Roanoke College Student Acquitted of Rape Re-Enrolls, Sues Accuser

Carmen Forman
January 19, 2016

A Roanoke College student who was accused of rape and found not guilty at trial and in a sexual misconduct hearing is back on campus this semester and is suing his accuser for $500,000 in damages.

Ezra Zigarwi, who was found not guilty on charges of rape and aggravated assault, has re-enrolled at Roanoke College this semester after he was found not guilty in a jury trial in November and at an on-campus sexual misconduct hearing in December.

The 19-year-old student from Zimbabwe, Africa, also has filed a civil lawsuit against the female student who accused him of rape. The lawsuit alleges the woman made false claims to campus and Salem police, and asks for $500,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

The Roanoke Times does not name people who file sexual assault reports.

A Salem Circuit Court jury found Zigarwi not guilty in the fall after deliberating for 25 minutes at the end of a one-day trial. After an online petition seeking to block Zigarwi from re-enrolling at Roanoke College circulated in December, the student was found not responsible for sexual misconduct in a Roanoke College hearing held Dec. 21, his lawyer Deborah Caldwell-Bono said.

Caldwell-Bono said the sexual misconduct hearing was confidential and would not elaborate on the proceedings. Roanoke College spokeswoman Teresa Gereaux said the college is not permitted to disclose details of the hearing or its outcome because the college is bound by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

The Roanoke College student directory lists Zigarwi as a current student, but shows his accuser is not currently enrolled.

The female student accused Zigarwi, a freshman, of rape after a March 15 incident at a residence hall.
The civil lawsuit filed Dec. 7 in Salem Circuit Court claims the female student intentionally published false statements about Zigarwi on her social media accounts and on an online petition website after the March incident and after the jury trial.
The woman’s lawyer, Matthew Schottmiller, declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.

The female student, when reached via Facebook message last month, said she did not create the now-closed petition titled Keep Roanoke Safe on that collected 291 signatures, some of which were anonymous. When she shared the link on her Facebook wall she wrote, “thank you so much to the person who made this petition. Please help prevent this from happening to another student.”

An injunction issued in Circuit Court on Jan. 12 orders the woman to refrain from making direct or implied statements concerning allegations of rape, sexual assault or any other inappropriate contact between her and Zigarwi. The court order also compels the woman to remove any social media and Internet postings referencing the allegations.

At trial, the female student contradicted statements she gave to the police about her level of intoxication and the male friend she invited to her dorm room before and after Zigarwi visited.

The woman testified she had been drinking for several hours and had smoked marijuana when she invited a male friend over. When he declined, she invited Zigarwi over, let him into the building and then brought him to her second-floor dorm room.

She testified that while in bed in the dark, the male student started to make advances and eventually initiated sex, to which she objected from the beginning. The defense argued the woman protested later, during sex, at which time Zigarwi stopped and left. The woman then called the male friend from earlier and told him she had been assaulted.
No upcoming hearings have been set for the civil lawsuit in Salem Circuit Court.