crimesider

Fmr. Yale basketball captain sues over expulsion for alleged sex assault

In this Nov. 22, 2015 photo, Yale's Jack Montague attempts a shot during an NCAA college basketball game against SMU in Dallas. Yale announced on Feb. 24, 2016, that Montague was no longer on the team. Citing federal privacy law, Yale declined to give details and confirmed only that Montague is no longer a student. Montague's father has said he was expelled from the school in February.

Tony Gutierrez, AP

Last Updated Jun 9, 2016 12:54 PM EDT

NEW HAVEN, Conn. --Former Yale basketball captain Jack Montague has filed a lawsuit accusing the Ivy League university of wrongfully expelling him over a sexual assault allegation.

Yale calls the lawsuit "factually inaccurate and legally baseless," and says the university will offer a vigorous defense.

The suit filed Thursday in federal court in Connecticut names Yale as a defendant along with two university officials who were involved in processing the complaint against Montague. The suit comes amid a national debate over campus sex assault catalyzed by a controversial six-month sentence for Brock Turner, an ex-Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

Montague was expelled from Yale in February 2016 following the investigation of a formal complaint brought to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, according to the university.

The lawsuit alleges the woman in the Yale case told school officials she didn't think Montague heard her when she said no to sex. It claims Montague "reasonably believed" that he had the woman's consent. It also asserts the woman later came back to his room to spend the night and that she had a previous relationship with Montague.

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A statement released by Montague's lawyers says the woman didn't want to launch formal university proceedings against Montague, but rather wanted someone from Yale's Title IX office to talk to him about the incident and provide training. The statement accused Yale of manipulating the woman into participating in a formal complaint process by telling her Montague had already been the subject of a sex assault claim, which the statement called "patently false." It says Montague had previously received gender sensitivity training after he was accused of rolling up a paper plate and shoving it down the shirt of a female student.

The suit also claims the sex complaint was filed by Yale's Senior Deputy Title IX Coordinator despite the school's policy that coordinators file complaints only in unusual circumstances, such as those involving risk to individuals or the community.

Some students and alumni have accused the school of turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct, and Montague's lawyers allege Yale saw Montague as the university's "ticket to restoring its tarnished reputation" over sex assault on campus.

The statement says the expulsion "served the desired end: dramatic proof that the University is able and willing to severely punish male students, even the captain of Yale's basketball team, when they 'victimize' female students on campus."

In a statement, Yale said it respects the confidentiality of all students involved in a disciplinary process. The school says their procedures for addressing allegations of sexual misconduct are "thorough and fair."

"Allegations are investigated by an impartial fact finder, heard by five trained members of the Yale community, and decided by the dean of the school in which the accused student is enrolled," the university said. "Throughout the process, all parties have advisers, which can be legal counsel, and they can appeal a decision."

In cases that involve judgments about witness credibility, the university says "all of the corroborating or contradictory information is carefully weighed."

Montague, a senior, was accused in a complaint filed by a Title IX official on the woman's behalf on Nov. 18, 2015. A university panel ruled against him, and the provost upheld the ruling, according to his attorneys. Montague was expelled Feb. 10.

The lawsuit asks that Montague be reinstated as a student or for Yale to reopen the proceedings against him. It also seeks damages.

According to the university, one out of five formal sexual misconduct hearings at Yale has ended without a finding against the accused, and in two out of five cases, the accused student has received a reprimand or probation. Expulsion at Yale requires a threshold of "preponderance of the evidence" for establishing wrongdoing, lower than a criminal case.

"Only about one out of 10 cases ends in expulsion, and the decision to expel a student is made only after the most careful consideration, based on the facts and, when appropriate, disciplinary history," the school said.

Police and the local prosecutor said no criminal allegation has been filed in the case.