Maryland guard Dez Wells filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Xavier University, his former school, and its president seeking to recover damages for his expulsion last summer amid sexual assault allegations. Wells seeks damages and an apology after the incident, which the suit alleges caused him undue distress.
The lawsuit, first reported by Yahoo Sports, was filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.
The suit alleges Xavier rushed the judiciary process after a fellow student accused Wells of sexual assault on June 7, 2012. Hamilton (Ohio) County prosecutor Joseph Deters declined to indict Wells, as did a grand jury, and publicly called the subsequent investigation “fundamentally unfair.”
Xavier cited a violation of the Student Code of Conduct in the expulsion, which Wells’s lawyer, Peter R. Ginsberg, said has led to emotional trauma and a tarnished reputation.
“He had faced horrific accusations and ultimately was forced out of the university that he loved,” Ginsberg said Tuesday night by phone. “He knew he was innocent, but the university refused to extend a fundamental standard and fundamental protections. Dez needs Xavier to right that wrong.”
Xavier released a statement on behalf of Fr. Michael Graham, the university president.
“We have read the complaint and the allegations of wrongdoing are unfounded and cannot be supported,” Graham’s statement said. “The process used by the Xavier University Conduct Board applies to all of our students and is the standard used in American universities.
“After members of the Conduct Board reached their decision, the matter was considered and upheld in an appeal. The sanction for the offense was expulsion. The University has never revealed the specific charge against Dez Wells other than to say he was found responsible for a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. The university will vigorously defend the process and the decision.”
The lawsuit details the incident, which began during a truth-or-dare game and led to the pair engaging in consensual sex, the suit states. The following morning, the woman accused Wells of sexual assault to campus police but declined to press charges. Deters assigned staff members to investigate the allegations, but before the prosecutor cleared Wells, Xavier had reached its decision.
“From the moment this nightmare began,” Wells said in a statement, “I’ve been trying to get everyone to understand that I am innocent. The supposed leaders at Xavier wouldn’t listen. I was guilty even after I was proved innocent. Xavier destroyed my reputation. It needs to make this right. Xavier needs to set the record straight.”
Since the expulsion, the lawsuit says, Wells has been “publicly humiliated, and felt ashamed, emotionally distraught and violated.” At two separate away games last season, Wells’s first since transferring to Maryland, rival fans began chanting, “No means no” while the player shot free throws. He averaged a team-high 13.1 points last season, leading the Terrapins to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals, and was counted by coaches and players as Maryland’s locker room leader.
When asked whether he anticipated this case reach trial, Ginsberg replied, “Dez is certainly willing to go all the way if that’s what it takes to prove his case.”