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Former USC kicker Matt Boermeester loses bid to return to school

A day after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos cited Matt Boermeester’s expulsion from USC as an example of a “failed system” for handling sexual assaults on college campuses, the former Trojans kicker lost a bid to return to school.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue stayed the expulsion Friday — but barred the man who kicked the game-winning field goal in this year’s Rose Bowl from enrolling in classes or coming within 100 yards of campus.

“I have a hunch the order doesn’t make anybody happy,” Hogue said.

USC expelled Boermeester in July after authorities alleged he violated the school’s policy on intimate-partner violence by putting his hands around the neck of Zoe Katz, his girlfriend, and pushing her against a wall after they returned from a late-night trip to McDonald’s in January.

Katz initially confirmed this version of events to investigators from USC’s Title IX office, according to court filings, and told them she “often had bruises on her legs or arms from [Boermeester] because he would hit or grab her tightly when he was angry.”

But two months ago, Katz issued a statement calling the investigation “horrible and unjust” and has remained adamant in two declarations filed in court that she has “never been abused, assaulted or otherwise mistreated by Matt.” She also said her statements to investigators were "misrepresented, misquoted and taken out of context."

Boermeester was never arrested or charged with a crime in the matter. In court filings, his attorney, Mark M. Hathaway, described the encounter that led to the expulsion as “loud, consensual horseplay” and assailed USC’s investigation because his client couldn't question witnesses and because interviews with them weren't recorded or transcribed.

Last month, Boermeester petitioned the court to overturn the expulsion, asking for a temporary stay until the broader matter was decided. In the process, Boermeester became at least the third USC football player to go to court over a Title IX investigation, joining Bryce Dixon in 2015 and an unnamed player in 2013.

In court on Friday, Boermeester wore a navy sport coat and maroon tie as he watched the proceedings from the second row. Katz sat next to him. They left the courthouse without comment.

Both sides pushed back against the judge's decision.

"This is a solution that attempts to cut the baby in half while killing the baby," Hathaway told the court.

He later added: "[Boermeester] has a fundamental right to an education and that right has been abridged by the university."

The attorney referenced the DeVos speech — which called for reforms in how colleges handle sexual assault and harassment cases — but Hogue interjected that she wasn't able to consider the remarks in reaching the decision.

Julie A. Young, one of USC's attorneys, wasn't any happier: "This is an expulsion called a stay."

She expressed concern that the stay would keep future victims of sexual assault or harassment from coming forward at USC and send the message there was something "erroneous" about the investigation. She also criticized media coverage of the matter, saying “you have a very public misperception in the press.”

The arguments didn't sway the judge.

"To my mind, it's a fair compromise," Hogue said of the ruling.

In the six-page order, the judge wrote that she didn’t believe keeping Boermeester away from USC for the time being would cause him irreparable harm.

“Petitioner argues the Court should issue a preliminary order that temporarily reinstates an expelled student and reinjects him back into the university community,” the order said. “However, issuing such an order at this stage in the proceedings will inevitably raise questions among students and other members of the university community whether the university’s disciplinary decision may have been erroneous, unlawful, unfair or unenduring.”

A trial on the petition is scheduled for Jan. 3.

“USC stands by its investigation, the evidence and accounts provided by multiple witnesses that an act of violence took place that violated our university codes of conduct and Title IX regulations and warranted the actions taken,” the school said in a statement. “We are confident that this will become more evident as the case proceeds in court.”

Outside the wood-paneled courtroom, Young declined to comment. Hathaway offered a single, carefully considered sentence.

"Boermeester is disappointed he can't return to USC right away,” Hathaway said before pausing, “and is considering his options.”

nathan.fenno@latimes.com

Twitter: @nathanfenno

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UPDATES:

2:55 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from USC and details from the court order.

This article was originally published at 12:35 p.m.

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