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University News

Student found not responsible for sexual assault

Due to complainant’s incomplete memory of incident, initial ruling upheld upon appeal

University News Editor
Friday, March 6, 2015

The student accused of sexual assault by one of two female students who reported being drugged at an October party has been found not responsible by the University’s Student Conduct Board, according to a Feb. 20 letter reviewed by The Herald from Deputy Provost Joseph Meisel to the complainant.

Meisel, the appeal officer in the case, upheld the SCB’s initial decision upon appeal, according to the letter.

The SCB wrote in its findings that the complainant’s incomplete memory of the event did not allow her to effectively counter the alleged assailant’s testimony that she consented, Meisel wrote.

The woman appealed the decision, citing the “dangerous precedent” set by not adequately taking into account the memory loss that accompanies the ingestion of date-rape drugs, according to the letter.

But in his appeal decision, Meisel wrote that, because no new evidence had emerged, he remained unable to call for a rehearing of the case — even if he were to give the greatest possible weight to the complainant’s “flash memories.”

Administrators, including Meisel, did not respond to requests for comment.

The alleged assailant, who is unaffiliated with Phi Kappa Psi, was charged with “non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature” and sexual misconduct involving “penetration, violent physical force or injury,” the letter states.

The SCB’s finding of not responsible relied heavily upon its conclusion that the accused student may not have known the degree to which the complainant was incapacitated.

The night of the incident, the complainant had been drinking, was “having trouble with unlocking a door” and needed “to lean against the wall,” Meisel wrote in the letter, recapping her testimony.

The accused student’s descriptions of the night “indicate that he recognized you had been drinking to some degree,” Meisel wrote to the complainant. “The question is whether the visible presentation of your stumbling could or should have led (the alleged assailant) to infer that … your level of intoxication was past the point at which it would have been reasonable to assume you were capable of giving consent.”

The complainant’s testimony of being “unable to respond, move or consent” during the sexual act was at odds with the alleged assailant’s account of “sustained activity and responsiveness throughout the sexual encounter,” Meisel wrote.

“This finding represents a gross misunderstanding of how consent works,” said Katie Byron ’15, a member of the Task Force on Sexual Assault.

“This is an atrocious Catch-22 that the University has put itself in where they say that because her memory was flawed, because she was incapacitated, that she can’t provide any sort of alternative testimony,” Byron said. “But yet somehow, she was … still able to give clear and convincing consent. You can’t have both of those things.”

Justice Gaines ’16, also a member of the task force, said “the fact that only the accused’s memory is taken into account because the victim doesn’t have a memory is horrifying.”

Gaines expressed concern that the decision could establish a precedent according to which a victim who does not completely recall an incident is not considered to have been “victimized” or to have “experience(d) a sexual assault.”

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  1. Greek alum says:

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PLACE??!! How can phi psi facilitate an assault brown says didn’t happen.

  2. Greek alum says:

    How can phi psi be responsible for facilitating an assault the university now says didn’t happen?

  3. puzzled and concerned says:

    So the sexual assaulter gets off. The alleged person who “drugged” this women gets off and Phi Psi gets shut down….this seems really sketchy….

  4. Class of 2012 says:

    There are no words for the shameful decision of the administration, but I want to lend my support to the girl who appealed. We support you!

  5. Priorities says:

    The accused assailant gets off. And yet we seem more upset about the second student, who served the drink…

  6. Ancient Alumnus says:

    Fortunately for the poisoned and raped student, there is a species of justice being meted out across the globe. The Twittersphere — which you may read in Singapore and London as easily as in Providence — is today enraged at Brown University. “Doormat of the Ivy League” is an epithet encountered. “Poverty-stricken Ivy” would be more to the point. The imperative at Brown is ALWAYS to grub for the money, eve when Pfizer calls the tune (see the case of Professor Martin Keller). Here is what happened in the latest nauseating case at Brown — by my count the EIGHTH nauseating case since the Adam Lack tragedy. A Brown undergraduate female was handed a GNB-poisoned drink and then raped. That’s the way it works — rape drug supplied, with rape ensuing. Of that fact there can be little doubt. During her examination by medicos, she described an intoxication whose peculiarities match those of GBH ingestion, according to clinicians familiar with GBH toxicity. Impoverished and shabby Brown University faced its ancient problem. How to kill the case and keep the cash-flow (Pfizer, Martin Keller, Corporation Dad). The victim is an entirely believable, distressed, and sympathetic female student who happens not to be as rich as Croesus. The accused is the son of a moneybags, a thrice-yearly visitor to the Corporation Room. Oh dear. Who you gonna call? The well-oiled crisis management team — Ledbetter, Klawunn, and Company — veterans of many a moral crime since the Martin Keller federal case. First assignment: Compromise the evidence. Hire a sketchy, previously discredited testing laboratory. That was the hard part. Lying and dissembling was the easy part — easy from long practice in University Hall. The corpus of evidence supporting the young woman’s case was dismissed with a risible catch-22. Because she was drugged into insensibility IN ORDER to be raped, she cannot BEAR WITNESS to the rape. Incidentally, by issuing that verdict, the University automatically slanders the woman. (Will some good lawyer please step forward and pull a McCormick — Brown ended up paying him a million dollars.). This whole episode is further proof, if you needed it, that Brown University is the fake Ivy, the one not invited to the 1936 convention of seven newspaper editorial boards that made the original selection of membership (my father was there representing Dartmouth), the doormat and beggar of the Ivy League.

    • Real Alumnus says:

      This tragedy is not a chance for you to whine about not being accepted.

    • It was the father who payed McCormick, not brown.

      Is everyone unaware that the student who gave the gbh is not the assailant? As in two different people?

      • Greek alum says:

        Brown let Dresdale bully everyone in the McCormick case.

        While the university contends that the GHB came from phi psi, I think it’s more likely that it came from the rapist*. Unfortunately since the rapist* isn’t a member of the Greek system, the university refuses to acknowledge such an option.

        *not according to brown

  7. You’ve posted this article before, so I’m not sure what your point is bringing it again here. Moreover, your post takes up a lot of space without actually containing any of your own comment.

    • This article points out that (a) rape and sexual violence affects both men and women in teenage years, (b) this is an on-going and persistent problem with which we have been dealing in the criminal justice system (whether well or poorly) for a long time.
      For Brown to enter into this fray and create a separate justice system invites fraud, abuse and injustice.

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