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Wednesday, April 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Student Cleared of Rape Says He Still Suffers

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - A Longwood University student who was acquitted of rape charges claims in court that local police, school administrators and the campus newspaper conspired to prevent him from returning to class.

GA was a 22-year-old business major when 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.

GA claimed the sex was consensual, and a medical examiner found no forensic evidence that the student had been sexually assaulted, according to the complaint. He also says no other attendees at the party witnessed any assault, but he was arrested for rape and abduction with intent to defile.

The student was held without bail for just over three weeks. Though the Longwood registrar issued a disciplinary dismissal the very day of his arrest, GA claims he was never notified of the dismissal. Instead when his father contacted Longwood's vice president on March 3, 2015, the administrator allegedly advised him to withdraw from his classes to avoid falling behind.

Following Pierson's advice, GA, 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Nevertheless, the dean of students at Longwood contacted GA's father shortly afterward to let him know that he had been withdrawn from university enrollment, according to the complaint.

The school allegedly told GA that it would be investigating the charges, and in the event he was found guilty, he would be entitled to a contest hearing. GA says it was clear at that point he was no no longer welcome on campus.

"Prior to resolution of this case, your presence on the Longwood camp[u]s will result in a criminal trespass charge," the schoool wrote to GA, as quoted in the complaint.

GA 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, the dean planned to discuss with other school officials 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"We have to get them withdrawn from classes for many good reasons," the dean allegedly said in an email.

In the meantime, GA says, Longwood's campus newspaper The Rotunda expounded on the claims in a series of defamatory articles penned by its editor-in-chief.

According to the complaint, The Rotunda published GA's "oversized mug shot" and referred to his accuser as the "victim" and not the "alleged victim."

The article quoted the then-chief of police for Farmville, Va., as well as the chief of Longwood University Police, who cited GA as an example of campus "sexual predators ... who get away with so much."

GA 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."

GA's father claims he later contacted the news editor 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 GA's abduction charge and acquitted him of rape on March 18, 2014, according to the complaint.

Longwood released the findings of its investigation in May meanwhile, describing GA as unwilling to cooperate with school authorities.

GA denies this and 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, GA 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.

GA 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.

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