Wednesday, April 6, 2016
C.A. Says USC Unfair to Male Student Suspended In Sexual Assault Investigation
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday ruled that USC violated a student’s right to a fair hearing on charges related to a sexual assault and suspended him for more than two years without sufficient evidence.
The court granted a writ of mandate sought by the student, identified as John Doe. In a footnote, Justice Audrey Collins of Div. Four explained that, while USC is a private university, it requires an evidentiary hearing for student discipline, and is therefore required by state law to treat students fairly and cannot impose discipline without substantial evidence of a rules violation.
The case against John Doe stemmed from what the justice described as a group sexual encounter at a fraternity party. An admittedly intoxicated student, identified only as Jane, said she was assaulted by a group of men at the party.
Jane admitted that she engaged in consensual sexual activity, apparently oral sex, with John Doe. But she ultimately claimed, in a statement to campus investigators, that John Doe encouraged other men to slap her on the buttocks, which she did not consent to.
The university’s office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards, or SJACS, found John Doe in violation of nine sections of the student conduct code, including the section prohibiting sexual assault. But the Student Behavior Appeals Panel ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support that charge, or most of the others, but found that John Doe “encouraged or permitted” other students to strike Jane, and that he endangered her by leaving her alone in the bedroom when he and the other males dispersed.
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien, sitting on assignment, granted mandamus relief in part. He ruled that John Doe received a fair hearing, and that there was substantial evidence that he permitted or encouraged improper behavior by others, but that there was insufficient evidence of endangerment.
Collins, however, said the hearing process was unfair because Jane—who gave four separate statements to investigators, the first two of which made no mention of being slapped by other males—was given copies of her statements, but John Doe was not. The justice also concluded that in light of the discrepancies in the statements, there was insufficient evidence to support the “encouraged or permitted” charge.
She agreed with O’Brien that there wasn’t sufficient evidence of endangerment.
The case is Doe v. University of Southern California, 16 S.O.S. 1749.
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