A woman has filed a lawsuit against the University of Wisconsin over the reinstatement of former football player Quintez Cephus, who was found responsible for violating the school’s misconduct policy by allegedly sexually assaulting her.
According to ESPN, the woman claims the university violated her due process rights by not following a proper appeals court process, which now has allowed football player Cephus, 22, to be reinstated and back on the team. The woman filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. In the court document, she states that the school did not properly let her know or allow her the opportunity to participate in the appeal. Cephus and the woman’s names are not mentioned in the lawsuit.
In 2018, the woman and another woman told the university and police that Cephus sexually assaulted them when while they were too intoxicated to consent in April of that year. The incident resulted in Cephus being expelled from the school following a Title IX investigation that found that he violated the school’s non-academic misconduct code, but not necessarily that he committed sexual assault. Cephus was charged with second and third-degree sexual assault, but he was later acquitted in August 2019. ESPN reports that following the trial, Wisconsin overturned its ruling and readmitted him that same month. The school stated that it “obtained information following the criminal proceeding that was not provided to the university” after it conducted its own investigation.
Criminal convictions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt but the U.S. Department of Education rules allow a lower standard to find someone responsible in a school’s Title IX investigation. The university didn’t include information about the new details it received when it decided to reinstate Cephus. The added information included text messages and notes from Cephus’s lawyer’s closing argument, the outlet reported. The woman’s lawsuit claims that the school rushed its decision to reinstate Cephus back onto the team following public and internal pressure to do so for the upcoming season after he was found not guilty in the criminal trial. “As a UW student, [the woman] thereafter suffered from a highly hostile educational environment where she was forced to walk to class in fear of running into [Cephus],” the lawsuit states.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the university said that it knows about the lawsuit but has yet to review it. The two women filed the lawsuit against Wisconsin with the U.S. Department of Education, alleging that the university violated the Clery Act, which is a federal law regulating student safety measures. The department reportedly has yet to open an investigation into the women’s complaints. From Cephus’s end, his lawyers successfully argued that his rights were violated. Cephus filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin in October 2018, claiming that he could not participate in the school’s Title IX investigation without potentially harming his criminal defense, ESPN reports. The school did not postpone the press, and Cephus ended up withdrawing the lawsuit in March 2019.
“In light of the overall available evidence after the trial, the UW’s decision to re-admit Mr. Cephus was simply the right thing to do. This decision by the UW avoided wrongly taking a second year of Mr. Cephus’s life,” wrote Stephen Meyer, an attorney for Cephus in a November emailed statement. Cephus has since signed with the Detroit Lions.