December 8, 2013

JAMES TARANTO: An Education in College Justice: Under pressure from the Obama administration, a university tramples the rights of the accused:

Joshua Strange will never forget the girl he met in May 2011.

Both were underclassmen at Alabama’s Auburn University when a common acquaintance introduced them. “We instantly became attached at the hip and did everything together,” she recalled six months later. “I rather quickly moved into his place. . . . Everything was great until pretty much June 29.”

That night, an intimate encounter in Mr. Strange’s bed went wrong. She called police, who detained him for questioning. She said she had awakened to find him forcing himself on her; he said the sexual activity was consensual and initiated by her. There was no dispute as to the physical acts involved.

The accuser did not press charges that night. In fact, before sunrise she returned to his apartment, and the couple agreed to continue dating. When I asked him why in a recent phone interview, he told me: “I cared about her.”

But the relationship soon disintegrated. Phone records show their communications ended in mid-August. In early September he was arrested again after she told police that two days earlier he had confronted her in a public place and struck her. He flatly denied it, saying he was 15 miles away at the time. This time she did press charges, for misdemeanor simple assault as well as for felony forcible sodomy in the June 29 incident.

Mr. Strange was cleared on both counts. On Feb. 3, 2012, a grand jury handed up a “no bill” indictment on the sodomy charge, meaning the evidence was insufficient to establish probable cause for prosecution. On May 24, when the simple-assault case went to trial, the accuser didn’t show up. “I don’t have a witness to go forward with, your honor,” said city attorney Michael Short. Case dismissed.

So Mr. Strange got his day in court and was treated fairly. But he had already been punished for the unproven crimes. Auburn expelled him after a campus tribunal found him “responsible” for committing the catchall offense of “sexual assault and/or sexual harassment.” A letter from Melvin Owens, head of the campus police, explained that expulsion is a life sentence. If Mr. Strange ever sets foot on Auburn property, he will be “arrested for Criminal Trespass Third,” Mr. Owens warned.

Joshua Strange, now 23, is a civilian casualty in the Obama administration’s war on men.

By treating men as presumptively guilty of sex crimes, colleges will only further exacerbate the gender imbalance, becoming pink-collar educational ghettos. And since Strange was found not guilty — there wasn’t even probable cause — I don’t see why his false-accuser’s name is being withheld. But at least the names of the university officials responsible for this tragedy are published.

Taranto concludes:

The day after I interviewed him, I received a grateful email from his mother, Allison. “Thank you for allowing Josh to tell his story last night,” she wrote. “I could tell that it made him feel better to finally be able to get it out in his own words to someone other than his family and attorney.”

I’m a newspaperman, not a therapist. But there are no safe-harbor advocates for survivors of wrongful accusation.

Nope. And more and more men will conclude that the smart thing to do is to avoid institutions of “higher learning.”

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