Student Cleared of Rape Says He Still Suffers

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A Longwood University student who was acquitted of rape charges claims in court local police, school administrators and the campus newspaper conspired to prevent him from returning to class.
     Gus Phillip Altschuler, a 22-year-old business major, was arrested for rape and abduction with intent to defile after a classmate told police that he had dragged her upstairs and raped her during a party on Feb. 23, 2014 at the rugby house on campus.
     Altschuler claimed the sex was consensual, and a medical examiner found no forensic evidence that the student had been sexually assaulted, nor did any other attendees at the party witness the assault, court documents say.
     The student was held without bail for just over three weeks and issued a disciplinary dismissal by Longwood Registrar Vicki Levine the very day of his arrest, the complaint says.
     Altschuler claims he was never notified of the dismissal, and when his father contacted Longwood Vice President Tim Pierson on March 3, 2015, the administrator allegedly advised him to withdraw from his classes in order to avoid falling behind.
     Following Pierson’s advice, Altschuler, then a second semester senior, withdrew from his classes a few days later, but never formally withdrew his enrollment – nor was it ever his intention to do so, he claims.
     Nevertheless, Longwood Dean of Students H. Laurence Robertson contacted his father shortly afterward to let him know that he had been withdrawn from university enrollment, according to the complaint.
     The school told Altschuler that it would be investigating the charges, and in the event he was found guilty, he would be entitled to a contest hearing – until then, it was clear that the student was not welcome on campus.
     “Prior to resolution of this case, your presence on the Longwood camp[u]s will result in a criminal trespass charge,” Director of Student Conduct Stephanie W. Rowland told Altschuler in a letter, the complaint says.
     Altschuler says he believes the school authorities mishandled the situation because they had no protocol by which to discipline students in his position.
     Shortly after his arrest, Robertson planned to meet with Rowland and Levine to discuss a method for addressing “students who are in jail,” “students who are on what we used to call interim suspension” and “students who are unable to make it to hearings.”
     “We have to get them withdrawn from classes for many good reasons …” Robertson allegedly said in an email.
     In the meantime, Altschuler says, Longwood’s campus newspaper The Rotunda expounded on the claims in a series of defamatory articles penned by editor-in-chief Victoria Walker.
     According to the complaint, The Rotunda published Altschuler’s “oversized mug shot” and referred to his accuser as the “victim” and not the “alleged victim.”
     In her article, Walker interviewed Douglas Mooney, then-chief of police for Farmville, Va., as well as Longwood University Police Chief Robert Beach, who cited Altschuler as an example of campus “sexual predators … who get away with so much.”
     Altschuler claims the statements were published to make him appear guilty, and “to hold plaintiff out as the poster-child for a larger problem of sexual abuse on campus.”
     Altschuler’s father claims he later contacted Walker to let her know that the alleged victim had been arrested for filing a false police report, but The Rotunda never followed up on the charge.
     Due in part to his accuser’s testimony that she was “guided” upstairs at the party, a trial judge tossed Altschuler’s abduction charge and acquitted him of rape on March 18, 2014, court documents say.
     Longwood released the findings of its investigation in May which alleged Altschuler was unwilling to cooperate with school authorities.
     Altschuler says this is just not so.
     Altschuler also says he was never contacted for an interview prior to his acquittal, nor was he ever afforded an opportunity to challenge his alleged withdrawal in a hearing as promised.
     Instead, Altschuler says, he was told that he must reapply to Longwood, and be accepted, in order to finish his classes.
     “Having been improperly dismissed from Longwood, having had his guilt of the alleged misconduct pre-determined and broadcast campus-wide by Longwood staff and media, and having had it determined that he must reapply to Longwood in order to continue with his studies, [he] was denied his opportunity for a meaningful … hearing,” the complaint says.
     Altschuler is represented by attorneys Gerald Thomas Zerkin, Claire G. Cardwell and James S. Ellenson.
     Representatives of Longwood University declined to comment on the lawsuit, and staff at The Rotunda did not respond to a voicemail left by Courthouse News.

%d bloggers like this: