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Lawsuits by former UO players dismissed.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

A federal judge has sided with the University of Oregon and dismissed lawsuits filed by three former UO basketball players who were suspended after a female student accused them of an off- campus sexual assault.

In an order issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said he found no evidence to back the players' contention that university officials had denied them due process and subjected them to gender bias while deciding their discipline in a high-profile 2014 case that ended their time with the Ducks.

The judge ruled that attorneys representing the former players - Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin - may refile the suits against the university, so long as numerous "deficiencies" that he found in the original complaint are addressed.

A lawyer involved with the case said an amended lawsuit will be filed.

Following UO disciplinary proceedings in 2014, the players were suspended from campus for up to 10 years. They have acknowledged that a sexual encounter occurred with the alleged victim but assert that the woman consented to it.

Police investigated the woman's claims, but prosecutors declined to file criminal charges, citing a lack of evidence.

All three players argued their suspensions came after university officials had prejudged them, subjected them to gender discrimination and denied them due process.

McShane wrote in his 29-page opinion and order that his responsibility was not to determine whether the university made a correct decision to suspend the players, but if false allegations were made, "then the injustice (the players) feel is understandable."

"That said," McShane wrote, "nothing in the complaint or incorporated documents suggests that the actions of the university were motivated by gender bias or that the university deprived (the players) of a due process right."

The former players are among a number of male students who have taken the UO to court to challenge suspensions that they feel were unfairly issued to them in sexual-misconduct cases.

Attorneys for the UO argued in seeking the lawsuits' dismissal that no law prevents a university from suspending a student who is found responsible for sexual misconduct under a student conduct code.

McShane noted in his opinion that the conduct code's definition of sexual misconduct is quite different than that of a criminal sex offense and that the state's decision not to prosecute the players "has no bearing on (university officials') decision to investigate" a code violation.

"There is no logical nexus that connects the failure to criminally prosecute with gender bias on the part of the defendants," McShane wrote.

Brian Michaels, one of the attorneys representing Dotson and Artis, said Thursday that the players and their lawyers were disappointed with McShane's ruling but do plan to refile the suit.

Michaels said it's particularly discouraging to him that McShane dismissed the players' due-process claim with prejudice, meaning that particular allegation may not be refiled.

UO spokesman Tobin Klinger said in response to McShane's ruling that university officials "are pleased with the court's decision to grant our motion to dismiss, and we certainly hope the ruling provides some level of finality to this issue."

"The court's decision dismissed all of the students' claims and upholds the university's position that the students were afforded appropriate due process under the UO's student conduct code," Klinger said. "In addition, it affirms that the student conduct processes are separate and independent of criminal matters. The UO remains committed to maintaining a fair and strong student conduct code that is focused on providing a safe campus and learning environment where all students can be successful."

Austin filed a $7.5 million lawsuit last October. Dotson and Artis then filed a joint, $21 million suit in March. The lawsuits were later merged into a single case.

The former players assert that the UO's decision to suspend them harmed their chances of playing professional basketball.

The UO student who accused the basketball players of rape - identified in court documents only as Jane Doe - sued the university last year.

The student alleged that she was put in harm's way because the university allowed Austin to enroll when he faced a separate allegation of sexual assault at Providence College, where he had been a student.

She settled her lawsuit for $800,000 and four years of room, board and tuition at the UO.
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Title Annotation:University Of Oregon; An amended suit can be filed if "deficiencies"are resolved, judge says
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 9, 2016
Words:717
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