published Friday, August 26th, 2011

Plaintiff in trial over alleged rape at Sewanee testifies

"John Doe" exits the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building for lunch on Tuesday.
"John Doe" exits the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building for lunch on Tuesday.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The college student who is suing Sewanee: The University of the South over his treatment during a rape accusation testified Thursday.

In U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, attorney Elisha King asked the 22-year-old, identified in court papers as “John Doe,” about the accusation that led to his expulsion in 2008. King asked Doe to explain when he learned he was being investigated and how he felt through the process.

“I was outraged. I tried to tell [Dean Eric Hartman] how this just couldn’t be true,” Doe said. “Honestly, I was really stunned by the whole situation.”

Doe is seeking $3 million for damage to his reputation.

Through nearly two hours of testimony, Doe remained calm and answered questions in a measured tone, twice dabbing moisture from his upper lip with tissue paper. He will be back on the stand this morning.

The nine-member jury watched him closely through almost all of his testimony. Jurors appeared to focus more intently on Doe than on earlier witnesses called during the first three days of the trial.

The incident took place in Doe’s dorm room at Sewanee on Aug. 29, 2008, after Doe and a woman identified in court papers as A.B. had been drinking alcohol. The faculty discipline committee would learn during Doe’s hearing on the matter that A.B. also was on “mood stabilizers” and depression medication.

After the alleged act, A.B. stayed in Doe’s room for a few hours. She left about 7 a.m. and called police to report that Doe had raped her. Doe maintained they had consensual sex.

A.B. met with Hartman on Sept. 16, 2008, nearly three weeks later and wrote a statement about the incident. Hartman called Associate Dean Alexander Bruce, who investigated the incident but did not speak with either A.B. or Doe.

A.B. later left the school for drug and alcohol treatment and did not pursue criminal charges against Doe.

Before the hearing at Sewanee, Doe was told to write a statement and have a character witness but not to worry about getting more witnesses.

Hartman also made Doe sign a no-contact order, meaning he could not talk to anyone about the pending hearing or attempt to learn more from potential witnesses.

Doe described how he was told of the charges on a Thursday morning and that the hearing would be the next day. His testimony echoed that of previous witnesses.

At the hearing, the committee found Doe guilty of violating school policy and expelled him. Hartman gave Doe the option of reapplying in one semester with the rape charge on his student record or leaving for a year and reapplying with a clean record.

King asked Doe to recount what happened after was told to leave campus. Doe said he was denied admittance to at least two other universities, went to live in California with his grandmother and later went to another college.

Earlier Thursday, Hartman was questioned by Doe’s other attorney, Charles Wayne, and by the university’s attorney, Rosemarie Bryan.

Wayne asked Hartman for details about how he handled the original complaint and later investigation, hearing and discipline of Doe.

  • photo
    Attorney Charles B. Wayne exits the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building on Tuesday with his client "John Doe" during the first day of a jury trial against the University of the South after being expelled in 2009 for an alleged rape. "Doe" and his family's real names have not yet been released in an attempt to remain anonymous.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

Hartman agreed with Wayne that he had not had specific training on conducting sexual assault disciplinary proceedings. But Hartman explained to the jury that the hearings are not intended to run like criminal proceedings.

“We work hard to create a process that’s fair but also educate [students] along the way,” Hartman said.

He shied away from words such as “guilt” or “punishment” and instead characterized the process as a way to hear each side of the story independently.

Wayne and King expect to finish presenting their case today; Bryan and her co-counsel will then begin calling their witnesses.

After the jury left court at the end of the day Thursday, U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice reminded attorneys that this isn’t a rape trial.

“This case is not about rape, it’s about whether the process was adequate or not,” Mattice said. “We’re never going to know what happened in the dorm room that night.”

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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rolando said...

Sounds like good ole "Sandy" is afraid of jury nullification. Jury nullification is NOT illegal.

The issue of whether or not a rape occurred is most certainly at issue here; if the rape did not occur, the university's "process" is absolutely inadequate, regardless of what any judge thinks.

The university did, after all, treat Mr Doe as if he did commit rape...and insured other universities felt the same.

The judge has evidently already made up his mind that the rape did NOT occur but does not want the jury to consider that; in other words, he is not concerned with overall justice for the plaintiff but with one tiny portion of the law.

Jury nullification deals with true justice; did something related to an action, but not allowed to be considered by the jury by judge's order, actually affect the outcome? In this case, it certainly did.

