SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - Utah State University and fraternity officials allowed a serial rapist to remain enrolled and in residence despite his attacks, a former student claims in court.
Victoria Hewlett sued Utah State University, Sigma Chi Corp., Gamma Kappa chapter and its alumni foundation, and three university officials on Monday.
Her assailant, Jason Relopez, 28, pleaded guilty in February to attempted rape and attempted forcible sexual abuse and is serving a one-year sentence in prison, according to the lawsuit and to Utah press reports.
Relopez was elected Gamma Kappa Chapter's risk manager after he raped a previous woman, M.K., and was still risk manager on the night he raped and beat Victoria Hewlett, according to Hewlett's federal lawsuit.
Hewlett says Relopez, a Utah State student, "assaulted, raped and humiliated" her for "several hours" inside his locked bedroom at a Gamma Kappa fraternity party on July 11, 2015. She was 19.
Minors, including high school and college women, were frequent guests at "wet" parties at the university's fraternities, where they were "routinely served more alcohol even after they became visibly impaired," Hewlett says in the complaint.
The school and the fraternity were well aware by early 2015 that "underage and intoxicated" women were sexually abused at the parties, Hewlett says.
Utah State's Pi Kappa Alpha President Ryan Wray was charged in July 2015 with forcible sexual abuse, a first-degree felony. His victim said she was drunk when Wray assaulted her. That fraternity house had been suspended in 2012 after a 17-year-old girl was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning. Neither Pi Kappa Alpha nor Wray are parties to Hewlett's lawsuit. According to the most recent reporting on Wray's case, his attorneys were trying to work out a plea bargain.)
Hewlett claims that Utah State officials investigated Wray's attack, but "chose not to take appropriate measures to ensure that these dangerous practices were discontinued."
In her lawsuit, Hewlett says she was plied with alcohol before Relopez beat and raped her in his bedroom at Utah State's Gamma Kappa chapter of Sigma Chi. When a friend learned Relopez had taken her to his bedroom, and was "concerned" about it, "the house manager
told the friend that Relopez had rented the room, so no one could ever enter without his permission," according to the complaint.
It continues: "The prior school year, in October 2014, Jason Relopez raped and assaulted fellow student, M.K. M.K. reported the rape to officials at Utah State University as well as to the risk manager for the Gamma Kappa chapter of Sigma Chi.
"According to University documents, prior to plaintiff's sexual attack, before July 11, 2015 five other women at Utah State had reported to Utah State officials that they had been sexually assaulted by Jason Relopez. The individual named defendants were aware of these reports."
Before the night she was raped, Hewlett adds, "officers and members of the Sigma Chi fraternity house knew that Jason Relopez was a sexually aggressive person who was a risk to others, especially women and especially when he became intoxicated."
But Gamma Kappa members refused to intervene and made no effort to enter the room or check on her safety, Hewlett says. She says Relopez told her that night: "'I'm stronger than you and I'll win tonight.' Relopez then became aggressive, slapping and choking Victoria and ultimately raping her."
Hewlett transferred schools.
Utah State and Sigma Chi officials did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Individual defendants include Utah State Associate Vice President for Student Services Eric Olsen, Student Conduct Coordinator and Assessment Specialist Krystin Deschamps, and Associate Director of Student Affairs and Greek liaison Kevin Webb.
Hewlett seeks punitive damages for Title IX violations, sexual harassment, negligence, pain and suffering, medical expenses, premises liability, vicarious liability, and breach of contract.
She is represented by Jeffrey Eisenberg with Eisenberg Gilchrist & Cutt, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Utah State is 80 miles north of Salt Lake City, in Logan. Enrollment at the university was 28,622 in 2015.
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