Wrongful Convictions

$6.9M Award for Connecticut Man Cleared of 2 Rapes After More Than a Decade Behind Bars

$6.9M Award for Connecticut Man Cleared of 2 Rapes After More Than a Decade Behind Bars

September 16, 2021

A central Connecticut man who spent 12 years in prison for two rapes—that now even the state says he didn’t commit—has been awarded $6.9 million, thanks to DNA testing that exonerated him.

Plaintiffs counsel Rosemarie Paine of Jacobs & Dow in New Haven said DNA results were made public in 2014 and cleared her client, Luis Figueroa. But those 12 years he spent behind bars, plus five more on probation during which he had to enlist in mandated sex offender programs, “turned his life upside down,” she said.

“The DNA left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he did not commit the sex assaults, but what the [claims] commissioner saw was the irrefutable evidence of how this mistaken identification and wrongful conviction infected every area of his life,” Paine said Thursday. “It held him back in every way. Because he was listed as sex offender, it was difficult for him to get housing and he was frequently homeless.”

The rape conviction stems from alleged assaults on two separate women, in March and April 1995. In both cases, the alleged victims were shown photographs the police had of Figueroa, who had been arrested before for two larcenies related to car theft and an assault stemming from a street fight.

In the claimant’s post-hearing memorandum, Paine wrote that, with regard to the second sexual assault, “Despite the fact that the victim never identified [Figueroa] as her assailant, [he] was nevertheless charged with her assault on the basis of the Yale student’s [the first victim] photo identification of him as her perpetrator.”

Figueroa was incarcerated from 1995 to 2007. He was sent to prison when he was 20, and is now in his mid-40s.

In her memorandum of decision in the matter, Claims Commissioner Christy Scott said Figueroa suffered unfairly.

“The claimant was a young man still wondering where his life would lead when a mistaken identification set him on a road of suffering and shame,” Scott wrote. “A day came when the truth was known—he was innocent—and that truth should have eased his pain, but those who knew it did not share it and he continued to suffer for five long years more.”

Scott was referring to the fact that the DNA results were known in 2009, but not made public until a Freedom of Information Act request was made five years later.

Scott wrote that the truth “helped ease his pain, but it could not erase it. The damage was done. … Compensation cannot fully repair the damage done, but it may perhaps help to smooth the claimant’s path back to health and peace.”

Scott awarded Figueroa $6.9 million, which has since been disbursed.


Campus False Allegations Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment Title IX Wrongful Convictions

PR: 40-50% of Campus Sexual Assault Allegations Are Unfounded, Revealing Need for Strong Protections of the Innocent


Contact: Rebecca Stewart

Telephone: 513-479-3335


40-50% of Campus Sexual Assault Allegations Are Unfounded, Revealing Need for Strong Protections of the Innocent

WASHINGTON / May 11, 2021 – Analyses of sexual assault allegations at colleges and universities reveal 40-50% are unfounded. Black male students are at especially high risk of being wrongfully accused of sexual misconduct. SAVE urges universities to maintain and strengthen due process protections to assure a reliable determination in campus proceedings.

An early study by Eugene Kanin reported that the police department in a Midwestern city concluded that 41% of 109 rape allegations were false. Kanin then did a follow-up study at two large colleges, concluding that 50% of campus rape complaints were untrue (1).

More recently, Brett Sokolow confirmed, “Probably 40 or 50% of allegations of sexual assault are baseless. There are a lot of cases where someone says they were incapacitated, but the evidence doesn’t support that they weren’t able to make a decision.” (2) Sokolow is the head of the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA), and is regarded as a national expert on sexual assault in the campus setting.

Black male students are at especially high risk of being wrongfully accused of sexual misconduct:

  1. Title IX For All analyzed demographic data from 650 lawsuits filed against colleges. Among the 30% of cases in which the race of the accused student was known, black students are four times as likely as white students to file lawsuits alleging their rights were violated in Title IX disciplinary proceedings (3).
  2. During a 2015 Senate hearing, Harvard Law Professor Janet Halley observed that, “male students of color are accused and punished at ‘unreasonably high rates’ in campus sexual misconduct investigations.” (4)

Colgate University has revealed that black male students represented 50% of all sexual violations reported to the institution, even though black students represent only 4% of all undergraduate students (5). SAVE has compiled numerous case studies of Black students who were wrongfully accused (6).

