PATERSON, N.J. (CN) - Four black students claim in court that university administrators rushed to judgment and conducted a shoddy investigation before having them arrested on a charge of gang rape and later expelling them.
William Paterson University freshmen Garrett Collick, Noah Williams, Darius Singleton, Jahmel Latimer, and Termaine Scott were accused in November 2014 of raping a female student in a dorm room. Charges against all five have since been dropped.
The case against the young men was slipshod, according to two complaints filed by four of the accused, because campus police failed to interview other students, look up the accuser's cell phone records or blogs, look into the young woman's previous interactions with Collick and Williams on social media and elsewhere, or even conduct a rape kit examination of the young woman.
"Collick and Williams were not interviewed or questioned regarding the accusations, did not receive notice that the defendants commenced an investigation against them, and had no opportunity to deny the rape and sexual assault allegations," according to the complaint the two men filed in Passaic County Superior Court on Dec. 22.
The complaint further alleges that the accuser was "very sexually active at William Paterson" and had a history of multiple partners and drug use, which necessitated her having to change dorm rooms after her roommate became uncomfortable with her sex life.
A similar lawsuit was filed Dec. 3 by Singleton and Latimer in Hudson County Superior Court. No case has yet been filed by Scott.
The crime the five were accused of committing was lurid and almost tailor-made for sensational tabloid headlines. They were alleged to have been watching television in their dorm room, when their accuser arrived.
It was then, the criminal complaint said, that Collick turned off the lights and forced the young woman to perform sex acts on him and the four others.
The five freshmen were off campus, on Thanksgiving break, when they suddenly found themselves under arrest four days after the alleged incident.
Collick was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of criminal restraint. Williams was charged with two counts of sexual assault and one count of first degree kidnapping. All five of the accused were 18 at the time of the incident.
Both Collick and Williams were suspended and later expelled from school and told they would be barred from campus. In the days after their arrest, William Paterson University President Kathleen Waldron issued a statement praising the accuser for "courageously stepp[ing] forward to take legal action and seek justice."
However, when the case was presented before a Passaic County grand jury, it was dismissed after a day for lack of evidence.
Collick has admitted to group sex with the young woman, but he has consistently maintained it was consensual. According to his complaint, it was the accuser who turned off the lights and closed the blinds, then initiated sex with the five freshmen.
Further, the accuser had been pursuing Collick for some time and had sex with him once before the alleged rape, according to the 71-page lawsuit. "[She] inundated Collick with texts and other messages seeking intimate and sexual relations, most of which Collick rejected," the complaint says.
Collick and Williams further claim the investigation into the matter was poorly handled because neither knew why they were being interrogated until the accuser's name was mentioned.
As a result, the men say, they were unfairly deemed guilty before any investigation took place.
"Plaintiffs' name and photographs will forever be synonymously linked to rape, sexual assault, and kidnapping," the complaint states.
The lawsuit names the university, its police department, and Waldron as defendants. It also names as defendants university Director of Public Safety Robert Fulleman and Sergeant Ellen DeSimone, who conducted the university police investigation.
Collick and Williams both enrolled at William Paterson under a school financial assistance program designed to help students from poor and troubled backgrounds, according to their complaint.
Representatives of William Paterson University, which is located in Wayne, N.J., have yet to respond to a request for comment about the lawsuits from Courthouse News.
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