John Doe settles sexual assault case with university

Settlement will not affect W&L’s sexual misconduct policy

Maria Rachal

A former Washington and Lee student expelled on sexual assault charges has reached a settlement with the university roughly 15 months after he claimed the school unfairly handled accusations of sexual assault in February 2014.

On Feb. 11, Judge Norman K. Moon of the Lynchburg Division of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia signed an order dismissing the case of plaintiff John Doe against the university. The order came in response to the plaintiff’s request to dismiss the lawsuit with the understanding that the plaintiff may not sue W&L again based on the same circumstances.

Details of the settlement are not currently available due to confidentiality agreements between John Doe and the university.

John Doe filed a lawsuit against Washington and Lee in November 2014 alleging that he was not given due process when a female student, known as Jane Doe, reported to the school that John Doe had raped her eight months prior. In his lawsuit, John Doe claimed that their sexual encounter had been consensual and that he had been treated as if presumed guilty rather than innocent during subsequent proceedings with school officials.

John Doe and his attorneys were seeking outcomes of monetary compensation from Washington and Lee, readmission to the university and a reversed disciplinary record.

“We are pleased that this matter has been resolved in a manner that affirms our commitment to provide a safe and respectful community for our faculty, staff, and students,” Leanne Shank, General Counsel to Washington and Lee, said in a statement posted to the university’s website. “As we pursue our goal of creating and sustaining a community based on trust and mutual respect, we continue to review and refine our policies and procedures as necessary.”

David George Harrison, one of John Doe’s attorneys out of The Harrison Firm, PC in Roanoke, was unable to comment on the terms of the settlement and whether or not his client will return to Washington and Lee as a student, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Melissa Wolf Riley, one of Washington and Lee’s attorneys out of McGuire Woods LLP in Charlottesville, did not return requests for comment.

Washington and Lee Title IX Coordinator Lauren Kozak said, “The settlement has no impact on our policy regarding sexual misconduct. We believe that our policy and procedures are fair, equitable and compliant with all laws and federal guidance.”

Kozak said that the feedback process for the university’s current sexual assault policy is ongoing. The university seeks to evaluate the hearing and resolution process for reports of possible sexual assault. Five focus groups are scheduled throughout March and April for members of the W&L community who would like to discuss the policy.

Anyone interested in offering feedback on the sexual assault policy can visit W&L’s Sexual Misconduct Resources webpage.