Former student athletes claim there was no due process in 2014 sexual assault investigation

By Sarah Stubbs

Two former University of Findlay student athletes who were dismissed on account of a sexual assault case in Oct. 2014 filed a federal lawsuit against The University of Findlay on Dec. 23, 2015. The lawsuit says that the sexual assault investigation conducted by UF was a “sham” – claiming a lack of due process and misrepresentation of race and gender.

The incident that resulted in the expulsion of Justin Browning, former football player, and Alphonso Baity, former basketball player, happened on campus at 438 Howard Street, following an off-campus party on Sept. 21, 2014.

Browning and Baity were dismissed from the University on Oct. 3, 2014. The alleged victim reported the incident on Oct. 1, 2014 – ten days after the sexual activity took place.

The lawsuit claims that the alleged victim “spoke proudly among her friends – even bragging” about the sexual acts that occurred on Sept. 21, 2014, for several days after, suggesting that the acts were consensual.

Browning and Baity are suing the University; UF Board of Trustees; David Emsweller, vice president of student affairs; Brandi Laurita, athletic director and Title IX coordinator; Matthew Bruskotter, director of safety and security and Title IX investigator; Rachel Walter, director of housing; Ken Walerius, former director of Campus Security; Brian Treece, director of residence life and assistant dean of students; Breanna Miller, former resident assistant at UF; and the alleged victim.

The lawsuit says that Browning and Baity have suffered “emotional distress, injury to reputation, past and future economic loss, deprivations of due process, loss of educational and athletic opportunities, and loss of future career prospects and/or earnings.”

Browning and Baity are suing the University for a minimum of $75,000 each. The lawsuit says the exact amount exceeds this and will be proven at trial.

The lawsuit also claims that the investigation the University conducted was unfair because not all witnesses with pertinent knowledge to the night’s events were interviewed and that the University selected witnesses based on race and gender – mostly white females.

The lawsuit points out that according to the University’s Sexual Assault Policy, in alignment with precedents set by Title IX, “a typical investigation will take no more than 60 calendar days.”

UF’s investigation process lasted 24 hours, according to the lawsuit.

Emsweller told the Pulse in October, 2014 that the Clery Act “requires institutions to be very expedient with incidents like this.”

According to the lawsuit, there were three black males who “had personal knowledge and information regarding the events.” They are referenced in the lawsuit as Q.J., Z.W., and R.J. The University only interviewed Q.J., who stated that all sexual activity among Browning, Baity, and the alleged victim was consensual. Z.W. was later interviewed by the University after the accused were expelled.

The lawsuit states that the University interviewed three white women, two of which were present at 438 Howard Street where the alleged assault took place. They are referenced in the lawsuit as K.A., A.D., and A.J. Present that night were K.A. and A.D.

The lawsuit says that the alleged victim was not interviewed during the investigation process.

According to the lawsuit, K.A. and A.D. both confirmed Browning and Baity’s versions of the events. The lawsuit further claims that following their interviews, K.A. was “terminated from her campus security dispatch job” and A.D. was “threatened with expulsion.”

Following the threat, A.D.’s mother sought a lawyer and the University then withdrew her expulsion, according to the lawsuit.

UF released a statement when the lawsuit was announced on Jan. 6 asserting that the investigation and appeal process were conducted “with integrity and fairness” and that they “will vigorously defend the process and [their] decision.”

Emsweller declined to comment to the Pulse on the pending litigation and said that he will provide updates when able to do so.

Browning and Baity declined to comment on the status of this lawsuit. Robert B. Graziano, Browning and Baity’s lawyer, was contacted for comment and also declined.

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