August 26, 2011 at 9:44 a.m.
rolando said...

Once again, Mr South, you have prepared an excellent article; please continue your reporting. Thank you.

August 26, 2011 at 9:51 a.m.
mystyre said...

just another case showing the ramifications of radical feminism

August 26, 2011 at 12:12 p.m.
harrystatel said...

God was having some problems so St. Peter came to earth looking for help from a psychiatrist.

"God is having delusions of grandeur," said St. Peter.

"What do you mean?" asked the psychiatrist.

St. Peter said, "He thinks he's Federal judge."

August 26, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.
Shock said...

There are no winners in any "he said" "she said" date rape scenarios. The college didn't handle this case correctly, in my opinion.

That being said, I am little puzzled by Mystyre's comment. Who else is truly concerned by the "radical feminism" boogeyman? Seems really far down on my list of things to be concerned with. The comment seems to imply that the school would have handled this correctly if there had been no feminist movement. I was born in the late 60's so I don't really know what a college would have done with a date rape allegation back in the day. Any of you old timers want to weigh in?

August 26, 2011 at 1:06 p.m.
rolando said...

Since there was no rape, no criminal investigation, no evidence, nothing but a fleeing liar, Shock, they would have done nothing. That began to change about or shortly after the time women's lib was imposed upon us. More recently, homosexual lib has brought similar disastrous results within our universities.

The offense of "sexual abuse" did not exist, and since it didn't happen in any case, the universities would have taken little or no action beyond the "female in the dorm" offense. College boards weren't politically-correct social reformers in those days -- other than inside the classrooms.

"Hate crimes" didn't exist either; sodomy as a crime did. Times change, indeed. All at the whim of a judge...who deludes himself into thinking he is God. [Generic "he"...another term from the past.]

August 26, 2011 at 1:39 p.m.
Shock said...

Rolando - no rape? Maybe. No one can say for certain, certainly not you. My question wasn't how they would have handled a false accusation. It was how they would have handled a date rape accusation. How would they handled an accusation differently (better) back then as opposed to after women's lib? Or are you saying they would done nothing about any date rape accusation? It's hard to tell by your post.

August 26, 2011 at 2:01 p.m.
mystyre said...

@Shock this situation can happen in the various fashion; i.e workplace, everday life and even marriage. Shock, if you are a man, you should be concern because all it takes is for a woman to cry wolf and this very same situation can happen to you.

don't get me, wrong. to my knowledge feminism is about equal rights for women. i have no problem with that. but, radical feminism, through their action, says the women should have extra priviledges and 'protection' from man through the legal system. radical philosophy tends to contradict the base ideas to which it was built.

August 26, 2011 at 2:15 p.m.
Shock said...

Mystyre - thanks for the clearly worded and logical clarification. . .

August 26, 2011 at 2:20 p.m.
Onceuponatime said...
As a woman I find this case interesting and saddening. In my opinion this young man life has been placed on hold if not ruined and it is the result of an unstable girl. I do not feel he has received a fair evaluation from the school. While for the longest time women were (and in some cases still are) oppressed and looked down upon but now we cry wolf and everyone will believe us. What is sad though is the school was so willing to believe her testimony over his. Right now if I claim sexual harassment against my boss more than likely I would get him fired and apologizes from my corporation even if it was found to be unsubstantiated. I’m not saying date rape and sexual harassment doesn’t happen but the issue is that now too many women use it as a vindictive attack that it is hard to tell who is lying and who is not. The plaintiff Mr. "Doe" should win this hands down but even if he does he has now been unfairly marked as a rapist and his life won’t be the same regardless.
August 26, 2011 at 2:29 p.m.
rolando said...

Are you being deliberately obstinate, shock, or am I missing something?

By your reply to Mystyre, you evidently were not concerned with yesteryear but this year...contrary to your question, but I will answer it anyway.

In short, in the "olden days", the police would have handled a real rape, the perp would be in jail, and the university would have done nothing. But in this case, the university evidently didn't like the result of the police investigation -- or didn't care -- and took their own action. And that has come back to bite them to the tune of 3 million bucks.

If you don't want to hear the answer, don't ask the question.

August 26, 2011 at 4:42 p.m.
rolando said...

Oh yes, Shock, it a real rapist had be tried and found "Not Guilty", the university would again have done nothing.

Today, of course, the innocent are publicly pilloried by the university and the press alike.

August 26, 2011 at 5:01 p.m.
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