Campus sexual assault activists have found their most recent poster case at Indiana University, the Midwest Big 10 school where a former Delta Tau Delta fraternity member last year was charged in two separate rapes that allegedly occurred on campus — one at his Greek house, the other at a sorority.
In both cases, authorities said the details were hazy. They were reported two years apart, in 2013 and 2015. Alcohol was involved.
But last week, just 14 days before his trial was scheduled to begin, prosecutors dropped the rape charges against John Enochs altogether. After a deal, the former IU student from Illinois pleaded guilty to battery with moderate bodily injury, a level six felony, the lowest level. The court later reduced the charge to a misdemeanor, records show. He was sentenced to one year probation.
After outrage mounted over the weekend among critics, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office released a statement Monday, published in full by the Indianapolis Star, explaining.
Prosecutors said they were frustrated in part because there were two criminal complaints filed against the fraternity member in a case that “presented a very unusual set of circumstances.”
“… [U]nder the law, a jury considering one case would not be allowed to know about the other,” Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Miller wrote. “After the case(s) was filed, evidence continued to be developed that lead us to the conclusion that neither case, standing alone, presented sufficient evidence to prove rape.”
This is not an uncommon hurdle when it comes to cases of sexual assault on college campuses across the country, particularly at IU. In an investigative series about sexual assault at Indiana University published last year, the Indiana Daily student, the campus newspaper, reported that of the 712 cases of alleged rape, sexual battery and other sexual assaults reported to local and campus authorities, only about 8 percent led to criminal charges.
The first alleged assault involving Enochs was reported to the Indiana University Police Department in the fall of 2013, according to the Indiana Daily Student. The alleged victim took Enochs as her date to an off-campus dance hosted by her sorority, Delta Zeta, and his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta. Their group drank alcohol, including Fireball whiskey, at both houses before returning to the sorority, the student newspaper reported. There, friends of the alleged victim, who had left for the sorority courtyard, told police they saw Enochs and the woman having sex through her bedroom window.
For a period of time, the woman blacked out and said she could not remember what happened in the bedroom. More than a week later, she reported the alleged assault to authorities, according to the Indiana Daily Student, but initially chose not to pursue a criminal investigation.
That gap in time, prosecutors said, was part of what crippled their case.
“The complaining witness had no specific recollection of the events; the few witnesses could not recall important details due to the passage of time and the consumption of alcohol; and the complaining witness’s decision to prosecute came two years after the event which severely hindered the investigation,” prosecutors wrote in their statement Monday. “There were also photographs that contradicted the assertion that the complaining witness was incapable of engaging in consensual activity shortly before the alleged assault. This is important because the complaint was that she was ‘unaware’ that the sex was occurring due to her consumption of alcohol.”
Prosecutors said the most recent case, which was reported the night of the alleged assault in April 2015, posed similar challenges.
In that incident, the woman told police she attended a party at Enochs’s fraternity and had been drinking before she arrived, reported the student newspaper. She was with friends in the courtyard when she went inside to look for a bathroom. The next thing she remembered, according to records obtained by the newspaper, was waking up in a room with a man she did not know trying to have sex with her.
She said “no” several times, according to documents obtained by the newspaper, and tried to push him away.
Security footage shows the female college student being led by Enochs down a hallway in the fraternity house and eventually entering an unlocked room. Twenty-four minutes later, she left alone. The footage also shows the woman embrace another man in the hallway, according to court records obtained by the student newspaper, then enter the bathroom with another man. Several others are seen entering and leaving the bathroom.
Friends of the alleged victim found her in a bathroom and took an Uber home to their dorm, reported the student newspaper, where someone called the campus police department. Health officials said she suffered a laceration to her genitals, reported Fox 59.
The woman later chose Enochs out of a lineup.
According to the prosecutor’s statement, “… there is video evidence of activities of the complaining witness, before and after the alleged assault, which does not support the assertion of a forcible rape, which was the charge in this instance. … There is also DNA evidence that is problematic, and made it impossible for us to prove that the defendant was the cause of her injury.”
But prosecutors said they continued to “pursue accountability” on Enochs’s part, “which led to this plea agreement.”
But the legal nuances of the case, challenges that prosecutors across the country face when investigating rape allegations, did not keep some from criticizing the legal system for allowing another college male accused of sexual assault to get off with what they perceived was a slap on the wrist.
Online, outraged people compared Enochs’s case to that of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious and intoxicated young woman outside a fraternity house in 2015. His sentence — six months in the county jail, followed by three years’ probation — caused an outcry across the country, spurring victims’ advocates, celebrities and even Vice President Biden to comment on a system perceived to favor the accused over the victim.
Enochs’s attorney, Katharine Liell, has staunchly defended her client against the rape accusations from the beginning, telling the Indianapolis Star last September that she believed he was a victim of the “histrionics” surrounding sexual assault allegations on college campuses.
“I totally believe John has been caught up in a whirlwind of emotion surrounding any allegation involving sexual assault on campus,” Liell told the Indy Star.
On Monday, she released her own statement in response to the state’s decision to drop the rape charges against Enochs. She called the charges “sensationalized and false,” according to the Indy Star, and said Enochs was “profoundly sorry for his lack of judgment” regarding the battery charges to which he admitted. She accused the lead investigator of presenting misleading and false evidence from the get-go.
“Issues of alcohol and sexual misconduct are serious issues on college campuses across the country, but such issues are trivialized when law enforcement misrepresents the true facts and fails to investigate the allegations fully and fairly,” she said in the statement.
For its part, the university addressed the mounting publicity surrounding the case but declined to comment on the case itself.
The statement continued:
As it relates to sexual misconduct … the university continues to utilize robust processes that are designed to support victims, while at the same time affording due process to those accused of misconduct. In instances where a student is found responsible for committing an act of sexual violence, the penalty is suspension or expulsion.
Additionally, the university regularly engages in a broad range of educational communication and programming to students, faculty and staff regarding sexual assault. The university’s goals are both to prevent sexual assault whenever possible and to support the victims to the fullest extent possible.
But in an earlier Title IX lawsuit against Indiana University and Enochs’s fraternity, one of the alleged victims claims that the school could have, and should have, done more to prevent Enochs from committing the second alleged assault. The suit claims that IU administrators and Delta Tau Delta showed “deliberate indifference” toward the threat that Enochs allegedly posed to women on campus after the initial sexual assault was reported.
“[The victim] was deprived of the benefits of an education at IU, and has suffered severe and permanent psychological and physical injuries, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life,” the suit claims.
Earlier this year, former IU Deputy Title IX Director Jason Casares resigned from his position after he was accused of sexual assault by Jill Creighton, assistant director for global community standards at New York University, reported the Indiana Daily Student.
Creighton claimed Casares sexually assaulted her at an Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors conference in Fort Worth.
Months later, authorities investigating the accusations decided not to charge Casares with any criminal wrongdoing.
In his job at IU, Casares sat on hearing panels for students who had filed sexual misconduct complaints on campus.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the name of the conference where a New York University official said she was sexually assaulted by an Indiana University official. The post has been updated.