Lawyer for accused Badger Quintez Cephus says UW-Madison guilty of despicable behavior

Lawyer for accused Badger Quintez Cephus says UW-Madison guilty of \despicable behavior\
Wisconsin Badgers WR Quintez Cephus pleads not guilty to sexual assault
Suspended Badgers wide receiver Quintez Cephus has sued the University of Wisconsin to try to stop an expected expulsion over a sexual encounter with two students in April.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Madison, contends university officials violated Cephus rights to equal protection and due process by continuing a Title IX disciplinary action against him even while he challenges criminal charges stemming from the same incident.

And the officials were influenced by racist pressures from the father of one of the women, “a prominent Chicago attorney” and UW-Madison benefactor, the suit states.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Embattled University of Wisconsin receiver Quintez Cephus is suing the school because he says a disciplinary probe it is conducting while he’s trying to defend himself in a criminal sexual assault case violates his rights.

The officials forced Cephus “into the predicament of having to either waive his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by choosing to participate in the University process despite the potential harm to his criminal defense, or decline to participate in the Universitys process thus leading to the inevitable finding of responsibility and severe sanctions,” the suit states.

How to handle claims of sexual harassment and assault among students has become a vexing issue at colleges and universities striving for timely resolutions and respect for victims while facing growing criticism that such efforts often trample due process rights of the accused.

Cephus was suspended from the Badgers in August after he was charged with sexually assaulting two drunken women in his apartment. Cephus says the sex was consensual.

A spokesperson for UW-Madison, Meredith McGlone, said its process adheres to federal Department of Education requirements, which specify that pending criminal cases do not excuse universities from “prompt and equitable” resolutions of sexual assault complaints.

“It is standard practice at UW and at many universities across the country to handle student misconduct allegations independent of the criminal justice process,” McGlone said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for emotional and psychological harm and past and future economic losses, claiming Cephus is a likely high NFL draft pick.

Cephus, 20, of Macon, Ga., was charged Aug. 20 with one count of second-degree sexual assault of an intoxicated victim and one count of third-degree sexual assault. He pleaded not guilty to both counts Thursday at his arraignment, where a judge set deadlines for motions in the case. 

Cephus has said he is innocent and his attorneys have promised a vigorous defense. Pretrial motions suggest the defense believes extensive surveillance video and cellphone information will show the alleged victims were not intoxicated and that their sexual activity with Cephus was consensual. 

According to the criminal complaint, two women told police they had been at Cephus apartment April 22. One had gone to a hospital emergency room where police first had contact with her. She said shed been sexually assaulted.

Police then contacted Cephus, who was cooperative and learned the identity of a second woman who had been at the apartment. She then told police she also had been assaulted.

UW wide receiver Danny Davis,  Cephus roommate, also was present at the time and took photos of one of the women. She later told Cephus how to delete the photos, according to the complaint.

The federal lawsuit details Cephus defense attorneys continued correspondence with Lauren Hasslebacher, UW-Madisons Title IX coordinator, in which he urges her to get exculpatory evidence from Madison police, and that Cephus would participate in the disciplinary investigation if he could.

By the end of July, when no criminal charges had been filed and Cephus was reinstated to the football team, attorney Stephen Meyer thought that time had come. They met with Hasselbacher and another UW investigator Aug. 8 to go over procedures and scheduled another meeting Aug. 27 when Cephus would give his statement.

Then Dane County prosecutors advised Meyer they would be issuing charges and he then asked that the universitys proceeding be put on hold. The university declined, and Hasselbacher released the Initial Investigative Report Aug. 31, without having interviewed Cephus or seen what Meyer says is exculpatory evidence. University officials told Meyer prosecutors would not share that evidence.

An amended Final Investigative Report was forwarded to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards this week.

Cephus lawsuit says UW-Madison officials were responding to “internal pressures to find male athletes accused of sexual misconduct responsible” and to pressures from the father of one the women who had been with Cephus. The father met with university officials in late July, the suit contends, and “engaged in a heated and racist rant concerning Plaintiff.”

Thats when Hasselbacher stepped up the investigation, which had been relatively dormant since April, according to the suit.

The Chicago lawyer is identified in the lawsuit only as Charles Roe, given that in the criminal case, a judge has ruled that the two women must be identified only as AB and YZ, not their actual initials.

The suit says Roe, using “inflammatory racial and derogatory language” in referring to Cephus, pressured the university into expediting its investigation “at the expense of the Plaintiffs due process rights.”

Cephus is represented by the New York law firm of Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP and Nola Hitchcock Cross of Milwaukee. In addition to the request to halt the Title IX action until the criminal case is resolved, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages. 

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