A former male student from Allegheny College is suing after he was expelled for what he and his attorneys claim was a false accusation of sexual assault.
The student, identified only as John Doe in court documents, alleges that he attempted to present evidence that made it clear his accuser was only angry because they were no longer speaking and wanted him expelled out of spite. He says this evidence and witness testimony was ignored by Allegheny.
The incident that led to John’s accusation occurred in late September 2014. John and some of his track teammates had gathered to celebrate their recent time trials. John’s accuser, listed in court documents as Jane Doe, attended the celebration. John alleges that Jane brought a bottle of tequila with her to the party but says she did not consume any alcoholic beverages and was sober.
Eventually, John and Jane went back to John’s dorm room. The two slept together in John’s bed, as they had done previously. On this night, the two engaged in sexual activity. Twice during the evening, Jane left John’s room to use the bathroom, passing the resident assistant (RA) each time. Jane, according to John, made no indication that she did not want to engage in sexual activity or was held against her will, as she could have left at any time and could have sought the help of the RA.
Jane slept in John’s bed that night and returned the following night to sleep in his dorm room as well. For the next few weeks, Jane texted John multiple times to talk about their relationship. John alleges in his lawsuit that he “largely ignored Jane Doe’s text messages and her efforts to communicate with him.”
Two months later, Jane would accuse John of sexual assault. Just days before Jane made the accusation, it was announced that Allegheny was under investigation from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for mishandling sexual assault accusations. In the month that followed the announcement of the OCR investigation, Allegheny’s President, James Mullen, Jr., made multiple comments to the press regarding “recent changes” to its sexual assault policies and a renewed sense of urgency on the matter. He said he would use OCR’s investigation to make his campus policies “stronger.”
John and his attorneys believe he was one of the first students accused after the OCR investigation was announced and the changes implemented.
The day after the investigation was announced, Jane attended a party where she saw John with another woman. Jane learned at that time that the woman was John’s girlfriend. A few days later, Jane accused John of sexually assaulting her back in September.
John was informed during winter break that he had been accused, but he was not told who was accusing him or when the alleged incident occurred until Jan. 28, 2015, a week after he returned from break.
Further, John alleges he wasn’t told the details of the accusation against him until just days before his appeal hearing on March 24 — a violation of Allegheny’s policy to provide the accused with a copy of the complaint once a formal complaint process is initiated. John also claims information was withheld from him during the investigation, and that investigators attempted to “coerce a statement from him in response to allegations that had not been fully disclosed to him.”
John said the allegation was not true and requested more information, to which, he says, Title IX investigator Joe Hall responded that he could not receive more information until he provided a statement.
On Feb. 9, John stated that he had “not had non-consensual sexual relations with anyone” in order to learn more information about the accusation against him. He was told who made the accusation against him, but was told he needed to make his statement in writing to learn the details of the accusation. At that time, he provided a list of witnesses who knew both him and Jane.
On Feb. 14, John received an email from Hall that said he received the list of witnesses but that if he doesn’t have the written statement from John, the investigation would continue without him. On Feb. 16, John provided a brief written statement that said the accusation from Jane was “simply not true” and that he did not “have non-consensual sex with her at anytime.” He also asked for the details of the investigation to date.
Hall responded by saying the statement was inadequate in order for him to receive more information, and now told John that he had to submit to an interview before he would get more information about the allegations against him.
On Feb. 26, John received a copy of what Hall claimed was Jane’s complaint, but the document said nothing more than “Late in the evening on September 26, and into the early morning of the 27, 2014, [John Doe] did sexually assault me.”
John claims Allegheny then requested he provide all information for his defense before he was even properly informed of the details of the accusation against him.
Hall claimed in an email to John that he had provided the accused with the specific allegations, and that their next meeting was “to review her actual statement and witness statements.” Hall also told John he could provide additional information in his defense at any time.
John also alleges that Hall did not impose deadlines on witnesses favorable to Jane, as he did with John. Further, John was not able to share information from the investigative file with his community support representative, denying John additional assistance, as put forth in Allegheny policy.
John also claims in his lawsuit that Deputy Title IX Coordinator Jaquelyn Kondrot prohibited John from taking detailed notes while he reviewed the case file against him. He alleges they threatened to destroy his notes if they deemed them “too detailed.” They even monitored his note taking and inspected his notes to make sure they didn’t contain too much information, even though these notes would be the only information John had to use for his own defense.
John says in his lawsuit that he felt pressured and hurried in what he believes was a “calculated” attempt to tilt the scales in favor of Jane.
John was told he could come back later to review the file if he needed more time, but also said his decision would be rendered that same week. On March 3 at 5 p.m. (the same day he was able to review the file against him), John was told he had only one more day to submit information for the investigation.
For the next few days, John and Hall emailed back and forth about setting up a time for John to further review the evidence against him and provide more information. John had classes during the day and found it difficult to make time to come in on short notice. On March 6, John was informed that he had been found responsible for sexual assault.
Four days later, John said he would appeal. John requested the appeal hearing be moved two days since it was scheduled just after spring break, giving John just one day to review the information against him and prepare. His request was denied.
On March 18, John provided the names of additional witnesses and detailed how he felt the process was unfair to him, including his denied access to the full investigative report until just before his hearing, and the ignoring of witnesses that were favorable to his version of events, including witnesses who said Jane was known to the track team to be a liar.
John’s email was ignored, and he was only allowed to see the investigative report that was used to make a decision against him until the day before his hearing.
One day before John’s appeal hearing, one of Jane’s friends came forward to say that the accuser had falsely accused John of rape. John sent this friend’s name and statement to the investigators. The friend is quoted as saying: “[Jane] is upset because [John] will not talk to her anymore and she can’t stand being at the same school with him.”
“She doesn’t want to leave Allegheny, so the only way to get him out was to claim that he raped her and to press charges,” this friend also said.
Allegheny investigators didn’t respond to John’s email about interviewing this witness. At his appeal hearing, then Title IX Coordinator Katie Pope denied John’s request to call this witness. During the hearing, according to John, Pope continually interrupted John’s questioning of witnesses, resulting in a disjointed and confusing hearing. John also alleges he was not allowed to offer any evidence that questioned Jane or her witness’ credibility.
John alleges that even some of Jane’s friends and teammates told investigators that she had a reputation for lying, but this was ignored.
Even Jane’s accusation was questionable. She claimed she was forced to have sex with John and that the door was barricaded with furniture, even though John was able to establish that she freely left the room twice to use the bathroom.
John believes that when it was clear Jane’s story was not supported by facts, Pope told the panel that the accusation was about John “coercing” Jane even though there was no evidence of this.
Unsurprisingly, John lost his appeal and was expelled. Shortly after, John appealed to Allegheny’s president, detailing how the school violated its own policies in its investigation against him. He also provided new information in his defense that he was unaware of during the investigation and appeal. Jane’s roommate had contacted John after the committee hearing with evidence that Jane was lying and had continued to display photos of her with John in her dorm even after the hearing.
Allegheny’s president denied John’s appeal, so now John is suing on gender discrimination, breach of contract and unfair trade practices, in addition to other allegations.
Allegheny did not respond to a Watchdog inquiry, and John’s attorneys were not immediately available to explain why it took a year-and-a-half to file the lawsuit.