In yet another ruling against a college or university over how it handles accusations of sexual assault, an appellate panel in California determined Westmont College failed to provide an accused student a fair hearing.
The student, referred to as John Doe in a lawsuit filed over the accusation, was accused by a fellow Westmont student, referred to in court documents as Jane Roe. Jane gave varying accounts of the night in question to her friends and roommates, and Westmont chose to use only the testimony that corroborated her account and made John look like a rapist.
Associate Justice Martin Tangeman wrote the ruling, with which all three appellate judges agreed, that claimed Westmont failed to follow its own policies when adjudicating Jane’s claims.
“The Panel did not hear testimony from critical witnesses, yet relied on these witnesses’ prior statements to corroborate Jane’s account or to impeach John’s credibility,” Tangeman wrote. “The Panel withheld material evidence from John, which its policies required it to turn over. As a result, John was denied a meaningful opportunity to pose questions to Jane and other witnesses on material disputed facts.”
Jane was not the person who reported the alleged sexual assault – it was her mother. Jane then told investigators that she did not drink at the party where she claimed to have been sexually assaulted. She said her roommates, identified only as MH and MW, were also at the party and were intoxicated. She claimed John was drinking and smoking marijuana.
After smoking marijuana with John and his friends, Jane claimed he asked her to go for a walk with him. While away from the party, John, according to Jane, abruptly kissed her and said he wanted to have sex even though she told him to stop and that she didn’t want to kiss him. She claimed John then shoved his hand down her pants and digitally penetrated her. She said she kept telling him to stop, but that he “turned her around, pulled down her pants, and told her to get on her knees.” He then raped her for less than a minute, Jane claimed. The two returned to the party through different doors and John told her not to tell anyone what happened.
Jane told MH she had had sex with John, and felt bad because MW had previously “hooked up” with John and “continued to have feelings” for him. Jane apparently stayed at the party for another hour before heading home, where MH and MW were waiting.
MW was upset about Jane having sex with John. Jane then claimed she told John “no” and that she “didn’t want to do it.”
John told school investigators that he did not drink or smoke at the party, and that he had gone inside to use the bathroom when he was alleged to have been raping Jane. He said when he went back to the backyard that MW asked him if he had sex with Jane. He said he hadn’t and MW told him Jane was telling people that they had hooked up.
John continued to deny to others who asked that he had sex with Jane.
John said Jane’s roommates gave differing accounts of her claims. Some said “she did not have sex with John, or that they had consensual sex, or that John took advantage of her,” according to Tangeman’s summary.
John told Westmont investigator Stu Cleek he believed Jane made up the claim after he ignored a text from her asking to hook up. John said he showed a friend the message but deleted it.
One of Jane’s roommates said Jane “started blaming what happened on her having mental health issues.” While Jane told school investigators she didn’t drink, her roommates said she did. MH and MW told Jane’s other roommate, KB, that Jane claimed “the sex [with John] wasn’t that good.” KB told investigators that Jane’s “behavior ha[d] been off” and that she had been that way for weeks, even engaging “in a lot of lying[,] even in little things [that] don’t matter.”
Despite her roommates referring to her as a “compulsive liar,” Westmont found John responsible. Cleek didn’t even interview MH, MW, or others Doe requested. Westmont also “withheld its notes concerning panel questions and witness responses,” a trial court earlier ruled. This kept John from being able to question witness testimony.
Students who didn’t testify before the panel were given more credibility than those who did, which confused the appeals court. Tangeman accused Westmont of using a “seemingly arbitrary method” to determine who was credible in this case.
The College Fix reported that Westmont declined to comment on the ongoing case.