Due Process

Alleging Gender Bias in Rape Case, Student Sues U. Cincinnati

The lawsuit is filled with evidence of the university's wrongdoing.


Bearcat 1922 / Wikimedia Commons

A student is suing the University of Cincinnati for trampling his due process rights and discriminating against him as part of an effort—deliberate, he claims—to convict him of a rape he never committed.

Ethan Peloe's suit paints the campus judiciary procedure as nothing more than a "kangaroo court," where fundamental rules of justice—such as his right to legal representation, cross-examination, and impartial judges—were blatantly ignored. Furthermore, the suit makes a strong case that adjudicators lied to the student about whether they had sought the testimony of campus police officers (UC police investigated the case and decided not to press charges). The suit ultimately concludes that administrators were worried that the U.S. Department of Justice would retaliate against UC if the student was found innocent, biasing the process against him from the onset.

The accusation was this: Two female students said Peloe raped them. He spent the night in their dorm room and tried to have sex with them while they were sleeping, they alleged.

UC police and a grand jury declined to charge Peloe. According to the lawsuit, "significant physical evidence," as well as the testimony of two other students who had also been in the room, exonerated Peloe. The office of the UC General Counsel was determined to punish Peloe, however, and even sent emails to investigators asking them to use a different approach—presumably, one that would reach a different conclusion.

The lawsuit is filled with evidence of the university's wrongdoing. Most notably, Peloe repeatedly asked the adjudicators during the trial whether they had sought exonerating testimony from the police. They told him that the Hearing Panel had reached out to the officers, but this was untrue. The officers actually consulted their union to ask whether they should attend the panel, since they were concerned about suffering retaliation at the hands of the university if they gave testimony aiding Peloe, according to the suit, which also notes that one officer called in sick and another took a vacation on the day of the hearing.

Campus Reform has more:

Peloe's suit also claims that his ARC Hearing resembled a "kangaroo court" and did not fairly evaluate the case. The lawsuit alleges that key pieces of evidence, including the results of a rape kit examination, security camera footage, and witnesses' accounts, were dismissed from the hearing as "irrelevant." In addition, Peloe believes he was not given a fair amount of time to prepare for the hearing.

Peloe is also accusing the university of violating his Title IX rights and discriminating against him on the basis of his gender. The suit goes so far as to name a dean at the university who Peloe claims was biased against him.

Keep in mind that this is just one side of the story. A university spokesperson told WKRC that UC takes its students' rights seriously:

"The University of Cincinnati takes seriously our obligations under Title IX and makes every effort to ensure that our campus is safe for all students, faculty and staff and our processes respect the rights of all students," said M.B. Reilly, director of Public Relations for the University. 

The lawsuit can be found here.

Read more from Reason on the illiberal nature of campus sexual assault trials here.