Two years ago, a male student at the University of Southern California was accused of sexually assaulting a female classmate. During the investigation, a school official was caught calling the accused student and his attorney “motherf---ers,” giving undeniable proof that the student would not receive a fair and unbiased hearing.
Now Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White has ordered USC to pay the student’s legal fees — a total of $111,965.
The accused student, known only as John Doe in court documents, had a sexual relationship with his accuser in the fall of 2015. Doe explicitly told his future accuser that he did not want an exclusive relationship with her, and she still engaged in sexual activity with him. On October 14, 2015, the two attempted sexual intercourse after several previous failed attempts (the accuser was inexperienced and could not engage in earlier intercourse attempts). The accuser went to Doe’s fraternity house after midnight, where the two kissed and cuddled before removing each other’s clothes.
The sex was too painful for the accuser, and she asked Doe to stop, which he did, according to his lawsuit. The two kissed and cuddled again, leading to another attempt, which was also too painful for the accuser. Doe complied with her request to stop and fell asleep.
The pair continued a sexual relationship and successfully had sexual intercourse weeks after the October 14 encounter. In November 2015, the accuser ended her relationship with Doe because she suspected he was seeing someone else. A month later, in December, she began to threaten Doe, saying she would report him for sexual assault for the October 14 encounter but not for other sexual activity.
In early February 2016, the accuser told Doe’s fraternity president that she would not file a sexual assault report if Doe were kicked out of the fraternity. Doe, fearful of a biased investigation against him, moved out on March 1. Two days later, Doe filed a complaint against his accuser for “harassment, threats, and stalking,” according to his lawsuit.
On March 22, Doe was informed that, rather than looking into his claims of harassment against the female student, USC would be investigating him for sexual assault. When Doe met with the school’s Title IX investigator, Patrick Noonan, he was not given any details about the accusation against him.
Noonan interviewed the female accuser and 18 student witnesses she identified, but did not investigate Doe’s complaint of stalking. While Doe provided 1,000 text messages and 252 pages of Facebook messages between himself and his accuser (which showed her alternating between threats of a sexual assault accusation and asking him to take her back), he was not provided the evidence against him. Noonan said that was USC policy, according to the lawsuit.
Doe’s attorney, Mark Hathaway, attended the meeting but was not allowed to speak or take notes. Noonan’s report contained his summaries of interviews, instead of verbatim transcripts. Based on this limited evidence, Noonan provided a USC panel his investigative report and conclusion that there was “sufficient evidence that Respondent knew or reasonably should have known that Complainant did not consent to the sexual penetration on October 14, 2015.”
Doe was not given a hearing or allowed to question the evidence against him, and was expelled.
Doe and his attorney, as well as an associate attorney participated in a conference call on June 7, 2016 with Noonan and USC’s Title IX Director Gretchen Dahlinger Means to discuss an appeal. When the conversation ended, Means and Noonan forgot to hang up, allowing Doe and his attorneys to overhear Means saying: “Who do those motherf---ers think they are?” She also asked: “Does that college motherf---er know who I am?” Noonan also referred to Doe and his attorneys with this term.
The two continued to discuss the case, calling the accuser a “catch” as well as “so cute and intelligent.” Means then asked: “What was she doing with that?” in reference to Doe.
Later that day, Noonan provided Doe with documents to prepare his appeal on a file-sharing website, but did not permit the accused student to “download, share, or print these documents,” according to the lawsuit. Just days later, the documents were removed from the website.
Doe filed his appeal and included the statements made by Noonan and Means as evidence of gender bias, but his appeal was rejected and he was expelled. Naturally, Doe sued the university, and last year Judge White provided a “tentative” ruling saying the school didn’t follow its own policies and should reinstate Doe. In March 2018, more than two years after the original sexual encounter, White issued an order implementing her ruling from the previous year, and on June 28, ruled that Doe should be awarded his attorney’s fees, another six-figure victory for wrongly accused students (Hathaway was also awarded attorney’s fees from Pomona College to the tune of $130,000).
A press release was issued by Hathaway’s office that day, but the College Fix has provided more details. While the derogatory comments against Doe and his attorneys were out of the ordinary, Hathaway said the treatment of his client was not.
“The motherf---ers comments by the USC Title IX personnel were not mistakes; their mistake was in being over heard [sic],” Hathaway told the Fix. “The hostile attitude and unfair treatment by Title IX personnel are familiar to most accused students.”
In addition to the attorney’s fees, USC was ordered to reinstate Doe because the school’s process by which it found him responsible for sexual assault was not “fair, thorough, reliable, neutral and impartial,” according to White’s ruling. White specifically noted that the comments made by Noonan and Means showed “an unacceptable probability of actual bias.”
USC has a history of railroading students over questionable accusations. In 2016, the school expelled a male student because other male students also engaged in group sexual activities with a female accuser, which she did not like. He was also held responsible for what could have happened to her after he left the encounter. In another instance, the school suspended a male student even though he and his girlfriend (the alleged victim) said they were playing around and not fighting.