MADISON (WKOW) – Suspended Badger football player Quintez Cephus filed a federal lawsuit against university leaders, maintaining his rights to due process have been violated by a university investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct.
Cephus’ lawsuit filed Tuesday also maintains pressure from a university donor and racial bias played roles in the university investigation.
Cephus is criminally charged with the April sexual assault of two UW students, with his arraignment in the case Thursday. Cephus maintains his sexual contact with his accusers was consensual.
Cephus’ Boston-based attorney Tara Davis tells 27 News Cephus has been unable to speak to university investigators over concerns any provided information could be used to try to incriminate him in his pending, Dane County court case.
“If they move towards a resolution without providing him an opportunity to defend himself and present his account, it’s absolutely unlawful,” Davis tells 27 News, about the UW investigators.
Davis maintains the father of one of the student accusers has ties to UW and pressured UW leaders in the university case on Cephus.
“We believe some threats or some intimidation tactic was made…given his position and his status as an alumnus of the university, a donor…to move the case along,” Davis tells 27 News.
Cephus appears to have telegraphed those concerns in an August tweet announcing a leave of absence from the team. “I realize that I don’t have the relationships and political pull that others may have here at the University,” Cephus tweeted Aug. 18, days before he was criminally charged.
Cephus is African American and Davis maintains the student accuser’s father was discriminatory in urging university action against Cephus.
“We believe something was said in the nature of a racist comment towards my client,” Davis tells 27 News.
The lawsuit states lead UW investigator Lauren Hasselbacher acted on the father’s urgings.
“Hasselbacher’s actions were motivated by racist animus,” the lawsuit states.
A source with knowledge of the university investigation into Cephus spoke to 27 News on the condition of anonymity, because the person was not authorized to speak publicly. The source maintains the student accuser’s father made no racist comment.
Cephus is asking the federal court to halt the university investigation before an expulsion or other outcome takes place.
UW-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone released the following statement to 27 News:
“UW–Madison is continuing with our process which is consistent with what federal law requires us to do. The Department of Education’s September 2017 Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct requires universities to conduct prompt and equitable resolution of allegations of sexual misconduct. The Department of Education’s 2001 Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance, which is still in effect, explains that pending criminal investigations and court proceedings…do not excuse universities from their independent obligation to promptly and effectively respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. These federal requirements have been incorporated into UW-Madison’s Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence, which can be accessed here. It is standard practice at UW and at many universities across the country to handle student misconduct allegations independent of the criminal justice process. This applies not just to sexual misconduct but to all types of misconduct.”
Davis says aggressive actions by UW and other universities in connection with campus, sexual misconduct investigations have compromised student rights.