Activist David Lisak has claimed that only 6% of campus allegations are “false.” (7) But Lisak did not consider the many other reasons why an allegation can be determined to be “unfounded.” Air Force judge advocate Reggie Yager reveals that about 45% of the cases Lisak reviewed did not proceed because there was insufficient evidence, the complainant withdrew from the process, the accuser couldn’t identify the perpetrator, or the allegation did not rise to the level of a sexual assault (8).

In the past, sexual assault activists stated that unfounded accusations were rare. In her book, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, Susan Brownmiller asserted that only 2% of sexual assault cases are false (9). This claim was refuted when it was revealed that her statistic was based on a casual comment made by a judge at a bar association meeting (10). Legal scholar Michelle Anderson likewise reported, “no study has ever been published which sets forth an evidentiary basis for the two percent false rape complaint thesis.” (11)

To reduce the risk of wrongful determinations of campus sexual assault, SAVE calls on college officials to assure impartial investigations, fair adjudications, and the presumption of innocence.


Prosecutorial Misconduct Wrongful Convictions

From Moot Court to Criminal Court: A Former Law Student’s Harrowing Experience Before a Kangaroo Court

From Moot Court to Criminal Court: A Former Law Student’s Harrowing Experience Before a Kangaroo Court

by Cyrus Leigh

April 27, 2021

In January 2017, my life was not unlike the countless law students who had gone before me.  I was well on my way to completing my Juris Doctor, and I had recently moved closer to the law school, where I was spending six out of seven days a week.  The Spring semester began, and I was 21 credits shy of earning my degree.

Then, my life forever changed. 

I received a phone call informing me of an accusation against me, a reprehensible form of abuse against my nieces, aged just three and four-and-a-half years old at the time.  After the call, I was in a state of complete shock and disbelief.  I contacted my family and later a close friend, a child psychologist, to try to make sense of what I had just heard.

Fortunately, I had the full support of lifelong friends, family, fellow law students, and law professors to stand by me throughout the process – as they still do today – in what I can only describe as a living nightmare.

A few hours later, the police were at my door.  I agreed to answer their questions at the station, and afterward, they drove me home and shook my hand.  As I walked into my building, I failed to recognize what was happening, nor could I foresee the almost four-year-long road that lay ahead of me.  As one of my professors had succinctly put it, I was being “railroaded.”

For the next few weeks, I was in a daze.  I met with an attorney who, after speaking with the detective, assured me that charges were not imminent.

However, a month later, that all changed.  I was asked to surrender myself and criminally charged.  I tried to remain calm, fully knowing a grievous mistake was made and expecting someone would soon rectify it.  A family member and attorney told me I would receive bail and return home in a day or two to figure out this mess, but then I recalled the first attorney with whom I met informing me about a recent change in New Jersey’s bail law.  To add even more perplexity to a bizarre situation, I learned the prosecutor would be seeking my pretrial incarceration at a forthcoming detention hearing.

Ten days after being held in a solitary cell, just a month after I stood in moot court, I found myself standing in a real court.  Instead of playing the role of a prosecutor donned in a suit in front of my classmates as I had only weeks earlier, I was now a prisoner dressed in chains, shackled among other inmates.

Instead of a class exercise having professors judge my advocacy skills about a hypothetical case, I stood in front of friends and family, being falsely accused of the most heinous and vile crimes, facing 25 years to life imprisonment, and deemed by a real judge – under a two-month-old bail reform statute, enacted to afford non-monetary conditions of pretrial release to low risks like myself – that because there was clear and convincing evidence of my dangerousness or flight risk, I had to be preventatively detained pretrial and thus sent back to the dungeon.

The prosecutor had argued for, and the judge ordered my detention, despite no evidence against me; dozens of letters of support submitted from family, friends, law students, and professors; three friends testifying to my good character and, most importantly, complete factual innocence.  Moreover, it was precisely due to my lack of a criminal record that the state’s pretrial risk assessment determined I was the lowest possible risk for pretrial release.

It was only months later that I learned the state’s proposed pretrial order recommended my release on home detention and electronic monitoring – an important document that failed to surface during my detention hearing.

Within a month, I went from moot court to criminal court; two cases, the latter just as false and fabricated as the former, yet with catastrophic consequences.  I witnessed first-hand a fictitious case develop around me, only to later envelop me whole.  There are no words that can ever adequately describe that day or the years that have since followed, yet I suppose the most overused but apt term is Kafkaesque.

Nine months after my arrest on false charges, indicted, and facing 25 years to life, the state offered me a plea deal to time-served.  I was speechless.

I had naïvely assumed a proper investigation would exonerate me, that the state would dismiss all charges, and I would receive an apology.  I maintained my composure and sanity for months with this expectation.

A few weeks later, my attorney told me that the prosecutor would dismiss all the original (sexual) charges and amend two counts in the indictment from sexual endangering the welfare of children to non-sexual endangering, something I was neither accused of nor indicted on.  The factual basis of that offense (and my conviction) is “the habitual use by the parent or by a person having the custody and control of a child, in the hearing of such child, of profane, indecent or obscene language.”  Again, I was astonished.

But after consulting with my family and counsel, we decided that it was in my best interest to accept the offer because, as we know, juries sometimes find innocent people guilty of the crimes they were charged with but had not committed.

And so, I accepted fault for cursing “in the hearing” of my nieces – and I went to prison.

After being intentionally misclassified by the prison and twice denied release by the parole board, the decisions all resting on the dismissed charges and not my actual conviction, I finally returned home in August 2020, after serving over two years in prison.

Sadly, I recently discovered that my conviction does not qualify for expungement, notwithstanding my former attorney’s assurances.  Moreover, despite the Assistant Dean of my former law school’s assurances to my family, I learned that I would not be permitted to re-enroll and complete the final 21 credits required to earn the degree.

Thus, I have lost a substantial investment, years of my life (and so much more), and earned instead of a degree in law, a permanent criminal conviction – all because of one person’s malice and a prosecutor’s lack of integrity.

Investigations Wrongful Convictions

Police Investigative Misconduct Railroaded an Innocent Catholic Priest

Police Investigative Misconduct Railroaded an Innocent Catholic Priest

Ryan MacDonald

February 20, 2021

In September, 1988, Keene, New Hampshire sex crimes detective James F. McLaughlin received a letter from Ms. Sylvia Gale, a New Hampshire child protection social worker. Ms. Gale’s letter reported third-hand information that Catholic priest, Gordon J. MacRae, had once been a priest in Florida “where he molested two boys, one of whom was murdered and his body mutilated. The case is supposed to be still unsolved.”

According to Sylvia Gale’s letter, the information was passed to her by an unnamed employee of New Hampshire Catholic Social Services who claimed that she had been told this information by her employer, Monsignor John Quinn, on condition that she would be fired if she ever divulged it.

Detective McLaughlin skipped the logical first steps that such a letter might have set in motion. He did not consult the priest’s personnel file – which revealed nothing about his ever being in Florida. And he did not consult Monsignor John Quinn, the named originator of the story.

Instead, armed with the explosive Florida murder-molestation letter, McLaughlin set out to interview dozens of parents and their adolescent sons who had prior contacts with MacRae. Within a week, the entire community was in a state of alarm about the murderous lecher-priest in its midst.

Among those McLaughlin interviewed about Ms. Gale’s letter in 1988 were four young adult brothers, Jonathan, David, Thomas, and Jay Grover, the adopted sons of another state social worker, Ms. Patricia Grover, a colleague of Sylvia Gale. According to McLaughlin’s 72-page report, she vowed to question each of her sons about their interactions with MacRae. None of them reported knowing or suspecting anything of a criminal nature.

McLaughlin’s report on this investigation was filled with innuendo, but no substance. He repeatedly attributed untrue information about MacRae to unnamed “informants” and other “subjects.” Toward the end of the report he finally quoted a “Sgt. Smith” from an unnamed Florida police agency.

“Sgt. Smith,” if he actually exists, reported that while there was no molestation-murder case involving a priest, there was a priest who molested a child in Florida and was “quietly moved by the church to New Hampshire.” “Sgt. Smith” added that “your suspect is too young to be that priest.” McLaughlin’s report gives the impression that he never even thought to ask for the name of that priest.

Five years passed. In 1993, one of the Grover brothers, Jonathan, age 24, appeared in McLaughlin’s office with a new story that he had been unable to remember five years earlier. He said he was repeatedly sexually assaulted when he was twelve years old by two priests, Gordon MacRae and Stephen Scruton. His initial claim was that the two priests acted in concert, fondling his genitals with their feet while in a hot tub at the YMCA. He then went on to describe other assaults “in the rectory where the priests live.”

An immediate problem was that MacRae was never in that parish until Grover was fourteen years old, and Scruton was never there until Grover was sixteen. A second problem was that one of Grover’s high school classmates, “T.B.” claimed 18 months earlier in an interview with McLaughlin that he was molested by Stephen Scruton alone who fondled his genitals with his foot in a hot tub at the YMCA. “T.B.” received an undisclosed financial settlement from the Catholic Diocese of Manchester, NH.

The “T.B.” case had no connection to MacRae. McLaughlin wrote the Grover report while apparently having no memory whatsoever that he wrote a nearly identical report eighteen months earlier about a foot molestation event by a priest in a hot tub at the YMCA.

Complicating both accounts, McLaughlin’s investigation file contained a transcript of “The Church’s Sexual Watergate,” an episode of a Geraldo Rivera Show that aired in November 1988. It had apparently been faxed to McLaughlin from the studio. The Geraldo transcript preceded McLaughlin’s reports in both cases above, and contained this excerpt:

Geraldo: “What did the priest do to you, Greg?”

Greg Ridel: “When I was 12 years old, he placed his foot on my genitals in a YMCA hot tub and began rubbing. This went on to other things in the rectory where the priests live.”

MacRae was brought to trial for these unsubstantiated claims in September, 1994. Pre-trial, he was twice offered plea deals to serve one-to-three years in prison for a guilty plea. Then the offer was reduced to one-to-two years. Citing his innocence, MacRae rejected these offers. Before his trial commenced, his Catholic diocese, already heavily into settlement negotiations, issued this press release:

“The Church has been a victim of the actions of Gordon MacRae just as these individuals …. It is clear that he will never again function as a priest.”

After the trial, the Grover brothers received financial settlements from the Catholic Diocese of Manchester, NH in excess of $610,000.

Unlike his protocols in nearly all other cases, Detective McLaughlin recorded none of his interviews with claimants in the MacRae case. A reason for the absence of recorded interviews may become clear from a statement of Steven Wollschlager, a young man who accused MacRae during one of McLaughlin’s interviews, and then recanted, refusing to repeat his accusations to a grand jury. From his sworn statement:

“In 1994 before [MacRae] was to go on trial, I was contacted again by McLaughlin. I was aware at the time of the [MacRae] trial, knowing full well that it was all bogus and having heard all the talk of the lawsuits and money involved, and also the reputations of those making the accusations …. During this meeting I just listened to the scenarios being presented to me. The lawsuits and money were of great discussion and I was left feeling that if I would just go along with the story I could reap the rewards as well.

“McLaughlin asked me three times if [MacRae] ever came on to me sexually or offered me money for sexual favors. [He] had me believing that all I had to do was make up a story about [MacRae] and I could reap a large sum of money as others already had. McLaughlin … referenced that life could be easier with a large sum of money … I was at the time using drugs and could have been influenced to say anything they wanted for money. A short time later after being subpoenaed to court, I had a different feeling about the situation.”

Mr. Wollschlager has never been allowed to present his testimony before a judge in any of the summarily denied state and federal appeals of the MacRae case.

Knowing that MacRae rejected plea deal offers to serve only one to two years in prison, Judge Arthur Brennan chastised the priest for insisting on a trial and sentenced him to consecutive terms for a total of 67 years. MacRae is now in his 27th year in prison and continues to maintain his innocence.

Author’s Note: For a full version of this story, see “Truth in Justice: Was the Wrong Catholic Priest Sent to Prison?”

