A lawsuit has been filed against the University of Colorado Boulder by a male student who was expelled after being accused of sexually assaulting two fellow students — claims that he says are false.
According to the complaint, the student, referred to as John Doe, "was subjected to a biased and inequitable investigation that deprived him of a meaningful standard of due process and equity. He was subjected to a process that inherently discriminates against the accused students, who are habitually male."
This isn't the first time that CU Boulder has been sued by a male student accused of sexual assault. A suit filed under the auspices of Denver attorney Michael Mirabella and New York-based Nesenoff & Miltenberg, the same lawyers behind the new case, leveled similar accusations against the university on behalf of a different John Doe plaintiff in late 2014. Early the next year, CU Boulder paid $15,000 to settle the matter.
CU Boulder spokesman Ryan Huff responded to an interview request about the latest case with a statement that defends the university's actions and describes the student's lawsuit as "unfounded." But while Nesenoff & Miltenberg's Andrew Miltenberg could not be reached for comment, the accounts shared in the lawsuit, on view below in its entirety, are potentially incendiary — particularly given a Title IX investigation of CU Boulder undertaken by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in 2013, accusations of sexual misconduct within CU Boulder's philosophy department that surfaced in 2014, and a survey showing that 92 percent of sexual-assault victims at the university don't report the incidents to CU or law enforcement.
On April 15, 2014, the most recent document states, CU Boulder Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Christina Gonzales, then the university's Title IX coordinator, received an anonymous phone call that accused John Doe, a sophomore at the time, of raping Jane Does 1 and 2 in separate incidents, seven months apart. Almost a week later, on April 21, Jane Doe 1 was contacted by Alexandra Tracy-Ramirez, who investigated the allegations for CU Boulder. (Both Gonzales and Tracy-Ramirez are named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with the CU Board of Regents, Office of Student Conduct director Jessica Doty and the university as a whole.) Tracy-Ramirez is quoted as saying that Jane Doe 2 had "a bad experience" with John Doe over spring break the previous month — and she wanted to know more about what had taken place between Jane Doe 1 and the suspect the previous year.
Jane Doe 1 couldn't provide Tracy-Ramirez with "a clear account" of what happened, the suit maintains, because she'd been drinking at a fraternity party on the evening in question (August 13, 2013) and couldn't remember meeting up with John Doe. The next day, however, she "felt like she had engaged in intercourse" and was upset when she heard that John Doe had been "bragging about having sex with her" to a number of people, including her boyfriend. After speaking with Jane Doe 2 about what she'd gone through, she "concluded that she had been raped," the lawsuit allows.
John Doe rejected any suggestion that he'd had non-consensual sex with the women, and the suit argues that Jane Doe 1 "had motive to mischaracterize her encounter." Specifically, she started dating one of John Doe's fraternity brothers — labeled Witness 6 — only a few days after the party. Moreover, Witness 6 was "grossed out" by the thought of John Doe and Jane Doe 1 having hooked up, making him and the plaintiff romantic "rivals," the suit allows.
Nonetheless, the complaint continues, John Doe was suspended and "excluded from campus" on April 17, days before Gonzales spoke to him or the Jane Does about the allegation — a move that effectively ended his job as a teacher's assistant. The suit also says he was refused access to the investigative file until July 2, by which time he'd already been hit with sexual-assault-related accusations involving the two women and was told to submit a written statement; in it, he refuted the allegations. Just over three weeks later, Tracy-Ramirez concluded that a "preponderance of information" showed John Doe had "engaged in non-consensual sexual intercourse with Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2," despite what the suit calls "a complete lack of credible evidence in the file."
Also problematic from the viewpoint of John Doe's legal team is CU Boulder's use of what's termed "the single investigator model, which allows one individual [in this case, Tracy-Ramirez] to conduct the entire investigation, make a determination of responsibility and issue a corresponding finding — which a respondent has no right to appeal. The university’s code does not provide for a hearing on the charges, and the respondent is denied an opportunity to confront his accuser, question any witnesses against him and present his defense before an impartial decision maker."
The suit accuses CU Boulder of "(i) the failure to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation; (ii) evidence of a gender bias against Plaintiff as the male accused throughout the investigation process; (iii) making assessments of credibility and evidentiary weight with respect to each party without any logical basis or rationale; (iv) the failure to afford Plaintiff the presumption of innocence required by the preponderance of the evidence standard; and (v) the issuance of an unwarranted and disproportionate sanction in light of the circumstances, all of which demonstrated substantial procedural errors in violation of Title IX, the Fourteenth Amendment and other federal and/or state laws."
Not so, says CU Boulder spokesman Huff in the aforementioned statement.
"We are confident that the campus administers its Title IX obligations in a manner that is not biased in favor of or against any student," Huff writes via e-mail. "We believe that this investigation was administered appropriately, that the plaintiff received a fair opportunity to confront the evidence against him, and that his claims are unfounded."
Look below to see two documents: the most recent lawsuit and the now-settled John Doe complaint from 2014.
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