The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

W&L senior acquitted of stalking charge

Judge Christopher Billias warned Brandon Konlian, ’24, that further contact with the victim in the case would result in jail time

Brandon Konlian, ’24, was found not guilty of criminal stalking at a March 15 court hearing. 

But Lexington General District Court Judge Christopher Billias, who ruled on the case, warned Konlian that any further contact with the victim, his ex-partner, would result in jail time.

“I’ll put him in jail in a heartbeat if he contacts her again,” Billias said. 

In a trial that lasted over three hours, Konlian, the victim and their two lawyers argued about a pattern of unwanted contact from Konlian that the victim testified made her fear for her safety. The Phi does not publish the names of alleged victims in a crime.

While Konlian was acquitted of stalking, he was subjected to a two-year protective order from the court, which will forbid contact with the victim for that time frame.

The trial centered around Konlian’s violation of a no-contact directive from the university’s Title IX office.

The ruling

Virginia’s criminal code defines stalking as communication from the accused “with the intent to place, or when he… reasonably should know that the conduct places [the victim] in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury.” 

Contacting a victim after they have given notice that they do not want to be contacted could count as evidence that the accused meant to inspire fear in the victim, according to Virginia’s code. Squires argued this point in court. 

Billias said when acquitting Konlian that he wasn’t sure if the prosecution had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim had reason to fear death, sexual assault or bodily harm from Konlian.

Billias relied on a Virginia precedent, Stevens v. Rose, which established that a criminal charge of stalking includes two instances of contact from the accused that would inspire fear of death, sexual assault or bodily harm in the victim.

Billias said Konlian had only contacted the victim once after the no-contact directive. It would take another instance of contact for him to be convicted, he said.

“If you had contacted her a second time, I would have no problem convicting you,” he told Konlian.

Billias said he would offer the victim a two-year protective order. He said the court doesn’t usually administer such a long-term order. 

“I am concerned that if the court doesn’t take this action, you will do something,” he said to Konlian.

Billias also chided Konlian as he handed down the ruling.

“It was always about you at this point. Not about her,” he said. “If you don’t learn to better handle your emotions… you’re going to throw [your future] away.”

The victim told the court that Konlian’s conduct caused so much emotional distress that she started three psychiatric medications and regular therapy. 

“I’m only 22. I feel so much older,” she said. “I feel like I have lost my sense of safety… I feel like I have lost a part of myself that was innocent and trusting.”

Months of contact

Unwanted contact began after Konlian and the victim broke up last August. 

On Sept. 3, Konlian invited her to a 10-month anniversary dinner over text. The victim replied that the pair had broken up and asked for space.

That request spurred a text from Konlian where he wrote, according to the victim’s testimony, that “he had never been more upset or angry with anyone than he had been with me.” Shortly after, he denied being angry.

“It unsettled me that he didn’t seem to be in control of his emotions,” the victim said.

Almost two weeks later, the victim received a handwritten letter from Konlian. He again expressed anger with the victim, she said. The victim blocked Konlian on text and social media.

More unwanted communication came to the victim’s Washington and Lee email address in October and November.

According to the victim’s testimony, in November, Konlian emailed, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you… you have made that almost impossible… I really do not care if this is a bother or not.”

The victim responded to the November message, but she soon began to feel fear, she said.

“I have blocked him, I have asked for space, I have not responded, and he emails me again,” she said.

The victim also said she was worried about the content of his email months after the breakup, particularly a statement from Konlian that he would “do anything” to have her back.

“What would he do to force me back?” the victim said, adding that she feared he would threaten her at gunpoint or threaten her family.

On Nov. 25, the victim told Konlian not to contact her again. But Konlian still responded on Nov. 26.

The victim decided to receive a no-contact directive from the university’s Title IX office in early December. The victim said she was told that possible sanctions for violating the no-contact directive include expulsion and a “loss of privileges.” The student handbook explains that a loss of privileges could mean losing rights to participate in certain activities.

Communication from Konlian stopped, she said, until the two briefly saw each other at a party at the Lambda Chi Alpha house, Konlian’s fraternity, on Jan. 27. The victim said she had decided to attend the event after Konlian’s fraternity brother told her that Konlian wouldn’t be present.

The day after the momentary encounter, Konlian sent an email to the victim’s personal email account, violating the no-contact directive.

In the email, Konlian wrote, “I know you don’t want to hear from me and I am not supposed to reach out.”

That same day, the victim told the Title IX office that Konlian had violated the order. And she began seeking help from law enforcement by filing for a protective order.

“It terrified me” that he was willing to risk his academic future, the victim said.

Andrew Squires, the lead prosecutor for the case, argued that Konlian’s messages represented a pattern of “escalating” contact across multiple platforms. 

Neill Wente, Konlian’s attorney, argued that the victim’s appearance at Konlian’s fraternity house demonstrated a lack of fear.

“Do you think it’s reasonable for someone who’s scared to death of someone to show up at their fraternity house?” he said.

The victim said she wouldn’t have gone if she hadn’t confirmed that Konlian would not be present.

Konlian, meanwhile, testified that his communication was a product of frustration and heartbreak.

“It hurts me to this day that my messages… caused her distress of any kind,” he said. He said that he had been avoiding in-person encounters with the victim.

He said he violated the no-contact order because he was “confused and shocked and at such a low point that I just wanted closure.” 

Konlian said he wasn’t informed what specific sanctions would result from a violation until Chris Reid, director of residence life, told Konlian that any more contact with the victim would result in suspension.

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    Jeffrey Lawson Class of 68Apr 3, 2024 at 5:17 pm

    Maybe next September, Lauren Kozak shlould include the cases of Ricardo Vergara, Dan Selby and Brandon Konlian as case studies documenting how Sexual Assualt and Sexual Hazaments cases are resolved at Washington and Lee, rather than the usual response of “sweeping the them under the rug”.