Trauma Informed Wrongful Convictions

Trauma-Informed: A Cancer on Our Nation’s Legal System


January 14, 2021

In recent years, a trendy new investigative approach has been pushed both on college campuses and in the criminal justice system. Called “Trauma-informed,” it claims that sexual assault and domestic violence victims are so traumatized by the experience that they are unable to provide a coherent account of the assault.

Which means that every allegation must be taken at face value as truthful, and investigators are not supposed to challenge or question their statements. And every complainant is called a “victim.”

But “trauma-informed” is factually dishonest, because researchers have found that victims of trauma often have an enhanced recall of the details of the event. “Trauma-informed” ideology also eliminates the presumption of innocence, and turns investigators into therapists and social workers. This leads to wrongful findings of guilt.

Nonetheless, trauma-informed activists continue to push forward. Recently the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a solicitation to do trauma-informed training, making the misleading claim that, “Victim-centered, trauma-informed approaches to crime can support victim recovery and engagement with the criminal justice system.”

Let’s all speak out on the dishonesty behind the “trauma-informed” movement. Contact the IACP and let them know what you think. Here’s the link:

Please try to be polite.

Wrongful Convictions

On Wrongful Conviction Day, CPI Calls on Lawmakers to Address the Root Causes of a Travesty of Justice

Contact: Rebecca Stewart

Telephone: 513-479-333


On Wrongful Conviction Day, CPI Calls on Lawmakers to Address the Root Causes of a Travesty of Justice

WASHINGTON / October 2, 2019 – Today is Wrongful Conviction Day, and over 30 events are being held around the country to highlight the plight of persons who have been convicted of a crime they did not commit (1).  To date, 2,499 persons have been exonerated in the United States. The most recent exoneree is Larry Roberts, convicted in 2007 for murder and sentenced to life without parole. Two weeks ago, Roberts was acquitted by a jury, based on evidence of witness misidentification, and immediately released from confinement (2).

Last December, Congress enacted the First Step Act, breakthrough legislation that was designed to reduce lengthy sentences for persons who had committed a non-violent crime. But far less attention has been paid to addressing the root causes of wrongful convictions in order to prevent such problems.

The National Registry of Exonerations has identified five factors that are known to contribute to wrongful convictions (3):

  1. Perjury or False Accusation – Present in 58% of wrongful conviction cases
  2. Official Misconduct by prosecutors and law enforcement – 54% of cases
  3. Mistaken Witness Identification – 28% of cases
  4. False or Misleading Forensic Evidence – 23% of cases
  5. False confession – 12% of cases

Underlying these factors is a problem known as “confirmation bias,” in which investigators, prosecutors, and jury members reach a premature and faulty determination of guilt (4).

Confirmation bias is worsened by new investigative approaches that are known as “Start By Believing” and “trauma-informed.” Start By Believing instructs detectives to begin with a presumption of guilt; and trauma-informed posits that a complainant’s testimony is presumptively truthful, even when it defies plausibility or contradicts other persons’ testimony (5).

The Center for Prosecutor Integrity (CPI) urges lawmakers to enact legislation to restore fairness, due process, and the presumption of innocence to our criminal justice system.



Release posted here:

False Allegations Start By Believing Wrongful Convictions

Brian Banks Saga Reveals the Flaws of a ‘Start By Believing’ Criminal Justice System

What do you get when you have a false accusation, a start-by-believing investigative process, a broken and corrupt judicial system, and a lost dream to play in the NFL?  You get Brian Banks, The movie and The man.  You also get a story of thousands of others who have experienced similar circumstances due to false accusation.

Banks was an All-American high school football prodigy who was awarded a full-ride scholarship to USC and who had the attention of the NFL.  At the mere accusation of sexual assault and kidnapping, Banks had his dreams stolen by an unjust system.

In the summer of 2002, classmate Wanetta Gibson claimed 16-year old Banks dragged her into a stairwell at Polytechnic High School (Poly) and violently raped her. It was a he-said, she-said scenario; and what she said was believed.  Despite the lack of evidence, Banks was railroaded through a broken justice system. He faced a nearly impossible decision of 41 years-to-life in prison or take a plea deal and spend 5 years in confinement, with probation and lifetime registration as a sex-offender.

At the recommendation of his attorney, Banks chose what he thought would give him life. He took the plea. Banks spent nearly 11 years convicted of a rape and crime he did not commit.

