A judge has sided with an accused student against the University of Connecticut after the school ignored evidence that challenged the female accuser’s version of events.
The male accused student, referred to as John Doe in court documents, was one semester away from graduating when a female student, referred to as Jane Roe, accused him of sexual assault. After a campus process that denied John the ability to question Jane’s credibility, he was expelled. He then sued the university and was granted a temporary restraining order blocking the school from implementing his punishment based on an unfair procedure.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael Shea admonished the university for violating John’s due process rights.
The case stems from an April 2019 encounter between the two students that John said was consensual, but Jane months later said was not. Within a month of the accusation a hold was put on John’s transcript and he was barred from registering for the spring semester in 2020. This was all done the same day he was first interviewed about the allegations.
John was drinking the night of April 5, 2019. Jane and her friends would later claim that John was so drunk he was “falling over” and needed help standing, but multiple other witnesses – including one of Jane’s close friends – confirmed this was not true. Jane and her friend started talking to John and later expressed interest in him.
When the party ended, a group of six students piled into a car to get food. Jane sat on John’s lap, but later claimed she was forced to. John said he didn’t ask her or force her to sit on his lap. The student in the front passenger seat later said he felt Jane’s knees against the back of the seat and he could tell she was moving around on John’s lap. Another student in the back seat said he had to look away from the two because Jane was gyrating her hips on John’s lap. Jane later claimed she did not do this, and the multiple witnesses disputing her story were not kept out of the campus investigator’s report on the allegations. The fact that Jane had at least two instances of claiming one thing while multiple witnesses disputed her should have made UConn skeptical of her allegations, yet the school ignored them and expelled John, later reducing his punishment to a two-year suspension.
John said he intended to go home to bed alone, but Jane called for him to get back in the car when he got out in front of his dorm. John accepted her invitation and Jane’s roommate would say the next morning that two couples came back to the dorm room and quietly, mutually agreed to go to two separate bedrooms. Jane later claimed she did not invite John back to her dorm, but again, multiple witnesses said she pleaded with John to go back with her.
Jane would later claim she only intended to invite everyone over to watch TV and eat pizza, but this was again disputed by other witnesses.
Jane’s story about what happened that night would keep changing. At one point she said John didn’t have a condom and it was an “excuse” not to have sex, but she later said he did have a condom. John explained that Jane asking about the condom and removing her own underwear showed “unambiguous” consent for sexual activity, but because Jane said otherwise, the UConn investigator ignored John’s claim.
Jane’s story would also contradict itself. She would claim at one point that she “froze,” but then said she got on top of him during the sexual encounter. She also admitted she was “cooperative” and “partook” in the sexual act despite her alleged “freezing.” She was never asked about her inconsistencies. Jane would claim she said “no” and “stop,” but John said Jane said no such things.
When the two finished, they rejoined the other couple in the apartment. John’s lawsuit alleges the two women were “giggling and having a good time” when the two men left. Jane later claimed she didn’t say she was raped at first because she was “shocked.”
John’s attorneys could not be sure just why Jane regretted having sex with John so quickly. They suggest it may have been because Jane’s friend had expressed interest in John shortly before he and Jane had sex. Jane’s friend would later say the accuser came to her room that night to ask her for permission to have sex with John.
Because of Jane’s inconsistent statements and her demonstrated display of a lack of credibility, Judge Shea ruled UConn had violated John’s due process rights. Sam Harris of The Foundation For Individual Rights in Education received a transcript of the court’s discussion with an attorney for UConn arguing that witnesses that spoke against Jane’s credibility were not “relevant” to the hearing against John.
“First, she argued that their testimony was irrelevant because they only witnessed the consensual sexual activity in the car, not the allegedly non-consensual sexual activity in the bedroom,” Harris wrote of the UConn attorney. “But the judge disagreed — if the complainant lied about initiating sexual activity in the car, that spoke directly to her credibility, and the two parties’ credibility is the central issue in the case.”
The attorney then tried to argue that the testimony wasn’t relevant because the two witnesses didn’t watch Jane gyrate on John in the car – because one was in the front seat and felt her knees while the other one looked away after seeing what was happening.
The court did not accept this argument from UConn’s lawyer, saying: “[C]ome on. I thought you were going to be serious about this… That’s not a serious answer.”
The judge moved on to another matter regarding the fact that UConn hearing officers relied on previous written statements of witnesses for Jane that didn’t testify at the hearing, meaning John could not question their statements. The judge admonished the school for denying the student the ability to cross-examine witnesses and the evidence against him, especially given how substantial the punishment was.