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How do I successfully seek Justice when I was wrongfully accused of rape and subsequently suffered serious losses?

Flushing, NY |

A college student in the University that I am now suspended from had accused me of rape. Because of the initial accusation, I was immediately suspended from the University pending my school disciplinary hearing, and subsequently was forced to withdraw from my Summer Session classes, which set me back a year and made me lose the tuition fee. During the hearing, the Board found me responsible for rape even though the complainant had NO evidence. I now have these serious charges on my academic record, and I am unable to attend my University. I wish I had more available characters to explain the situation more, but I am wondering how I can seek Justice. My parents and I have no more money because of this. Can we sue the woman for her false report? Can I recuperate my losses financially? How?

In the Board's explanation of their decision, they sided with her based on solely on her testimony. They believed that it was "more likely than not" that I am guilty. The complainant's affidavit was submitted by a school counselor, who she had been seeing because of claims that she had suffered PTSD. This was all a charade on her part, but when it was her word against mine, the Board sided with her. Because of this malicious and false accusation, my college career is effectively terminated and my family and I suffered unrecoverable financial losses. Even if I had won the hearing, I would have still been set back the Summer tuition fee, and I would have also been set back a full academic year because the classes that I had been taking can only be taken during the Summer, and they were prerequisites for the Fall and Spring Semesters. This means that I would have had to wait until the next Summer in order to continue.

Attorney Answers 2

Posted

I have handled similar matters involving college and university students, and I will not pretend that there is a good or right or satisfactory answer for you. There isn't. Let me propose, however, a method of analysis that may illuminate some of the major issues in your effort to identify and settle on your next move.

Re-read your post but imagine that wherever you reference the university, you were instead describing the criminal justice system. If you complete this exercise, you will realize without any doubt that your situation is not materially different than that of any person who claims innocence but was accused of this crime, prosecuted, convicted, and penalized. The fact that your situation unfolded at a university before a university disciplinary committee or body instead of in a criminal courtroom before a jury does not change anything.

Persons who are falsely accused are among our culture's most aggrieved victims. Realistically, there is often no choice within our system of law but to put the person who is accused through the fact-finding process. What other way is there to be responsive to victims and victims' accusations? No one would seriously argue that such accusations can simply be ignored or automatically discounted.

So, you were accused and you were put through the fact-finding process, and it is a fact that going through the fact-finding (guilt-determining) process can be very damaging, irrevocably so in some ways and in some instances. Standing trial -- before a university committee or before a judge or jury -- takes a huge chunk of time and forward progress out of your life. Defense costs major money. Just being accused and standing trial can stigmatize you and leave some persons in doubt about you, no matter what result. But there is no alternative to putting the accused through a fact-finding guilt-determining process. What else can a culture founded on law do?

Now, you contend that the result of the fact-finding process was wrong in the result it reached. You may be totally correct in that assessment. But it is not systemically sound or legitimate to leave that judgment call up to the accused. That will not work. If there is to be a legitimate fact-finding guilt-determining process, then it cannot be one that is negated or made ineffective simply by an allegation of error by the accused. So, again, the critical question is: what can a legal system do but rely on the assumed correctness of the result reached by the fact-finding process?

Without question ANY system will cause some erroneous results. Admitting that doesn't answer or resolve any of the legitimate questions about what to do when such an accusation is made.

Your best and only option is to consult personally with a skilled and experienced attorney, one with deep experience in criminal law and civil litigation. If there is, in the judgment of a skilled litigator, insufficient evidence to allow the result of the fact-finding process to stand, then you will need to consider whether you have the funds and the emotional stamina to bring a legal action to challenge that result -- and potentially go through the process all over again. Challenging the administrative result will be a steep and difficult undertaking and one that will be uncertain in result to the very end. If your consultation concludes that the evidence will support the factual determination -- even if the factual determination is wrong -- then you have no good legal options, and you will want to think about making a new start perhaps in a different community.

These are very limited options, I know. It isn't fair. But these are the only courses remaining potentially open to you.

No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.

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Andrew Lawrence Weitz

Andrew Lawrence Weitz

Posted

Very well said, counsellor. Having represented an ER physician falsely accused of rape then perp walked on the 6 o'clock news and jailed, I have witnessed the carnage of false accusations. While we won his 1983 case against NYC, he was unable to sufficiently clear his name in the community. He had to start over somewhere else. Tragic for him and his family.

Posted

I can't tell if this was a private or public university. The latter is required to have more due process than the former, but assuming that you were afforded a hearing, as you describe, the university is off the hook. Their standard of proof is minimal, and it is unclear if you could have mounted more of a defense than just your word against hers. So they found her credible and you not. You correctly cited the standard of proof. You were apparently not prosecuted criminally, and I assume that is because the police would not entertain the complaint. That leaves you with the option of a civil suit against her for defamation or similar suit for the damages you claim. If you retain a personal injury attorney (willing to take the case) it will be contingency based, so you won't need to finance the prosecution of the lawsuit. You only have one year in NYS to file the suit from the date of the wrongdoing, so don't waste time. It might also clear you name if you win, and open the doors to your further education continuing.

If you found this "helpful" or "best answer," please click it with my appreciation. My response is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice nor creates an attorney client relationship which requires all the details and a personal conference.

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Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

But beware the "Streisand" effect of such a lawsuit. (Use Google or Wikipedia to define, if you do not know that phenomenon.) Beware also the potential for strident controversy and push-back from local advocacy groups. This kind of suit should not be brought unless a specifically-experienced litigator advises a high probability of success.

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