Meanwhile, Wanetta Gibson and her mother filed a lawsuit against the Long Beach school district claiming the high school did not offer a safe environment.  They won a $1.5 million settlement.

Nearly a decade after his conviction, Gibson had the audacity to send Banks a Facebook message saying, “Let’s let bygones be bygones.” Surprised to receive that message, Banks worked with a private investigator to set up a meeting with Gibson. It was there, on hidden camera, that she admitted fabricating the entire story.

Due to the work of the California Innocence project, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office acknowledged Banks was wrongfully convicted. He was fully exonerated on May 24, 2012, free of all charges and labels that accompany sex offenders.

In 2013 The Long Beach School District sued Wanetta Gibson for $2 million and won a $2.6 million judgment against her.  She failed to appear at all court dates and apparently has gone into hiding.

This movie tells a story that is all too familiar to those men who have been falsely accused of sexual assault. It raises awareness about flaws in the judicial system. The movie shows us that unless we have criminal justice reform, anybody can be wrongfully convicted.  It also shows us that unless we move away from “believe the victim” mentality, anyone can be falsely accused.

What is now referred to as the “me-too” movement has led to increased numbers of false-accusations.  After being accused, men likely face start-by-believing investigative techniques, a corrupt criminal justice system, and a system that prefers plea deals rather than due process.

In response to these persistent biases, 11 members of the House of Representatives, in cooperation with the Center for Prosecutor Integrity, recently sent a letter to Attorney General Barr highlighting the erosion of due processes in criminal and administrative proceedings.

The letter urged Barr to stop funding organizations that don’t recognize the presumption of innocence when training military or law enforcement, including prosecutors, and instead instruct law enforcement and prosecutors that defendants are presumptively innocent. The letter further asked that no witness be afforded a presumption of truth, but that all statements are subjected to the crucible of reality and cross-examination.

No response has been received to date from Attorney General Barr.

Not all movies have a “happily ever after ending”, but Banks does his best to provide that to us.  Although Banks would never realize his dream of going to college and playing professional football, he gives us a hope and his convincing philosophy on the power of choice. “All you can control in life is how you respond to it”.  He responded with extraordinary resiliency and with a passion to change a broken judicial system.  Brian Banks The Movie is out August 9, 2019.

False Allegations Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment Wrongful Convictions

Recent Exoneration of Joshua Horner, Wrongfully Convicted of Sex Abuse, Spotlights Widespread Problem of False Allegations


Contact: Rebecca Stewart


Recent Exoneration of Joshua Horner, Wrongfully Convicted of Sex Abuse, Spotlights Widespread Problem of False Allegations

WASHINGTON / September 12, 2018 – This past Monday, Deschutes County Judge Michael Adler overturned a 50-year sentence against Joshua Horner of Redmond, Oregon. Horner had been convicted on April 12, 2017 of sexual abuse of a minor. In the trial, the complainant testified that Horner shot and killed her dog as a warning that she not bring her sexual molestation claim to the police.

With the assistance of the Oregon Innocence Project, the dog was recently found alive and well in another city, casting significant doubt on the truthfulness of the accuser. It was the first exoneration for the Oregon Innocence Project, launched in 2014 to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and promote legal reforms.

Horner’s exoneration highlights the problem of false allegations in criminal cases. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, false allegations/perjury are the most common contributing factors for wrongful convictions, representing 57% of all exonerations. False allegations/perjury are especially common in child sex abuse cases (85% of exonerations) and homicide cases (69% of exonerations).

Nearly one in 10 persons – 9.7% — of respondents to a national survey said they had been falsely accused of sexual assault, domestic violence, or child abuse. Three-quarters of persons claiming to be falsely accused were male.

On college campuses, false allegations of sexual misconduct are believed to be commonplace. In over 100 lawsuits against universities, judges have sided with the accused student. At one university, the training materials openly justify false allegations of sexual assault, claiming that verified “lies” of accusers “should be considered a side effect of an assault.”

False allegations are not a victimless crime. Nikki Yovino, 18, was recently convicted and sentenced to one year in jail for false reporting of an alleged campus rape in Connecticut. At the sentencing hearing, Malik St. Hilaire, victim of her false accusation, explained, “I went from being a college student, to sitting at home being expelled with no way to clear my name.”

