Miami U. student sues, claims unfair suspension for sex assault claim

Miami U. student sues, claims unfair suspension for sex assault claim

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Miami University officials have been named in a federal lawsuit filed by a male student who claims accusations of sexual misconduct against him were untrue. The sophomore, who has been suspended for two years, also claims Miami officials did not provide him due process in school hearings and appeals. FILE

A Miami University student is suing the Butler County school, accusing officials of punishing him unfairly after a female student accused him of a sexual assault he contends was consensual sex.

The male student — identified in the federal court lawsuit only as “John Doe” — contends it was a mutually-agreed-to sexual encounter that took place after drinking in Oxford bars last fall.

The case is the latest local example of a growing legal pushback seen on some college campuses nationally as men sue – and in some cases win – against their colleges after being accused of committing sexual assaults they maintain were actually sexual encounters with willing female students.

Some accused male students say they are wrongly presumed guilty by their universities and forced to prove their innocence – sometimes while suffering quick disciplinary actions prior to or during any college hearing process — in what they claim is a reversal of American criminal and civil law’s presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Women’s advocates, backed by officials at the U.S. Department of Education monitoring Title IX violations on campuses, contend a higher level of vigilance – and quick disciplinary action - are needed at American colleges, with some citing what they describe as a culture of rape that has threatened female students and left male perpetrators unpunished.

The Miami student was suspended from the school for two years and banned from the campus, according to court records.

In the suit, he claims the woman later reported it as a sexual assault after months had passed and when she filed a complaint to school officials.

The lawsuit contains alleged text messages between the two.

Further, he argues in his lawsuit, he was denied a fair student disciplinary hearing by Miami officials due to gender bias by officials whom he also claimed were frightened of negative publicity and punishement from federal education officials.

The male student’s attorney – Josh Engel – said the Miami student is “sad and frustrated.”

“He expected he would be given a full and fair opportunity to defend himself and was not given that opportunity by the school,” said Engel.

Miami University officials told the Journal-News they deny the student’s claims.

“Miami denies any bias in in its judicial process,” said Miami spokeswoman Claire Wagner.

“Alleged Title IX violations involving accused students are investigated in a prompt, fair and impartial manner by trained staff through Miami’s Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution,” said Wagner.

“Disciplinary hearings for Title IX violations are held before an Administrative Hearing Panel (two faculty and one staff member.) Panel members receive annual training on issues related to Title IX violations and on conducting a fair hearing process,” she said, adding, “the federal court has dismissed two previous claims alleging gender bias in Miami’s judicial system.”

The male Miami University student contends in his lawsuit that on a November 2016 evening he and the female student – referred to as “Jane Roe” in the filing — were among a group of students who met in two near-campus bars to celebrate a mutual friend’s birthday.

The two of them left the bar shortly after midnight, according to John Doe, and talked about “hooking up,” but he claims she declined intercourse but suggested “we can do other things.”

They moved into some nearby bushes near a campus residence hall and began kissing and John Doe asked if he could perform oral sex on her and “she responded by moving forward and indicated consent by continuing to kiss John Doe.”

“John Doe then performed oral sex on Jane Roe: she did not object,” states the lawsuit.

Soon after, they agreed to go a bathroom near John Doe’s dorm room. The two decided against having sexual intercourse because they did not have a condom and – according to the male student – Jane Roe then “voluntarily performed oral sex” on him, the filing states.

Following the sexual activity, John Doe walked Jane back to her dorm.

At about 1 a.m. John Doe texted Jane Roe asking “Are you OK?” and she is alleged to have responded “No, I’m gonna be sick.”

“Jane Roe never stated that John Doe had sexually assaulted her,” contends the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, two days later Jane Roe texted John Doe:

“That was (expletive) up. I’m absolutely disgusted … I was so so drunk … You need to understand the gravity of your actions.”

John Doe responded, “I’m so sorry – I was hammered too and feel absolutely horrible…”

He added, “Neither of us were thinking clearly.” He also texted, “Drunk people made horrible decisions and we made a horrible decision and I know apologizes [sic] can’t do anything ….”

“John Doe explained that he sent these texts because he was upset that he had engaged in sexual activity with Jane Roe because Jane Roe had been in a relationship with one of his friends. He believed it was a mistake to risk that relationship,” the lawsuit alleged.

“Jane Roe never reported any alleged sexual misconduct to the police,” states the lawsuit, and “almost five months after the incident reported to Miami that she had been sexually assaulted by John Doe.”

On April 5, Miami officials delivered a “notice of alleged violation of student conduct regulation” to John Doe that stated the female student contended she was an unwilling participant in the sexual activity and that she had been forced – in the residence hall bathroom — to perform oral sex.

The subsequent “summary suspension hearing” by the school, according to the lawsuit, found the male student “presented no threat to the student body” and “was permitted to remain on campus during the disciplinary process.”

On May 1 a school hearing panel ruled John Doe was “responsible for committing sexual assault in violation … of the code of student conduct.”

John Doe was informed he was suspended until May 15, 2019, and “during this time, he is unable to earn credits from another institution and is prohibited from entering the campus. He also received additional sanctions, including probation for his remainder of his time at Miami.”

The male student appealed on May 9, arguing in part he was denied an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses at the hearing cited by the female student because they had submitted only written statements rather than testify in person.

Miami denied the appeal on May 31.

The plaintiff’s lawsuit claims Miami officials favored the female student’s version of events because of they were “sensitive to criticisms by students and the media (including the Internet) about the manner in which Miami resolved allegations of sexual misconduct.”

“As a result, Miami’s decision-makers were motivated to favor the accusing female over the accused male, so as to protect themselves and Miami from accusations that they had failed to protect female students from sexual assaults. Miami was heavily invested in protecting female accusers even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing by males in order to avoid scrutiny from the (U.S.) Department of Education,” states the lawsuit.

The student is seeking re-instatement of his status as a Miami student and a judge’s ruling that his due process rights were violated by the school.

“He wants to get back to school and finish his education,” said Engel.

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