University Of Michigan Students File Lawsuits Over School's Sexual Assault Investigation
A woman sued the man she claims raped her after he sued the University of Michigan for violating his due process.
A University of Michigan student filed a breach of contract lawsuit Wednesday against the man she said raped her in an attempt to keep him from returning to the Ann Arbor campus.
The man — who would have been a senior — wants to be readmitted to the school. He filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month against several university employees arguing that his due process was violated during the university's investigation into the sexual assault report. He said there was a conflict of interest that affected the outcome of the investigation.
The woman filed her lawsuit Wednesday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, accusing the man of sexual assault and battery, and breach of contract. The man's suit was filed in the federal court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The lawsuits stem from a January 2016 incident at the man's University of Michigan fraternity house. The man and woman were both drinking, and the woman said in her lawsuit that she was incapacitated. The woman said the fraternity brother raped her; he maintains the sex was consensual.
The woman reported the incident to university officials, who, after an investigation, found there was insufficient evidence to prove the man violated the school's sexual misconduct policy, according to court documents. The man's lawsuit said a university investigator, who is a former ACLU lawyer, concluded that after a 3-month investigation that included interviews with 23 witnesses that the man had not violated the university's sexual misconduct policy.
The woman appealed the decision, which was ultimately overturned. But the man's lawyer, Deborah Gordon, said there was a conflict of interest with the appeals panel.
In the lawsuit the man filed to return to campus, he said that David Baum, an assistant dean of University of Michigan's law school, who was on the appeals panel, did not disclose that he knows both the woman's lawyer, Sarah Prescott, and her husband JJ, who is at the law school.
The lawsuit said that Baum "likely could not be impartial" because he and JJ Prescott have worked together closely on academic affairs, served on law school committees together and fundraised together. Additionally, the lawsuit said there was also a conflict of interest with the female student's lawyer, Prescott, because she lectured at the law school while Baum was the assistant dean.
"This was a conflict or perceived conflict of interest," Gordon, the man's lawyer, told BuzzFeed News. "There’s no reason for him to sit on this case"
Prescott denied there was a conflict of interest in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
"There's nothing to these claims and allegations," she said, adding that Gordon "won't be able to show anything other than that."
Prescott — who at one point used to work for Gordon — said that she and the panelist in question have never socialized and have only met in a professional capacity.
"[Gordon] knows the extent of our relationship," Prescott said.
Baum did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Gordon told BuzzFeed News she brought up the conflict of interest issue to the university, requesting a new appeal hearing, but was denied.
"We have confidence in the decision reached by the appeals panel and we will respond through the appropriate court filings," a university spokesperson said in a statement about the man's lawsuit. The spokesperson refused to comment on the woman's lawsuit.
Following the appeal panel's decision finding him guilty, the man was offered a resolution agreement, which would allow him to permanently withdraw from the university rather than being expelled. For the agreement to be valid, the woman would have to sign it as well, giving up her right to advocate for a harsher punishment.
The man is now suing to return to the University of Michigan to complete his senior year.
His reputation and career prospects have been irreparably harmed, according to his lawsuit, which added he will not be able to accept a lucrative full-time job offer with a financial institution contingent on him graduating from the University of Michigan.
"I came back to campus determined to put last semester's life-changing tragedy and the personal impact of the investigation behind me," the woman said in a statement. "The trauma he caused is now a part of me, but I will never let it define me. I will continue to fight not to let him back on campus."