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Friday, October 31, 2014

ESPN report: MU violated Title IX

By federal law, the university has a legal responsibility to promptly respond in ways that protect the victim, end the discriminatory conduct and prevent it from recurring.

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Missouri Tigers tailback Derrick Washington evades the Nevada defense during a game Sept. 13, 2008. "Outside the Lines" reported Thursday that Washington allegedly sexually assaulted a former MU student in October 2008.

Maneater File Photo

A report published Thursday by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” uncovered new allegations against former Missouri running back Derrick Washington – in the handling of which MU, according to ESPN, violated Title IX.

“Outside the Lines” also reported that a Mizzou soccer coach talked a women's soccer player out of filing an assault charge against Washington following an incident that occurred at a Columbia bar on May 6, 2010. The soccer player is not identified in the report.

In the report, “Outside the Lines” interviewed a former MU student who was kept anonymous and was referred to as “Jess.” She told ESPN that in October 2008 she performed oral sex on Washington but did not want to have sex with him. She said Washington then got on top of her and raped her.

In the interview with ESPN, the student said that Washington threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the incident.

According to ESPN, 'Jess' eventually did go the MU Police Department. Washington, who was dismissed from the Mizzou football team in September 2010, is on video telling detective Sam Easley of MUPD that what he did “shouldn’t have happened,” but that he did not consider it assault.

ESPN reported that Boone County assistant prosecutor Andrew Scholz declined to press charges. Instead, Scholz and Washington reached an agreement in which Washington took rape awareness classes and did not contact 'Jess.' Scholz told ESPN there were a number of issues with the case that came up when interviewing witnesses.

According to ESPN, university officials knew of the rape allegation. As part of federal law, regardless of what authorities did, the university should have begun an open Title IX investigation. Such an investigation is different from a criminal case: while a criminal case requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt in order for guilt to be found, a Title IX case only needs a “preponderance of evidence.”

Jess told ESPN she never heard from the university regarding a Title IX or student disciplinary investigation.

"I stayed in my dorm room with the doors locked. ... I don't think I went to class for weeks or maybe even a month," she told ESPN.

Washington would play the rest of the 2008-2009 season, and all of the following season. He then allegedly assaulted the unnamed Missouri soccer player at a Columbia bar in May 2010. According to the report, the soccer player said Washington “struck her with a closed fist on the left side of her face.”

A warrant for a third-degree assault was issued, according to the report, but the player then eased off. According to ESPN, she told a detective that her coach — confirmed by MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to be Mizzou head coach Bryan Blitz — said “her scholarship would be fine if the incident stayed out of the news.”

Loftin told media in a teleconference Thursday that Blitz meant further pursuing the incident through legal channels could result in the soccer player’s own arrest, which could ultimately affect her scholarship. Protecting Washington, Loftin said, “was not, in my understanding, the intention of the soccer coach.”

Blake Toppmeyer of the Columbia Daily Tribune called Blitz Thursday.

Washington would later be convicted in Sept. 2011 of deviant sexual assault after he entered the bedroom of a woman in June 2010 and digitally penetrated her.

In Feb. 2012, he plead guilty to third-degree misdemeanor domestic assault after he refused to leave his ex-girlfriend’s apartment at 1:30 a.m. Sept. 12, 2010. His ex-girlfriend was found on the night of the incident with a swollen forehead and bloody nose.

Loftin said in a released statement: “I know that even one case of sexual assault, domestic violence or a lack of resources to address a mental health concern violates our sacred responsibility to our students. Our students and their parents, our faculty and staff, our alumni and community neighbors all deserve a safe and secure campus environment, and you have my word and my solemn promise that I and our entire administration will continue to work toward that end.

“The changes and investments we have already made and the ones you will see in the future will make MU an exemplar for the safety and security of our students and a campus culture of respect in all of higher education.”

In the statement, Loftin noted all of the relevant Title IX and sexual assault policy changes that have been instituted at MU since he took over at the University six months ago.

ESPN reported UM System President Tim Wolfe, former Chancellor Brady Deaton, athletic director Mike Alden, football coach Gary Pinkel and MU Equity director Noel Ann English all declined to comment for the “Outside the Lines” story.

Loftin said that he was aware of the ESPN’s upcoming report for months because the news organization had requested information from MU.

“We of course did not know when it was coming precisely,” Loftin said. “There’s been months of time here that this story was going to develop.”

“Outside the Lines” previously covered Missouri’s Title IX procedures in January, when it published a piece about former Mizzou swimmer Sasha Menu Courey. According to that report, she was allegedly raped by a Missouri football player in February 2010. Menu Courey committed suicide in June 2011.

The “Outside the Lines” special is scheduled to air at 8 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 24 on ESPN.

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