Thursday, October 15, 2009

Former football star files suit over rape claim

Austin Scott, an ex-Penn State football player cut by the team after a rape allegation is suing everyone he says is responsible for destroying his life. "[H]e wants $300,000 in total compensation from the university, Penn State Police, the county, the woman who said he raped her, Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira, former Assistant District Attorney Lance Marshall, Penn State Chief of Police Stephen Shelow, Assistant Chief of Police Thomas Sowerby, three police officers and two detectives, according to court documents." See: here

In April 2008, the Centre County Pennsylvania District Attorney's office dropped rape charges against Mr. Scott because there was “no reasonable likelihood” it could meet its burden of proof. (Note, this means the District Attorney's office conceded there was no reasonable chance a jury would not have a reasonable doubt about Mr. Scott's guilt.) That "decision [to dismiss the charges] came after the state Superior Court ruled . . . that jurors could hear testimony about the alleged victim’s involvement in a separate sexual assault case in 2003. The defendant in that case was acquitted." It is important to know this about that earlier rape allegation lodged by Mr. Scott's accuser, according to the trial judge: "The woman in the earlier trial 'admitted, under oath, to lying about the sexual intercourse being forced and stated that it that was, in fact, consensual for several hours,' [Judge] Kistler wrote in one order." The Superior Court agreed. See here. (It is unfortunate that the Pennsylvania Superior Court chose not to make its decision in the Scott case a published opinion worthy of precedent.)

After dismissing the charges against Mr. Scott, for good measure, the D.A.'s office issued a a public statement to insure that everyone understood its position on Mr. Scott: “It is with deep regret that we . . . withdraw the charges against Austin Scott,” the statement said. Note that the District Attorney experienced "deep regret" even though it conceded that a jury would have a reasonable doubt about Mr. Scott's guilt. The implication, of course, is that the jury would be unduly prejudiced by the evidence of the accuser's prior false accusation -- juries, after all, are stupid, or at best, naive, and they can't be trusted figure out the truth. (One wonders what is the D.A.'s position on admitting evidence of a rape defendant's prior conviction for sexual assault? D.A.'s elsewhere seem to have no problem with that sort of evidence -- that's somehow different than admitting evidence of an accuser's prior false rape claim, right?)

Now, a year-and-one-half later, Mr. Scott is filing suit. His attorney, John Karoly, summed up the suit in an interview with the Centre Daily Times in words that have particular meaning on this Web site: “'District attorneys and police officers, as part of their job, are going to face complainants who are untrustworthy whose allegations are false, who are perhaps mentally disturbed,' Karoly said. 'There are a lot of people who routinely come to district attorneys with allegations that are unfounded, so the fact that (the woman) has some personal or mental problems is one thing, and we certainly fault her for creating this allegation, but ... it is their job to conduct a reasonable investigation to exclude these types of unfounded allegations.'” See here

Here is a news article summarizing the suit:

Austin Scott files lawsuit against Penn State

A former Parkland High School football standout removed from Penn State's team two years ago amid rape allegations has filed a federal lawsuit against the university, prosecutors and his accuser, according to reports in two Centre County newspapers.

Austin Scott's lawsuit filed by Allentown attorney John P. Karoly claims the accusations and prosecution, which was eventually dropped because of the woman's background, destroyed his chances for an NFL career.

The Centre Daily Times newspaper and Penn State's student-run newspaper, The Collegian, reported that Allentown attorney John P. Karoly filed the multimillion-dollar lawsuit in federal court in Williamsport Tuesday. The lawsuit has not yet been entered in the court's online database.

The news reports say the lawsuit focuses mostly on why prosecutors and police pursued rape allegations against Scott for almost seven months before abandoning the case "with deep regret" on the eve of the trial.

Prosecutors decided to drop the case after a judge ruled the jury could hear testimony about rape allegations the woman made against another man four years earlier at Moravian College in Bethlehem. He was acquitted of the charges in Northampton County Court.

According to the newspaper reports, the lawsuit claims the lead prosecutor, former Centre County Assistant District Lance Marshall, pursued the case "to curry favor" with the woman who accused Scott of rape. Marshall resigned from his job in December amid allegations he made inappropriate sexual advances toward a victim of domestic violence.

The suit further claims Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira knew of Marshall's "proclivities prior to the unlawful arrest and prosecution of Austin Scott."

Marshall and Madeira as well as seven state troopers are named as defendants.

It alleges they all conspired in the October 2007 arrest of the then-22 year old Scott, who was kicked off the Penn State football team and never got drafted into the NFL.

The lawsuit says Scott was slated to be a third or fourth round draft pick for the National Football League prior to the false allegations and false arrest.

He was one of the greatest high school football players in the Lehigh Valley's history, leading Parkland High School to a state championship in 2002. His career at Penn State was mixed, partly because of injuries. He was removed from the team after the female student accused him of raping her in his campus apartment Oct. 5, 2007.

Scott said the sex had been consensual just as the man at Moravian College had four years earlier.

Last year, Scott was invited to attend the Cleveland Browns training camp and played preseason games but was cut from the roster before the regular season.