A judge declared in open court that sexism may have played a role in a university’s rush to judgment when adjudicating a sexual assault accusation. After oral arguments concerning a case alleging Johnson and Wales University violated a male student’s due process rights, Judge John McConnell said he could “find no reason at all why the result was Mr. Doe’s expulsion. The only inference [is] . . . gender played a role,” according to K.C. Johnson, who attended the hearing in Rhode Island.
The lawsuit comes from a student referred to only as John Doe in court documents, who was accused of sexually assaulting on two separate occasions a female student referred to as Mary Smith. It was not Smith who made the accusation, but her boyfriend, referred to as BK. He alleged his girlfriend was sexually assaulted twice, eight months previous.
When questioned, Smith gave an account of those two alleged incidents that raises questions and contradicts other evidence. Doe and Smith became friends in September 2016. Smith stated in her complaint they became “friends with benefits.” The two had a consensual sexual relationship, and had intercourse six times, according to Doe. She was apparently dating BK at the time as well, unbeknownst to Doe.
One Year Later, Smith Calls It Assault
About a year after these sexual encounters, Smith told the JWU security office she had been sexually assaulted the previous October. She said the two had been sleeping in Doe’s bed, then had sex that was rougher than usual. She said, however, afterward she also went back to Doe’s bed, fell asleep with him again, and left the next morning. Doe’s roommate was in the room when this allegedly happened, yet said he heard nothing.
Doe contends this encounter never happened. Another roommate saw Smith leaving the building the next morning and said she appeared to be in good spirits. She never sought medical attention for this alleged incident, never photographed the bruises, and never reported it to any official, according to court documents. Neither roommate was allowed to testify at Doe’s hearing, nor was he able to question them, even though their statements are in JWU’s official complaint report.
Smith also claimed that a week after this alleged incident, she voluntarily returned to Doe’s room to have sex with him again. This time she claims the sex began consensually but that “at some point during the consensual sex…it started to hurt.”
She said she told Doe about this and gave him the chance to change positions to see if that would help. After that, she said, it didn’t hurt at first, but then it “began to hurt again.” There’s no indication she tried to get him to stop or told him she was in pain again. Doe claims this encounter was not distinct from any other sexual intercourse the pair had. Smith continued to like Doe’s social media posts after this alleged second incident.
It was BK, Smith’s boyfriend, who first reported the alleged assaults to JWU, on June 1, 2017. Sgt. Robinson of JWU security called Smith about her alleged assaults. She told Robinson “she did not want to talk about it at the moment” and wouldn’t validate the complaint. Robinson emailed Smith on June 2, telling her she was “a victim of sexual assault” and to know that “we are here to support you.” Smith thanked him but said “she did not need any help.” Robinson also reached out to Doe, who categorically denied any assault took place.
Three months later, BK moved in with Smith, and then the pair decided to bring a formal complaint against Doe. Smith now claimed the alleged assault changed her life in one specific way: “It had affected her relationship with her boyfriend.”
Then Doe Went on Trial for Rape
Doe was informed that he was “being charged” with sexual assault and harassment but was not told the specific complaint against him. It wasn’t until October 3, 2017, during a pre-hearing conference, that Doe was informed of the specific charges. He was not allowed to see JWU’s complaint report, read it, or have a copy. He was told to attend a hearing on October 20, but not how it would be conducted or what he was allowed to present.
He was told he could have an advisor who couldn’t participate but could sit next to him. He wasn’t told who would adjudicate his case (keeping him from finding conflicts of interest) and that he couldn’t have legal counsel. Incredibly, Smith was allowed to name BK as her advisor, thus keeping him from being questioned by Doe or the panel on his motivation and inconsistent statements. He first said he learned about the alleged assaults a month or two before he reported, then claimed he learned about them after seeing bruises on Smith the preceding year.
Doe was found responsible and expelled. He attempted to appeal but was denied within hours of his submission. All this led Judge McConnell to openly question JWU’s procedure. When JWU tried to argue their policies may be biased against the accused, but not against men, McConnell pushed back. He said he could not “for the life of me” find any reason the case proceeded as it did other than a bias against male students.
“This is perhaps the most aggressive Title IX ruling in any of the due process lawsuits,” Johnson wrote of the judge’s statement. A source, who also attended the hearing but spoke to The Federalist on condition of anonymity, said JWU brought up a settlement before people left the hearing, and that “the face of the school’s attorneys said it all.”
This may be the only time a judge has made such a declaration in open court, rather than in a written decision after the hearing. The case highlights the absurd lengths schools may go to punish students for sexual assault without a fair trial.