaint about two months after she accused John of sexual assault to UC.
John was not told about the federal investigation into UC ahead of his hearing and says in his lawsuit that this apparently biased the school against him more than it already had been.
John was told on February 25, 2016, that a hearing would be held on the case on March 15. John was given four days to identify the witnesses and evidence he would present at the hearing.
The Title IX coordinator, Shaffer, appeared at the hearing with Jane even though she was supposed to be a neutral party. The hearing lasted less than two hours. John was asked nearly all of Jane’s question, but the hearing panel refused to ask Jane some of the most important questions presented by John. The panel refused to ask Jane whether she had a personal or romantic relationship with Detective Richey or questions designed to show that Jane was not as drunk as she claimed on the night of the incident. As to the questions about Richey, he didn’t appear at the panel, so John couldn’t ask him about the evidence showing his bias in favor of Jane.
The evidence John presented regarding Richey’s relationship with Jane included a photo Jane posted on social media of her wearing a police hat and vest with a caption that said, in part, “my detective loves me.” Jane’s friends reportedly said they had seen text messages from Richey saying he loved Jane and had given her a massage. Richey denied the massage and that his statement was meant “as a relationship I love you,” but he refused to allow UC to review his texts and deleted them before handing it over to John’s criminal attorney for a forensic review. John’s criminal attorney then received a court order to find the texts on Jane’s phone, but when she refused to provide her passcode to retrieve them, the criminal charges against John were dismissed.
UC said it could not “support or disprove” the claim that Richey and Jane were romantically involved.
John was ultimately found responsible for sexual assault and expelled. He appealed, but the appeals administrator upheld the original finding. John sued, and the case spent years in court as UC tried to get the lawsuit dismissed and filed numerous motions in an attempt to limit discovery, which were denied by Judge Matthew W. McFarland.
On December 18, 2020 – more than five years after John and Jane’s encounter, John’s attorneys and UC filed a stipulation of dismissal as part of an undisclosed settlement agreement.
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