Student suspended for assault

A GW freshman was removed from on-campus housing two weeks ago after being suspended for an October sexual assault he said he did not commit.

The suspended student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he is pressing charges against his accuser and GW for the allegations, which stem from an incident last fall in Thurston Hall. Student Judicial Services handed down the year-long suspension March 10, requiring the freshman to move out of campus housing April 3.

Assistant Dean of Students Michael Walker said the usual punishment for sexual assault or rape is suspension or expulsion from school. Walker declined to comment on the specific case. No law prevents the University from discussing cases in which a student is found guilty for sexual assault or a violent crime.

About five days after her alleged assault, the female student, who also wished to remain anonymous, said she went to Metropolitan Police to press sexual assault charges against the male and his roommate, who was found not guilty of sexual assault by SJS. She said police “lost interest” in the case after SJS found one of the men guilty.

Det. Randy Brooks, who is covering the case, declined to comment because MPD is still investigating. He said the FBI currently has a tape made Nov. 1 containing a conversation among the two males, the female and her friends about the alleged assault. The FBI is working to make it more audible, Brooks said.

Conflicting stories

The male student said he and the alleged victim stayed in his ninth floor Thurston Hall room alone after a party there Oct. 31. He said they had a few alcoholic drinks but weren’t drunk.

According to the male, the students moved to the bedroom, where they started kissing. He said the female removed her clothing and some of his, but he “realistically knows we absolutely never had sex.” He said they were both fully conscious for the 15 minutes they spent alone, and before he left to meet some friends downstairs he tucked the female into bed.

A friend of the charged student testified in the SJS hearing that she walked in on the two and saw a female figure on top of the male in an unusual position for a rape.

The alleged victim said she blacked out after the two started kissing. She said she does not think she would take off her own clothing and assumes the male removed them.

She said she woke up naked and alone in the male’s bed and heard one of his roommates taunting her. The roommate was found not in violation and has been living in Nigeria since the beginning of second semester because of school and family pressures.

“(The roommate) comes in and lifts me off (the male’s) bed and undresses himself and tries to start touching me, and I’m crying,” the alleged victim said. “He said, ‘You gave my friend some loving. Why don’t you give me some too?'”

The suspended student said he did not see his roommate after he left his room and could not have told him what happened before he got downstairs.

The female student said she went to the GW Hospital immediately for a rape test, which came back negative, meaning there was no evidence of forcible sex. The negative test was presented at the SJS hearing.

Questionable evidence

The male said the day after the incident, the female’s friends demanded he and his roommate join them at a room in a friend’s residence room. The male said they were immediately threatened to confess to the crimes.

The two males brought a third person to witness the events. The suspended student said he and his roommate were threatened to confess but did not.

The male said an audio tape of the meeting, which the FBI currently has, contains information vital to his case.

“Not only does (the tape) not contain a confession, but it contains threats against us, as well as the sounds of us being physically threatened to give confessions,” the male wrote in an appeal to SJS.

The female said during the taped conversation the male changed his story numerous times and did confess at one point to the crime. She said she was willing to use the tape as evidence because there is a confession on it. The tape was not submitted as evidence because it was inaudible and in FBI’s possession at the time, the male said.

According to MPD, the tape contains a lot of background noise and has been sent to the FBI to make it audible. There is only one copy of the tape, the male student said he was told by MPD.

Expert opinions

In a case like this one in which there is little evidence beyond what the alleged victim and assailant say, most experts agree it is difficult to determine who is telling the truth.

MPD Detective Smokey Ward said it is hard to tell what actually happened because critical elements that determine the case – the accuser and respondent’s relationship, her physical condition after the alleged attack and the results of a rape test – are not generally conclusive.

He added that nine times out of 10, a man will be arrested on the scene of an alleged sex crime if there is enough evidence to immediately arrest him, because authorities have begun to take sexual assault more seriously.

“(But) in today’s society when a woman says she was raped, that means a man has raped her,” Ward said.

Ward said women often get a rape test done after an attack that they can use as evidence in court. He explained it as a swab taken from the vagina that tests for semen, pubic hairs and trauma caused by forcible entry. During normal intercourse, there is a bit of trauma, Ward said. But during non-consensual sex, even when the alleged victim is unconscious, there is some resistance from her body.

Grounds for appeal

The male said he tried unsuccessfully to appeal the SJS decision. He said he requested the appeal to present the tape and new witnesses and because there was a critical change in the female’s story, miscommunications and bias during the initial hearing.

While he declined to comment on the specific case, Walker said grounds for appeal must be based on new information that is relevant to the case. According to the Student Code of Conduct, this information cannot have been previously presented at the hearing or conference and it must significantly alter the finding of fact.

“We always consider reasonable requirements,” Walker said. “If there’s something that’s so critical to the case we’ll consider it, but what we (consider) critical might not be the same as what (a charge student considers) critical.”

The female student alleges the male roommates discussed having sex with her, but she did not hear the conversation.

“She initially claimed to MPD that as I finished raping her, my roommate walked in and asked if I was done and if he could have a turn, and I said OK, according to her, as he proceeded to rape her,” the male said.

He said this conflicts with an earlier statement the female made to MPD, when she said she was asleep and did not know if she had been raped but assumed she had because she heard a conversation between the two males.

The female said she never told MPD she heard the conversation but that MPD assumed she heard it.

The female said this mix-up was MPD’s fault.

“My point (when telling MPD) was (the two roommates) obviously had this conversation because when (the second roommate came in), he knew what the first had done,” the female said.

The male also said he has new witnesses, including some who would testify to his good character. Walker said the University does consider testimony on a student’s character when deciding cases.

The male also alleges in an appeal to SJS that the board was biased by the female’s “mock crying.”

“It is unacceptable that she should cry; this creates an irreversible bias,” he wrote in the request for an appeal. “Furthermore, the school called as a witness a GW rape counselor. This is a woman who had absolutely no material evidence to present; she was not present for any of the events and she is not an investigator.”

Walker said a rape counselor is sometimes called in on a hearing to testify on an alleged victim’s condition at the time of the alleged assault.

The male said he is pursuing separate civil suits against the female for emotional injury and wrongful accusation and GW for negligence and emotional injury. He declined to identify his attorney.

Associate General Counsel Linda Schutjer said students charged with sexual assault seldom have grounds to sue GW.

Schutjer also said the University carefully monitors judicial proceedings and does not hand out sanctions without just cause.

“There are a lot of lawyers out there who are underemployed, so you can always find someone to represent any case,” she said. “Many lawsuits are filed that are ridiculous.”

Les Aron, an attorney in New Jersey who represents colleges and universities, said that student judicial proceedings do not need to reach the “right” decision, as long as it is “in good faith.”

“(The University) makes the best judgment it can under the circumstances,” the attorney said.

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