Judge allows student accused of rape to sue Brown University

By Eric Tucker
Associated Press / April 30, 2010

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PROVIDENCE — A student who says he was falsely accused of rape by a Brown University classmate can move forward with his lawsuit against the Ivy League school, a federal judge ruled.

William McCormick III filed a federal lawsuit that accused the school of failing to properly investigate what he says were false allegations of sexual assault made by a female student whose father is a Brown alumnus, donor, and fund-raiser.

The student accused McCormick of stalking and harassing her when they were freshmen in September 2006. He says he was abruptly removed from campus after the student later accused him of raping her in her dorm room while she was trying to study.

Brown didn’t refer the matter to police and instead handled it internally, the lawsuit says.

McCormick maintains he did nothing wrong, but agreed to withdraw from the school after entering into a confidential agreement with the accuser’s family. He says he signed the contract under duress.

Under that agreement, the accuser, who maintains that she was raped, agreed not to pursue a criminal complaint or take other legal action against McCormick.

McCormick, a champion high school wrestler from Waukesha, Wis., was at Brown on a full scholarship. He is now a student at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa.

US District Judge William Smith said in an opinion Wednesday that the lawsuit can move forward in a more limited form. The judge left intact McCormick’s claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence, but dismissed claims of false imprisonment and libel. A separate breach-of-contract claim is also still pending.

The judge dismissed claims of negligence, emotional distress, and libel against 15 people associated with Brown, including its president, Ruth Simmons. He also threw out claims brought by McCormick’s parents. At a court hearing this month, a lawyer for Brown argued that parents of an adult student have no legal standing to sue a university.

McCormick and his parents also sued the accuser and her father, but Smith did not immediately rule on their motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Smith said in his six-page opinion that he had wanted to rule quickly to allow lawyers to question students who may be preparing to leave campus and Providence after graduation next month.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were victims of sex crimes and is not naming the accuser’s family.

Steven Richard, a lawyer for Brown, and J. Scott Kilpatrick, who represents the McCormick family, did not immediately return calls seeking comment yesterday.

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