A sealed civil case has been filed in federal court accusing the University, President Ruth Simmons, Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98, Senior Vice President for Corporation Affairs and Governance Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 and several other University employees of “acts tantamount to criminality,” false imprisonment, fraud and conspiracy to defraud, libel and 10 other counts of civil misconduct.
The claims stem from a September 2006 incident in which a former member of the class of 2010 was accused of raping a female student.
The female student and her father are accused in the complaint of extortion, fraud and conspiracy to defraud, libel and four other counts of civil misconduct. The Herald is withholding her name because she may have been the victim of a sex crime.
A complaint obtained by The Herald and filed in Rhode Island Superior Court last September on behalf of the plaintiffs — William McCormick III and his parents — alleges that pressure from University employees and the female student’s friends over several days led her to make a false accusation of rape against the plaintiff.
The complaint states that though an accusation of rape — which can carry a sentence of up to life in prison in Rhode Island — had been made, law enforcement officials were never notified of the matter.
This series of events has allegedly aggravated McCormick’s preexisting seizure condition. He and his parents are seeking unspecified damages from the defendants.
McCormick’s parents declined to comment and said their son could not be reached for comment.
The case was originally filed Sept. 4, 2009, in Rhode Island Superior Court, but according to a source familiar with the matter, the defendants removed it to the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island.
The source requested anonymity because there is an order from a federal judge sealing the case and the source was worried about potential legal consequences.
In an unusual move, the federal case, number 09-474-S, has been placed completely under seal. No publicly available record of that case, or the case originally filed in State Superior Court, number 09-5213, exists.
The complaint alleges that “financial self-interest” guided the University’s handling of the incident because the female student’s father, an alum, “has donated and raised very substantial sums of money for Brown.”
It asserts that the University was “desirous of keeping (the female student) content in the Brown community,” causing it to disregard its own policies and the well-being of the plaintiff.
The plaintiffs allege that the female student’s father was “in regular contact with the administration, including calling defendants Russell Carey and Ruth Simmons directly.”
The complaint alleges that, under pressure from friends and University officials, the female student eventually escalated initial “exaggerations and half-truths” about her relationship with the plaintiff to a false allegation of rape.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff and the female student came to be on friendly terms during the first days of their freshman year. But friends of the female student allegedly referred to him as her “stalker.”
The roommate of the female student allegedly encouraged her to express her concerns about a “ ‘creepy’ guy” to their Residential Counselor — a member of the class of 2009 — though the female student did not provide McCormick’s identity at that time. The RC allegedly then referred the matter to the Community Director on-call at the time.
The Community Director then referred the matter to Carla Hansen, associate dean of student life, who, according to the complaint, convinced the female student to meet with a special victims advocate at the Department of Public Safety.
Hansen, the advocate, and Director of Public Safety Mark Porter are all named as defendants in the case. In a phone interview with The Herald, Porter denied any knowledge of the case.
The complaint states that despite the female student’s resistance to pursuing the matter, she eventually acceded to pressure from University employees to divulge McCormick’s name, an act which compelled her to file a written complaint.
McCormick was then served a “no-contact order” by Associate Dean of Student Life Terry Addison, according to the complaint, and “in violation of Brown policies, he was not provided a copy of the complaint, nor was he told the substance of the allegations.”
The plaintiffs allege that the female student “felt that the Deans were ‘yelling at her’ ” and “pressing her to add to complaints about” McCormick. Friends of the female student then allegedly confronted her and, despite her denials, concluded that she had been raped, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that the female student stated in a subsequent conversation with the friends and the Residential Counselor that she had been raped.
The female student and resident advisor then met with Jonah Ward, now senior associate dean for student life, and Richard Bova, now senior associate dean of residential and dining services, according to the complaint. The RC allegedly spoke on behalf of the female student at the meeting and wrote the University claim alleging rape on her behalf.
The complaint states that, “in violation of its own policies, Brown accepted (the female student’s) new allegation of rape as true and refused to provide of a copy of the complaint to” McCormick. Ward, Bova and the RC are all named as defendants in the case.
The complaint alleges that the plaintiff was detained unlawfully at the Office of Student Life for several hours the next day. The complaint states that McCormick then met with Carey, Ward, Addison and Margaret Klawunn, now vice president for campus life and student services, who collectively compelled him to leave campus. It states that Carey handed the student a one-way plane ticket home.
Klawunn, who is named as a defendant, declined to comment and said she had no knowledge of the matter.
After McCormick’s return home, University officials allegedly “actively interfered” with his “ability to expose the truth and exonerate himself,” by obstructing his access to documents and witnesses, according to the complaint.
In an e-mail to The Herald, Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, wrote, “Matters related to students and former students are private and confidential.”
Kertzer declined to comment in an e-mail to The Herald. Simmons, Carey, Bova, Ward, Hansen and Addison did not return requests for comment.
The complaint alleges that the female student and her father were complicit in “extortion” of the former student “by threatening to accuse (McCormick) of a crime or other offense with the intent to compel him to sign an agreement to waive his rights and sacrifice his scholarship and Ivy League education.”
J. Scott Kilpatrick, the Providence lawyer listed as the author of the complaint, acknowledged that he is the McCormicks’ attorney but said that, under the present circumstances, he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any case.
According to the source familiar with the case, there will be some type of proceeding before District Judge William Smith at 11 a.m. Monday. Smith’s calendar, posted on the district court’s Web site, does not include an item at that time.