September is False Allegations Awareness Month.


Stop Abusive and Violent Environments works to end sexual assault and domestic violence.

Accountability Department of Justice Innocence Press Release Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment Wrongful Convictions

PR: Georgia Tech Reinstatement is Evidence of Growing Public Alarm over Due Process and Free Speech on Campus

Contact: Gina Lauterio
Telephone: 301-801-0608

Georgia Tech Reinstatement is Evidence of Growing Public Alarm over Due Process and Free Speech on Campus

WASHINGTON / January 6, 2016 – The recent decision to reinstate a Georgia Tech student expelled for an alleged sexual offense marks a growing wave of popular concern over the erosion of due process protections and free speech rights on college campuses.

Earlier this week the Georgia Tech Board of Regents overrode the decision by a school administrator who had recommended the expulsion of a student accused of sexual assault. The Board reinstated the student when it learned that the investigator failed to interview witnesses provided by the defendant and gave him only one hour to review a 13-page, single spaced summary of the investigation (1).

Numerous other judicial decisions or legal settlements in recent months have overturned the findings of campus sex tribunals for due process violations. The decisions involved the University of California-San Diego, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Washington and Lee University, University of Southern California, and Middlebury College (2).

Concerns over the loss of free speech rights are being voiced, as well. President Obama has twice called for the restoration of open debate on campuses, first at a town hall meeting on September 15 and more recently during a November 15 interview with George Stephanopoulos (3).

Legislators have also taken up the cause of restoring free speech. On June 2, 2015 the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the state of free speech on college campuses (4).

In Missouri more than 100 members of the state Legislature signed a letter to the University of Missouri’s board of curators demanding the “immediate firing” of a professor who attempted to have a reporter forcibly removed during a student protest (5).

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri likewise urged the University of Missouri to not compromise the right to free expression in its efforts to fight racism, saying, “Mistakenly addressing symptoms — instead of causes — and doing it in a way that runs counter to the First Amendment is not the wise or appropriate response.” (6)

“Due process and free speech are part of the American DNA,” notes SAVE spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “Lawmakers should not shrink from the challenge of restoring constitutionally-rooted rights and protections to college campuses.”


Campus Civil Rights Sexual Assault Wrongful Convictions

PR: Campus Justice Coalition Seeks to Restore Fairness in Campus Sex Cases

Contact: Teri Stoddard
Telephone: 301-801-0608

Campus Justice Coalition Seeks to Restore Fairness in Campus Sex Cases

WASHINGTON / July 30, 2014 – Representatives of sexual assault victims, the accused, and universities have come together to establish the Campus Justice Coalition. The Coalition will seek to achieve legislative change to assure the proper handling of sexual assault cases on college campuses.

Campus sex committees have been criticized for being poorly trained, under-resourced, and lacking the legal authority to impose meaningful sanctions. Rape is a crime, but the campus boards possess legal authority to only expel, not imprison the perpetrator.

The current system was established by a 2011 Department of Education regulation which shifted the resolution process to campus disciplinary panels, and eliminated a number of due process safeguards. Under current policies, neither the identified victim or the accused person are allowed to be represented by an attorney.

Following imposition of the federal mandate, numerous complaints and lawsuits have been filed by victims, and by men claiming they were wrongfully expelled:

Basketball star Dez Wells was expelled from Xavier University in Ohio on allegations of non-consensual sex. The County prosecutor termed the expulsion “fundamentally unfair” and “seriously flawed.” In April the University paid an undisclosed amount, likely exceeding $1 million, to the former student:

Two weeks ago the University of Connecticut agreed to pay $900,000 to a student who was raped in August 2011. Despite the existence of the new federal policy, the university mishandled her complaint, and the alleged rapist never faced criminal charges:

“The shadow-system of justice has betrayed victims and the accused, and has put universities in an impossible situation,” notes Campus Justice Coalition spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “Sexual assault cases require the full resources of the criminal justice system, not a sorry replay of vigilante justice meted out by untrained amateurs.”

More information on the Campus Justice Coalition can be seen here: