In a blatant example of a school failing to protect a male student from false accusations of sexual assault, the University of Maryland-College Park (UMD) allowed an accuser and a powerful campus group to brand him a rapist even after the school determined he was not responsible, according to a lawsuit.
The male student, referred to in court documents as ‘John Doe,’ was a junior at UMD when he was accused of sexual assault by a female student, referred to only as ‘Jane Roe.’ Jane claimed in a formal complaint filed with the university on October 27, 2020, that she was sexually assaulted by John Doe and another student, referred to as ‘Jacob Poe.’
John contended that his sexual encounter with Jane was consensual, and her contemporaneous text messages supported that contention. Shortly after performing oral sex on John, Jane texted a friend to say what she had just done and added, “I have this thing where I like to make guys feel good.”
After her encounter with John, she became interested in Jacob, according to John’s subsequent lawsuit. Her text messages regarding her feelings for Jacob were also positive, telling that same friend, “As soon as I walked in, I was like ‘oh shit,’” and “I feel like we… Vibed.” Jane engaged in sexual activity with Jacob, after which she fell asleep with him on the couch in John’s apartment, “hugging [him] like a koala,” one witness later testified. The next day, she stayed at the apartment, conversing with John and watching football before going home later that afternoon.
But sometime later, Jane started calling both encounters sexual assault.
Even during the investigation, the university ignored student complaints of harassment and intimidation. Jane’s mother, according to John’s lawsuit, harassed at least two witnesses, threatening one’s family in an effort to prevent him from testifying and saying that if he did testify, “he would have a problem next.” The university “took no meaningful steps to remedy the harassment or witness tampering,” John’s lawsuit says.
Jane’s mother also personally threatened John and Jacob with physical violence on her social media account, according to court documents.
During the investigation process, Jane repeatedly changed her story about what happened with John and Jacob, the lawsuit says. At one point she said John used force, yet another time she said he didn’t use force. She claimed to be drunk and later claimed she was sober. She once said she had said no “eight to ten times” but later said she didn’t say no.
She also at one point said John “forcibly removed her clothing” but subsequently said she removed her own clothing.
Jane also claimed that she didn’t leave after allegedly being sexually assaulted by two different men because she didn’t know how to exit the apartment building. Multiple witnesses at the hearing, however, insisted they offered to walk Jane home but that she declined. And far from being distressed, the witnesses testified that Jane “seemed like she was enjoying every moment,” that she danced, joked, and stayed up with everyone until five or six o’clock in the morning.
Jane had also told a UMD police officer that she “had a consensual sexual encounter” with John, but the school never sought these statements on its own as part of the investigation. They were only included after John obtained them through a Public Information Act request.
Even though the school had a mountain of evidence that Jane’s allegations were false, it went through with its process under Title IX, costing John more than $100,000 in legal fees, court documents say.
Prior to the hearing, Jane submitted photographs of clothes she claimed to have worn the night of the alleged sexual assaults, saying it was stained with semen. The hearing officer – in a rare move not usually seen during campus hearings – had the clothing sent to a DNA lab, which ultimately found no semen on the clothes.
On September 1, 2021, the Title IX hearing officer found John and Jacob not responsible for sexual assault. Jane did not appeal the determination, even though accusers are able to under campus Title IX policies.
This should have ended John’s ordeal, but as he alleges in his lawsuit, after he was thoroughly exonerated in an atmosphere typically hostile toward the accused, Jane and a campus organization allegedly spread the claim on campus that he was a rapist, going so far as to contact campus organizations to get John removed from them.
Jane went to UMD’s officially recognized student organization, Preventing Sexual Assault (PSA), and claimed to be a victim of sexual assault. As John noted in his lawsuit, PSA co-presidents Rachel Salem and Hailey Chaikin stated in a public forum that PSA had a special influence over UMD’s Office for Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct (OCRSM), which helps coordinate the school’s Title IX policies. Salem and Chaikin, according to the lawsuit, also stated that it was “their job” to inform students of “who the predators are on campus.” As part of this self-described “job,” Salem and Chaikin told student organizations at UMD that John was a “rapist” and “under investigation” for sexual misconduct. These claims occurred after the Title IX proceedings had concluded, which Chaikin and Salem would likely have known.
The two women allegedly continued to make these claims for months to students and student organizations, resulting in John being ousted from those groups and continually branded a rapist despite all evidence to the contrary.
Neither Chaikin nor Salem responded to repeated requests for comment from The Daily Wire. After questioning the given deadline, a UMD spokeswoman stopped responding and didn’t provide a comment for this story.
John says in his lawsuit that he repeatedly made OCRSM aware of what Jane, Chaikin, and Salem were doing, even filing formal complaints against them and alleging retaliation and harassment. OCRSM, according to John, ignored or dismissed his complaints without investigating any of them. The closest John said he came to a resolution was when his Title IX advisor spoke on the phone with UMD’s Title IX Coordinator, who said she would tell PSA to stop harassing John, but later said she would not do so unless she could use John’s full real name, something John didn’t want. He insisted in his lawsuit that his name wasn’t needed because a general statement to PSA was all that was needed. He also alleged that using his name would only increase the harassment against him.
John responded the only way he could: With a lawsuit.
“John Doe’s complaint against the University of Maryland, in which he extensively details the harassment and discrimination he suffered as well as the complete lack of credibility by the complainant, speaks for itself,” John’s attorney, Lindsay McKasson, told The Daily Wire in an email.
“He was fully exonerated by the University of horrendous and malicious false allegations. Nevertheless, the University repeatedly refused to protect John Doe’s rights as a student, including failing to protect him from the retaliation and harassment levied against him. The University’s egregious conduct must be rectified so this does not happen to any other students. We look forward to protecting John Doe’s rights in court.”
While the lawsuit didn’t get much attention when it was filed in April, a curious thing has happened in a more recent filing. Typically, plaintiffs are able to use pseudonyms to protect their identity, but defendants aren’t usually granted the same anonymity. But in this case, Chaikin and Salem filed motions to continue the lawsuit under pseudonyms, and a judge granted their request.
Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles who specializes in the First Amendment, noted that the judge seemed to accept a “promising young man/woman” exception to allow Chaikin and Salem to proceed under pseudonyms, after they argued the lawsuit could hamper their ability to find jobs and start their careers. Volokh suggested the judge’s decision in this case may be a compromise, as earlier filings still contain Chaikin and Salem’s full names.
Defense attorney Scott Greenfield questioned whether the women deserved the pseudonymity, asking “Is there any reason they shouldn’t suffer what they tried to do, and did, to John Doe by ruining his life? Is there any reason why, going forward, people should not know that if they hire, associate or engage with these two women, they should expect the worst of them?”
John’s case is still pending.