Student sues CSUSM for mishandling sexual assault investigation

Karen Ambrocio, News Editor

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A suspended Cal State San Marcos student seeking reinstatement and other remedies has sued the university for mishandling a sexual assault complaint lodged against him in 2015.

The student, who is listed as “Student Doe” in the complaint, seeks an order forcing the university to reinstate him, to remove any reference of the assault from his files, to remove all grades from Fall 2015 records since the school did not allow him to attend classes and to refund his tuition and housing fees.

San Diego attorney Patricia Lewis represents the student, “Student Doe,” and filed the lawsuit Oct. 21 on his behalf in San Diego County Superior Court. The suit accuses the school of violating the student’s due process rights by failing to follow its own policies, including holding timely hearings and being forthcoming with information and evidence.

The university has until Nov. 20 to respond to the complaint.

The CSUSM officials, including Title IX coordinator, Bridget Blanshan, declined to comment for this article on either the specifics of the case or the policies and procedures of handling of sexual assault complaints.

CSUSM authorities opened the case against the student following reports of a sexual assault that allegedly occurred last year at the Quad.

The University Police Department (UPD) received a report of a rape at the Quad on Nov. 18, 2015. The victim was unconscious during the act, the police incident report said.

The following day, Doe was placed on interim suspension not allowing him on any CSU campus and his fees and tuition were forfeited, the lawsuit says.

No criminal charges were filed in the case.

Doe’s lawsuit says the investigation did not comply with the Chancellor’s Executive Orders 1095, 1097 and 1098 which requires CSU schools to “adopt appropriate complaint and investigation procedures.”

Doe claims he was “wrongfully accused by a CSUSM female student of engaging in sexual conduct without consent on or about Nov. 18 of 2015.”  He also claims a flawed investigation led to denial of his 14th amendment due process rights.

CSUSM deprived Student Doe of life, liberty and/or property without due process of law.

According to the lawsuit, Doe requested copies of the complaint against him on six occasions; Dec. 9, Dec. 11 and Dec. 21 of 2015 and again on March 4, June 9 and Aug. 10 of 2016, but he never received the complaint. Doe also asserts that he was denied access to witnesses and the evidence against him.

The complaint alleges the university missed several procedural deadlines in handling the case.

Doe alleges he requested an interim suspension hearing, which according to school policy is required to be conducted within 10 days of the suspension. The hearing should have been on Nov. 29, but was not conducted until 20 days later on Dec. 9, the complaint says.

University policy, which can be found at www.csusm.edu/title9/home.html, says school officials are required to conduct an intake interview with the victim within 10 days of the complaint. The complaint says CSUSM did not conduct the interview until Feb. 1, 2016, months later.

The university also failed to meet the deadline to begin the investigation according to the case file. “The investigation must be completed within 60 working days after the intake investigation. An extension to complete the investigation may not exceed 30 working days, which would be March 2, 2016.” The university took two 30-day extensions, issuing the investigation outcome on Aug. 4, 2016.

Doe alleges he was not given prior notice that university officials would audio record the hearing and subsequently denied him a copy of this recording.

The writ of mandate against the respondent stated that the university violated the student’s rights to life, liberty and property without due process of law and delayed an investigation by five months. The mandate asserts CSUSM denied Doe access to the female student, identities of the witnesses and evidence submitted to him.

According to an article from The San Diego Reader, Cal State San Marcos is only the latest university in San Diego County, charged with botching sexual assault investigations on campus.

The article can be found on: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2016/oct/25/ticker-cal-state-san-marcos-sued-botched-assault/