Overdose Brouhaha at Rice University

     HOUSTON (CN) – A senior who claims Rice University expelled him on a false allegation that he supplied a painkiller that nearly killed a freshman wants to depose another student to clear his name.
     Matthew Keene had the world on a string in early March. He had a 3.5 GPA in computer science and astrophysics, was about to graduate and had been accepted to the school’s graduate program, he claims in a Harris County Court petition and on his LinkedIn page.
     He was about to receive the “Outstanding Senior Award” of 2015 and was president of the school’s Wiess College. Rice University randomly assigns new students to one of 11 residential colleges, each with its own dining halls and dorms. Everything changed at 2 a.m. on March 20, when a student in the Wiess College dorm asked him to help the student’s roommate, Evan Heusinger.
     “Keene found Heusinger unresponsive and determined he had aspirated his own vomit. When Heusinger stopped breathing twice before EMTs arrived, Keene administered CPR, likely saving Heusinger’s life,” the petition states.
     Keene claims that Heusinger admitted he had overdosed on Fentanyl that he stole from his roommate Daniel Warren.
     “Heusinger speculated that Warren had gotten the drug from Keene,” the filing states.
     Within a week, Keene says, university officials “preliminarily adjudged him guilty,” and banned him from his dorm room and from campus for any reason except to attend classes.
     Keene says he appealed and asked for a due process hearing, which the school denied, without giving him a chance to offer evidence in his defense.
     “Keene was denied the ability to confront his accuser, Heusinger – a drug abusing, admitted thief,” the petition states. Keene says the school also refused to let him interview Warren.
     He says Rice University expelled him on April 21 and gave him less than 24 hours to vacate his dorm. “Even a petty shoplifter would be entitled to a presumption of innocence. Keene received none,” the petition states.
     Desperate to clear his name and resume his studies at the school, Keene asked a Harris County Court on Aug. 28 for permission to depose Warren.
     Courthouse News asked Keene’s attorney why Warren didn’t tell university brass Keene had nothing to do with the Fentanyl.
     “My client believes that Mr. Warren did tell university officials this, because it is the truth. As our petition indicates, this is why we want to memorialize Mr. Warren’s testimony,” attorney Jeffrey Dorrell said in an email.
     Through his attorney, Keene said that despite his expulsion he remains loyal to Rice University.
     “Mr. Keene loves Rice University and is not contemplating legal action against it at this time. He is confident that the university will act with all deliberate speed to take corrective measures when he is able to present evidence showing that this is necessary to prevent a failure of justice,” Dorrell said.
     Rice University spokesman B.J. Almond said: “Under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, we cannot comment on any disciplinary process relating to a student. And although we are not yet a party to the court action you inquired about, we also do not comment on pending litigation for which we are or may be a party.”

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