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Rape allegations against Oregon basketball players roil campus

CrimeLaw EnforcementCollege BasketballSexual MisconductUniversity of OregonSexual AssaultCrime, Law and Justice
3 players named as suspects in sexual assault dismissed from Oregon basketball team, though never charged
Prosecutors decline to file sexual assault charges, but Oregon kicks three players off basketball team
1 freshman, 2 sophomores booted from @OregonMBB. University cites 'profoundly disturbing' police report

The University of Oregon announced Friday that three men’s basketball players were kicked off the team after they were investigated because of allegations that they raped a female student -- accusations that did not lead to criminal charges.

News of the punishment came the day after students protested on campus, demanding to know why university officials had not taken action in the seven weeks since the woman made the accusations.

The recent release of a police report brought attention to the allegations. This week the Lane County district attorney’s office declined to file charges against freshman guard Brandon Austin, sophomore guard Dominic Artis and sophomore guard Damyean Dotson.

On Friday, university President Michael Gottfredson said Artis, Austin and Dotson, who were suspended last month, would not return to the basketball team.

Referring to the police report, Gottfredson said, “As a father, I was appalled at what I  read … and disappointed over this profoundly disturbing incident.”

He told reporters that the university had not taken action during the college basketball playoff season, known as March Madness, because Eugene police didn’t want the suspects tipped off during the investigation. His hands were tied, Gottfredson said.

Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens said that within 24 hours of receiving the final police report on April 30, he suspended the three players indefinitely. Though Mullens said he was aware of an investigation during the playoffs, he wasn't sure which of the players were suspects.

“When you read the police report, it’s very clear it’s conduct not befitting of a student athlete at the University of Oregon,” he said at a televised news conference Friday. “Those are not individuals we want representing our organization.”

The university is now independently examining the case, which may lead to the three students' expulsions. He declined to offer details, citing privacy laws guarding student information.

The woman only agreed to talk to investigators after her father informed authorities about the incident five days after it happened, according to a police report. She also told officers that she didn’t want to ruin the players’ lives, the report states.

The district attorney said this week that though everyone involved agreed sex took place multiple times one night in early March, interviews with witnesses and the three basketball players contradicted the woman's statements that she objected to the sex acts and was too drunk to offer consent.

“The no-file decision is based entirely upon analysis of the available evidence and its insufficiency to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors said in a statement. “A no-file decision is not a statement about who we believe or don’t believe.”

The case also drew outrage from students because of a Wall Street Journal report stating that Austin had been suspended after a sexual assault last fall at Providence College in Rhode Island where he spent a semester before transferring to Oregon.

Mullens said Providence officials, apparently also limited by privacy laws, told Oregon during the vetting process only that Austin was involved in a non-serious “student conduct matter” and that they were hoping to retain him. 

“The fact that Providence tried to keep him gave us confidence that it wasn’t serious matter,”  Oregon head coach Dana Altman said at a later news conference Friday. Because Austin was a mid-year transfer, he also missed the team’s mandatory, annual lesson on sexual violence, Altman said.

Altman said that the players were disappointed to have to leave the team because they loved their time with the program.

Next week, Gottfredson plans to ask a to-be-named panel to review the school’s recruitment practices as well as its policies for handling sexual violence. 

The White House recently announced that 55 colleges and universities are being investigated for their handling of sexual assault allegations. Although Oregon is not one of them, Gottfredson said the school must take control.

“Until we have a campus where every individual feels safe, where everyone is respected, and where no instance of sexual violence is tolerated, we will not consider it good enough,” he said.

The police report says the woman drank several shots of peach vodka before attending a party at the off-campus house of a fourth basketball player, who was not involved in the incident. The initial sexual acts took place in a bathroom but lasted barely a minute because someone walked in on the group.

The players and the woman left the bathroom but later returned and more sex acts took place, according to the report. The second encounter ended when she received a text from a friend saying that their ride had arrived.

But the woman instead took a taxi with the players to their apartment, where more sexual acts took place that night and early the next morning, according to the report. The players told police that the activities were consensual and that the woman had multiple chances to leave them.

During phone calls that police asked the woman to secretly record, Artis and Dotson said they were sorry that she felt taken advantage of and that the situation was a wake-up call for them.

The district attorney’s office said it has the ability to bring charges if more evidence is found.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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CrimeLaw EnforcementCollege BasketballSexual MisconductUniversity of OregonSexual AssaultCrime, Law and Justice
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