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Former basketball captain suing Yale over expulsion for sexual misconduct accusation

Jack Montague has not suited up for Yale since Feb. 6. (Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press)

Jack Montague, a former captain on the Yale basketball team, plans to sue the school following his February expulsion for sexual misconduct. Montague’s attorney, Max Stern, issued a lengthy statement Monday condemning Yale’s decision as “wrong, unfairly determined, arbitrary, and excessive by any rational measure.”

The lawsuit comes a day after the Bulldogs learned that they would be a 12 seed in the NCAA tournament, with a first-round matchup Thursday against fifth-seeded Baylor in Providence, R.I. Despite the fact that Montague, a senior from Brentwood, Tenn., last played on Feb. 6, Yale was able to win its first Ivy League title since 1962. The school determined that, in the fall of 2014, Montague had engaged in non-consensual sex with another student, while Montague’s camp says the sex was indeed consensual.

The university had not clarified why Montague had his status changed to “withdrawn,” but in a March 3 interview with the New Haven Register, the player’s father, Jim Montague, confirmed that his son had been “expelled.” The father added, “Soon enough, I’d love to tell the other side of the story. It’s ridiculous.”

In his statement, Stern said that his client “was never accused of rape” and that media reports on campus protests of the Bulldogs’ support for their former teammate were “slandering” Montague. “As a result, Mr. Montague has no choice but to correct the record,” Stern said.

Before a game against Harvard on Feb. 26, Yale basketball players wore T-shirts with “Yale” spelled backward on the front and Montague’s nickname,”Gucci,” and jersey number, four, on the back. During the team’s league-winning victory over Columbia on March 5, at least one player wore tape around his wrist with “Gucci” written on it, and before the contest, the Bulldogs conversed with Montague, who was back home in Tennessee, via the FaceTime app (via Sports Illustrated).

The Harvard game took place on a Friday evening, and on the following Monday morning, flyers were posted on campus with a photo of the shirts and the message, “Yale men’s basketball — stop supporting a rapist.” Members of the team, among others, took down most of those posters, but another round went up two days later, and a classroom chalkboard had this message written on it (via the Yale Daily News): “Rape culture is standing by your teammate and silencing Yale’s victims of sexual assault.”

Last week, the Yale basketball team issued this statement:

“Yale Men’s Basketball fully supports a healthy, safe and respectful campus climate where all students can flourish. Our recent actions to show our support for one of our former teammates were not intended to suggest otherwise, but we understand that to many students they did. We apologize for the hurt we have caused and we look forward to learning and growing from these recent incidents. As student representatives of Yale we hope to use our positions on and off the court in a way that can make everyone proud.”

Stern went into detail Monday about the alleged incident that led to Montague’s expulsion. His statement claims that both Montague and his accuser agreed that they “developed a relationship that led to them sleeping together in Jack’s room on four occasions in the fall of 2014.”

After the first three times, which included sexual acts, the fourth contained the episode at the heart of Montague’s expulsion. From Stern’s statement:

“On the fourth occasion, she joined him in bed, voluntarily removed all of her clothes, and they had sexual intercourse. Then they got up, left the room and went separate ways. Later that same night, she reached out to him to meet up, then returned to his room voluntarily, and spent the rest of the night in his bed with him.
“The sole dispute is as to the sexual intercourse in the fourth episode. She stated that she did not consent to it. He said that she did.”

Stern said that the woman reported the incident to a Title IX coordinator “a year later,” and that a “Title IX official – not her – filed a formal complaint” with a Yale committee. “We believe that it defies logic and common sense that a woman would seek to re-connect and get back into bed with a man who she says forced her to have unwanted sex just hours earlier,” Stern wrote. “And yet the Dean accepted this conclusion and ordered Jack to be expelled.”

Stern’s statement also contained this passage:

“We cannot help but think it not coincidental that the decision by Yale officials to seek expulsion of the captain of its basketball team followed by little more than a month the report of the Association of American Universities (AAU) which was highly critical of the incidence of sexual assault on the Yale campus, and the Yale President’s promise, in response, to ‘redouble our efforts.’ From what appears, Jack has been pilloried as a ‘whipping boy’ for a campus problem that has galvanized national attention.”

Anthony D’Ambrosio, the co-director of Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale, a campus organization, provided The Post with this statement via email:

“In response to Jack Montague’s statement, USAY emphasizes that his expulsion from Yale College resulted from  the investigation of an impartial fact finder, a hearing by five trained members of the Yale community, and an ultimate decision by the accused student’s dean. Throughout this process, Jack Montague availed himself of the right to advisors and legal counsel.
“It is important to note that 20 percent of formal sexual misconduct hearings at Yale end without a finding against the accused, and 40 percent of hearings result in the accused student receiving a reprimand or probation. Under 10 percent of cases result in expulsion. Expulsion is not something that Yale takes lightly, and not something that it employs when there is ambiguity about the case.
“Jack Montague’s statement relies heavily upon the false notion that a woman would not ‘reconnect and get back into bed with’ someone who had sexually assaulted her. In fact, such seemingly illogical actions are a common response to severe trauma, particularly when the victim and assailant are in a relationship.
“To suggest that Jack Montague was railroaded or treated as a ‘whipping boy’ simply ignores the facts of this case.  The overall unwillingness of universities to expel star athletes is well documented.  It is highly unlikely that Yale would be anything other than reluctant to expel the Captain of the Men’s Basketball Team in the middle of their most successful season in fifty years.
“We hope that those reading Jack Montague’s statement will take time to critically evaluate it in light of these facts. We also hope that all members of the Yale community will join us in broadening the conversation beyond the basketball team, to examine Yale’s sexual culture in general.”

A Yale spokesman, Thomas Conroy, told The Post via email that the school does not comment on cases of student discipline out of privacy concerns. Conroy wrote:

“Yale’s procedures for addressing allegations of sexual misconduct are thorough and fair: The allegations are investigated by an impartial fact finder, heard by five trained members of the Yale community, and decided by the accused student’s dean.  Throughout the process, all parties have advisors, which can be legal counsel, and they can appeal a decision.
“Where cases involve judgments about the witnesses’ credibility, all of the available corroborating or contradictory information is carefully weighed to determine who is telling the truth.”

Conroy confirmed the statistics D’Ambrosio cited about the outcomes of formal sexual misconduct hearings at Yale. The spokesman wrote that “the decision to expel a student is made only after the most careful consideration, based on the facts and, when appropriate, disciplinary history.”

Montague, a 6-foot, 185-pound guard, led the Ivy League in three-point percentage last season (.435) and was one of three Bulldogs to start every game. “Jack’s one of our teammates, our brothers,” senior forward Justin Sears said Sunday (via the Associated Press), noting that his team’s excitement over the announcement of the NCAA tournament field had been dampened by the off-court controversy.

“We’re a team still, no matter what,” Sears, the Ivy League player of the year, added. “Jack is supporting us right now, wherever he is. We’re having fun right now and I’m sure he’s enjoying the moment, wherever he is.”

Read Stern’s full statement below:

Montague Public Statement by Josh White