WEB UPDATE: Student leaders allegedly sexually abused sophomore, report says

Posted Sunday, July 29, 2:30 p.m.

Last year’s Student Association President Lamar Thorpe and current SA Finance Chair Richard Fowler allegedly sexually abused a female sophomore, according to a witness’ account and a University Police report obtained by The Hatchet.

Both students have categorically denied the incident’s occurrence and that there is a case before Student Judicial Services for the reported sexual abuse last fall.

Then-SA Vice President for Public Affairs Andrew Cooper said he was present during the alleged incident but did not participate. Cooper told The Hatchet he was immediately acquitted by SJS after he was brought in for questioning, but Thorpe and Fowler have remained suspects. Cooper “did not physically touch her during this series of events,” according to the female’s account in the UPD report, which Cooper said was authentic.

“It is indeed true that Lamar Thorpe and Dick Fowler went to SJS for sexual assault against (the sophomore girl),” Cooper said in a telephone interview earlier this month. “I want to speak out against the lies that they are telling.”

Because of the pair’s denial that there is an SJS case and University officials’ refusal to comment, it is unknown what the two may have been charged with as well as the current status of the proceedings. The University’s recommended minimum sanction for sexual assault is a one-year suspension and eviction from residence halls, according to GW’s Student Code of Conduct.

A UPD report states that Thorpe, then a 25-year-old senior, invited the female to his room in The Aston for a party, but when she arrived “it was clear that there was no party going on.” Thorpe and Fowler, a sophomore at the time, allegedly coerced the female to quickly drink alcohol and forced her to perform oral sex on the two, according to the alleged victim’s account in the report.

The Hatchet is withholding the female student’s identity due to its policy of not naming individuals who have reported being victims of sexual crimes. The individual declined comment last week, saying that she is not supposed to speak about the case.

The Hatchet obtained the UPD Incident Report earlier this month from a source close to GW law enforcement. The individual requested anonymity because the campus police records are not public.

University Police Chief Dolores Stafford said the document was “not an official UPD report,” but did not say if the information in the report was false, when asked on several occasions. Three individuals with access to this document independently verified the accuracy of its contents.

“(The complainant) would like SJS to pursue judicial action against these three individuals,” the UPD report states.

SJS Director Tara W. Pereira declined to comment because of University policy and federal law that precludes divulging information about student records. Stafford also would not provide details about the case, beyond the general information found in the online crime log.

The crime allegedly took place the night of a GW Campus Plan hearing before the D.C. Zoning Commission, which the three SA executives attended, Cooper said. Afterward, they went to Hooters and then back to campus around 11:30 p.m. to drink in Thorpe’s room, Cooper said.

By 1 a.m. Cooper said he left The Aston because he “didn’t agree with some of the things that were going on,” and he felt morally compelled to leave the room.

“I want to see justice done,” Cooper said. “I want to see people fess up and are punished for what they’ve done, and at the same time, I want the student body at large to know what happened because this is a learning situation for all of us.”

Several administrators have said they knew or had heard that Thorpe and Fowler were in trouble with SJS, but did not discuss specifics.

Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said that privacy concerns dictated that he not provide any information about the two students’ situation. The police report listed Chernak as one of the document’s recipients.

The report made no mention of the complainant pressing charges against the students in the D.C. system. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia confirmed Thursday that there are no pending court cases against Thorpe or Fowler.

The two have repeatedly denied in phone interviews that they have been involved in any student disciplinary cases.

“I haven’t had any judicial proceedings going on – none whatsoever. I see my enemies are still out there, generating great stories for you,” Thorpe said in early July. Later in the month, he added: “I’m sick and tired of these fucking rumors.”

Fowler, who was Thorpe’s vice president of student activities last year and head of the residence hall condom program, also said he has not been before SJS.

“Nothing happened,” he said. “I don’t know what incident you’re talking about.”

As an SA senator, Fowler must undergo a disciplinary background check. If he is – or already has been – convicted and is placed on disciplinary probation or suspension, he would be disqualified from serving in the Senate, according to Article I of the SA Constitution.

Fowler’s position as chair of the SA Senate Finance Committee makes him one of the most influential students on campus, having responsibility for the disbursement of about $450,000 for student organizations.

SA Executive Vice President Brand Kroeger said the disciplinary checks, as well as inquiries into students’ academic standing, are typically requested the first week of September.

“People have approached me and asked questions – just like they do about any normal subject at GW – but my response is that, as far as I know, Richard Fowler is still an SA senator,” Kroeger, a rising junior, said.

He added: “There are procedures in place to keep the integrity of the SA, and you can bet your bottom dollar that those procedures are going to be followed.”

Thorpe, who graduated in May, was selected as a presidential administrative fellow in the spring. PAFs attend graduate school for free, get a stipend for living expenses, and are paid to work in high-level University offices. According to a GW news release issued on May 17, Thorpe will pursue a master’s degree in women’s studies, “pending admission.”

The police report accounting the alleged sexual abuse was filed on April 22.

The admissions application for GW graduate programs asks if the student has been subject to any disciplinary actions as an undergraduate.

Jeanne Fiander, director of Columbian College Graduate Admissions, said listing a sexual charge on the application would probably result in the student’s disciplinary files being reviewed. “I’d take it very seriously,” she said.

Peter Konwerski, assistant vice president for SASS, oversees the PAF program and said he was not sure if a student could have a disciplinary record and be a fellow. He said in late June that Thorpe’s status was still up in the air, but could not be reached for comment with an update this week.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg worked closely with Thorpe during their respective presidencies last year. Trachtenberg said he had no knowledge about the undergraduate’s interactions with SJS.

“I’ve got enough on my plate without following the students’ disciplinary activities,” said the outgoing president.

Current SA President Nicole Capp said it is not her place to comment on the allegations against her predecessor or Fowler, an undergraduate at-large senator.

“The Student Association is larger than any one person,” Capp wrote in an e-mail, “and its reputation will be based on its results, which I promise will exceed any expectations of our organization that currently exist.”

About seven months elapsed between this past school year’s alleged assault and its reporting to UPD – a delay which is “incredibly common” in the case of rape and sexual abuse, an expert said.

“It’s very rare for victims to report an assault within in 24 hours, especially if they knew the perpetrator,” said Darcey West, spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which is headquartered a couple blocks from campus. “Often times, especially on a college campus, if the victim knew the perpetrator, she may start thinking about what are my friends going to think what are his friends going to think … If alcohol is involved, victims tend to blame themselves.”

West added that about one in four college students will be a victim of sexual assault while away at school, and that the best way to get help is to report it. Students can call RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE, or GW’s 24-hour Sexual Assault Crisis Consultation hotline at 994-SACC.

-Jake Sherman contributed reporting for this article.

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