A former Colorado State University-Pueblo (CSUP) launched a daring lawsuit against the Obama administration Tuesday, claiming illegal Department of Education policies resulted in him being kicked out of school for sexual assault, despite an incredibly weak case against him.
Grant Neal, a student-athlete at CSUP, claims in his lawsuit that he is the victim of an almost preposterous railroading by the collegiate sex police, reports The Denver Post. Many men have claimed they were wrongfully convicted thanks to a “he said, she said” situation where a girl’s accusation without any further evidence was enough to get them kicked out. But in Neal’s case, his alleged victim actually consistently denied ever being raped.
According to Neal, in the fall of 2015 he became close friends with a fellow student and athletic trainer, identified in court documents as Jane Doe. Eventually, in October, the friendship turned into a sexual relationship, which they at first sought to keep secret, because relationships between athletes and trainers are frowned upon.
Soon, though, another female trainer at CSUP noticed that Doe had a hickey on her neck, leading to Doe confessing her relationship with Neal. According to Neal’s lawsuit, the woman then “presumed” the sex between the two was non-consensual and reported Neal for sexual assault.
According to case excerpts provided by Reason, Neal’s case includes sympathetic text messages from Doe informing him of the matter: “One of the other Athletic Training students screwed me over!…She went behind my back and told my AT advisor stuff that wasn’t true!!! I’m trying so hard to fix it all.”
Neal says he also recorded a conversation with Doe (without her knowledge) where she again said she wasn’t raped. He also says the two had consensual sex again later.
But despite Doe’s protests, her fellow trainer’s rape allegation was forwarded from the school’s athletic department to its Title IX office, which went ahead with a sexual misconduct investigation anyway. On Dec. 15, he was told he’d been found guilty of sexual misconduct. He subsequently lost his athletic scholarship and was suspended for the remainder of Doe’s enrollment, a period likely to last at least two years.
Now, Neal is suing a whole host of people in federal court. Besides CSUP, he’s also suing Secretary of Education John King and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). He is represented by Andrew Miltenberg, a New York attorney who has become known for working with college-aged men accused of assault. (RELATED: Obama Is About To Get Sued For His Sexual Assault Policies)
Neal’s case is hardly the first time a student has sued his school after being found liable for sexual assault. But Neal stands out because he is also targeting the Obama administration, which could give it vastly more far-reaching consequences. While Neal says his school dramatically overreached by kicking him out of school without due process, he says the school was pressured to act the way it did because of illegal pressure from the Obama administration.
In the last several years, OCR has dramatically increased pressure on schools to prosecute and punish sexual assault on campus. In 2011, OCR issued a “Dear Colleague” letter which told schools that they had to adjudicate sexual assault cases using a lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which means an accused person should be found guilty if the odds of them being guilty are judged to be greater than 50 percent. (RELATED: Poll: Public Says Sexual Assault Is For Police, Not College Admins)
OCR has also ramped up pressure on colleges by threatening them with Title IX investigations. Colleges that are deemed insufficiently zealous in stamping out assault may be judged to have created a “hostile environment” for women, and therefore to have violated Title IX. The punishment for Title IX is a total loss of all federal funding (including student loans), a virtual death sentence that colleges must avoid at all costs.
So recently, many colleges have become more zealous in going after sexual assault, but that has in turn provoked a wave of lawsuits from students who claim they were wrongfully expelled. Several of those students have started to prevail in court, putting colleges in an unenviable position: They must either play it safe on prosecutions, and risk bringing down the wrath of OCR, or else be aggressive, and risk paying out huge sums in litigation.
Neal’s lawsuit, then, may prove to be a welcome break for colleges around the country, by leading to a firm establishment of the limits of federal influence on the topic of sexual assault.
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