Barred Hoopster Sues U of Oregon in Scandal

     EUGENE, Ore. (CN) – The University of Oregon cost Brandon Austin an NBA career when it kicked him off its basketball team last year over “unprovable” sexual assault accusations, the athlete claims in a $7.5 million lawsuit.
     Austin sued the university and four of its officers on Thursday in Lane County Court.
     According to his lawsuit, Austin and two teammates had consensual sex with a student on March 8, 2014, first at an on-campus party and later in an off-campus apartment.
     Austin claims the woman was “laughing and joking” and that she was the one who initiated sex. He says they sent her home in a cab at the end of the night. The next morning she sent him a text message saying, “Thanks for getting me home,” according to the complaint.
     But within a day or two, she accused Austin and his teammates of sexual assault, claiming they “dragged her into the bathroom and assaulted her … that the players wrestled her into a car and forced her to get drunk,” the lawsuit states.
     The Oregonian newspaper published a police report of the incident in April.
     The school released a public statement saying that the many weaknesses in the case created “an insurmountable barrier to prosecution,” the lawsuit states. The school settled the case with the woman for $800,000 plus tuition and board, according to later press reports.
     Privately, Austin says, the school’s response was different.
     He claims defendant Dean of Students Chicora Martin suspended him “immediately,” and called an emergency hearing to expel him and his teammates, though Austin’s suspension was modified to allow him to attend classes and basketball practice.
     Martin then read the police report and told Austin she was suspending him again, because he had asserted his Miranda rights when talking to the police, according to the complaint.
     Austin says the school refused to let him subpoena witnesses from the party that night. The Lane County District Attorney declined to press charges because “the conflicting statements and actions made by the victim make this case unprovable as a criminal case,” according to Austin’s lawsuit.
     He claims the school set up a “kangaroo court” in which its defendant Director of Student Conduct & Community Standards Sandy Weintraub suspended him from the school for 10 years. Defendant Vice President for Student Life Robin Holmes then refused to hear his appeal, Austin says.
     When the woman sued the university in January, the school’s attorney contacted Austin’s lawyer and “in essence admitted that Oregon believed the female student was not telling the truth about the sexual assault, and asked for Mr. Austin’s help in defending the suit,” Austin says in the lawsuit.
     Due to the publicity and his forced transfer to a community college, Austin says, his chances of making it to the NBA are shot.
     He claims that before Oregon kicked him out, he was one of the “top amateur basketball players” in the country, and was “widely projected to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft, which would more likely than not be accompanied by a multimillion dollar contract and tens of millions of dollars in prospective economic advantage.”
     Before going to Oregon, Austin was suspended from the Providence College basketball team after a woman accused him of sexual assault. He was suspended from the team but was not prosecuted. He transferred to Oregon. After the Ducks barred him, he played for Northwest Florida State, and helped them win the Junior College national championship, averaging 15.8 points a game in 35 games. Austin, 6 feet 6, is a point guard.
     He demands $7.5 million for breach of contract, tortuous interference with prospective economic advantage, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
     He is represented by Marianne Dugan, who did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did Jennifer Middleton, who represented the student in her lawsuit against the university.

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