Monday, March 7, 2011

Male Student Expelled from College for Sexual Assault -- Even Though His Alleged 'Victim' Was Criminally Charged for Lying About It

How does something this outrageous happen in the land of the free?

You're a young man attending a large university.  You have consensual sex with a female student. She accuses you of sexual assault.  Eventually, law enforcement determines her claim was false, and police charge her with filing a false report to law enforcement.

The problem is, before law enforcement determined the young woman should be arrested, a student relations committee at the school had already expelled the young man. 

This is a real case. The school, the University of North Dakota, told the young man, Caleb Warner, not to set foot on campus for three years after a student relations committee ruled in February 2010 that he violated four sections of UND's code of student life, including “violation of criminal or civil laws.”

Warner asked for a rehearing based on new information; specifically, the fact that she was charged with a crime, not him. The fact that he was the real victim here, not her. One of the reasons Mr. Warner was expelled was because he supposedly violated criminal or civil laws. But it turns out that the law enforcement agency charged with actually determining if a crime should be charged determined that it was the accuser, not the accused, who violated criminal laws.

What is the fair thing to do here?  Forget it -- it's not happening. The University of North Dakota has refused to reopen the case. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that Mr. Warner's lawyer requested the rehearing based upon a section in the student code that allows a case to be revisited if there's “substantial” new information. In a letter to Mr. Warner, Robert Boyd, UND's vice president of student and outreach services at the time, rejected the request and based it on a section that requires appeals to be filed within five days of any sanction. (So, let me get this straight: any new evidence must be obtained within five days of the sanction. As if a party has any control over that. Say what?)  But, wait, Boyd later told the AP that he does have the authority to review any case regardless of the timing of the appeal. (So why did he mention the five days in his letter?)

And just to shed some light on the procedure in the hearing with the student relations committee: Mr. Warner's lawyer was allowed to attend the hearing but could only confer with Mr. Warner during breaks in the proceedings. Mr. Warner was forced to actually defend himself and personally ask questions of the witnesses, including the alleged victim. Witnesses were allowed to “pass” if they didn't want to answer a question.  You know, it's the Star Chamber without as much fairness.

What do you suppose the reaction would be if Mr. Warner had been cleared of the charges but then, later, was charged with rape?  Do you think there would be protests about the fact he wasn't punished? And don't you think the school would react to that?  Gee, based on what other schools do, somehow I don't think Mr. Warner would last long on campus if that happened.  But when it works in reverse, there aren't any protests at the school. None. There should be, but there aren't.

Harvey Silverglate, a prominent civil rights attorney and expert on college disciplinary rules, called UND's refusal to re-open the case distressing. “Law enforcement agencies do not lightly charge complainants in sexual assault cases with filing a false report,” Silverglate said. “It seems to be that the campus tribunal has an obligation — surely moral and ethical and arguably constitutional as well — to reopen the case to examine the basis for the criminal justice's system of filing a false statement.”

For his part, Warner, 24, said he's been devastated by the events but has given up on his quest to return to UND. He's back in his hometown of Fargo. All he wants from UND is an apology.

Good luck with that, Mr. Warner. Good luck with that.

Thanks to JS