News and Commentary

She Said She Wasn’t A Victim But The School Suspended Her Boyfriend For Assault. A Court Ruled The Adjudication Was ‘Unfair.’
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A wrongly accused male student just received a reprieve from the Court of Appeal of the State of California, which ruled the University of Southern California must vacate the student’s suspension after he was put through a biased and “unfair” adjudication process.

It was January 21, 2017, when USC kicker Matt Boermeester and his girlfriend Zoe Katz, also a USC student, returned to Kat’s apartment complex after a trip to McDonalds. The two, according to their own statements, began horsing around in the parking lot and alley outside Katz’s apartment, including throwing fries at each other and laughing loudly. Their rough housing woke up another USC student who lived in the complex and later claimed he heard screaming and saw Bowermeester pinning Katz against a wall by her neck. Another neighbor claimed the couple was arguing.

When the couple entered Katz’s apartment, the first witness called Katz into his room and, along with his roommate, said they were worried about her safety. Katz told them she was fine and showed no signs of distress. The next day, however, the roommate’s father, the USC Men’s tennis coach, reported the incident to USC’s Title IX office, which handles claims of sexual misconduct. As I originally reported at The Federalist, “this allegation of violence came not from the alleged victim (who denies this ever happened), but the roommate of a third-party non-witness, and was reported to the administration by yet another person.”

Katz was called into the Title IX office and told the coordinators that she had not been attacked and that what was reported was wrong. She later claimed the Title IX coordinators told her: “I’m sorry that you feel that way.” Katz said she was treated as though she were a victim with battered wife syndrome and wouldn’t accept her claims that nothing nefarious had happened. She would later tweet that the stories being printed about her and Boermeester were “false.” Her attorney, Kerry Steigerwalt later said Katz was threatened by the school and told: “You’re jeopardizing and interfering with an ongoing investigation. You do that again, there could be consequences for you. Don’t ever tweet anything like that again.”

Months later, Katz released a formal statement saying she was “afraid of USC’s Title IX office” and hoped it wouldn’t “further retaliate against me in any way.” She also made clear in the statement that Boermeester never abused her, yet he was suspended anyway.

After Boermeester retained attorney Mark Hathaway, he and Katz began demanding USC release security footage from the night in question, which the couple says corroborates that no attack occurred.

An appeals court judge has now sided with Boermeester, ruling that USC did not provide the student a fair hearing by denying him cross-examination and slanting the process against him from the beginning. Author and professor K.C. Johnson published the ruling along with a tweet thread about its highlights.

“We conclude USC’s disciplinary procedures at the time were unfair because they denied Boermeester a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine critical witnesses at an in-person hearing,” the judge ruled, though it denied Boermeester’s claim that he deserved a hearing before an interim punishment had been given.

“A university must balance its desire to protect victims of sexual misconduct with an accused’s need to adequately defend himself or herself,” the ruling said.

“In a case such as this one, where a student faces a severe sanction in a disciplinary proceeding and the university’s decision depends on witness credibility, the accused student must be afforded an in-person hearing in which he may cross-examine critical witnesses to ensure the adjudicator has the ability to observe the witnesses’ demeanor and properly decide credibility,” the ruling added.

The court demanded USC vacate the ruling against Boermeester and that if it brings disciplinary charges against him again, it must afford him the ability to cross-examine witnesses at an “in-person” hearing, which doesn’t necessarily mean being in their physical presence.

“We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has again recognized that accused students under Title IX must have a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine critical witnesses at an in-person hearing,”  said Mark Hathaway, Matt Boermeester’s attorney, in a statement to The Daily Wire.  “The security video shows Matt and Zoe clowning around in the ally and celebrating, but the USC Title IX office misrepresented the video and relied on a statement from a witness who changed his testimony by voice mail.”

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