West Virginia Record

Friday, August 23, 2019

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against Marshall for sexual assault handling

Federal Court

By Kyla Asbury | Jul 29, 2019


HUNTINGTON — A federal judge granted a motion for summary judgment for the defendant in a case against Marshall University for its handling of a sexual assault case.

District Judge Robert C. Chambers granted Marshall University Board of Governor's motion for summary judgment on July 23. He noted in the order that the reasons for granting the order would be included in a forthcoming memorandum opinion and order that will be filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia later.

In May, the defendant made the motion for summary judgment.

"Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Marshall University is entitled to summary judgment on the Plaintiff’s sole count under Title IX because the Plaintiff cannot show that Marshall University was deliberately indifferent, that Marshall University’s actions were clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances, or that she was subjected to an ongoing hostile environment," the motion stated. "No genuine issues of material facts exist with respect to the aforementioned issues."

Alicia Gonzales filed the lawsuit Jan. 31, 2018, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

On Feb. 1, 2016, the plaintiff was violently and forcibly raped in her dorm room by a fellow Marshall University student, Joseph Chase Hardin, according to the suit.

The plaintiff claimed she immediately contacted her two best friends after Hardin left her dorm room and they collected evidence of the rape and went to the local healthcare facility and a rape kit was administered.

The following day, the plaintiff and her two best friends went to Marshall University Police Department and reported the rape and that same day, the rape was reported to Lisa Martin, Marshall University’s director of student conduct, according to the suit.

Gonzales claimed on March 10, 2016, Martin informed her and Hardin that she had reached a decision on the disciplinary charges and that she had determined that Hardin had raped the plaintiff and she ordered Hardin expelled from the university.

On March 11, 2016, Hardin appealed the decision and remained on campus during the appeal process, according to the suit.

Gonzales claimed the student conduct panel conducted a hearing on May 4, 2016, and she was not permitted in the room during the hearing, despite the fact that the procedure for the hearings mandates that the complainant may be present for all parts of the hearing. Hardin was allowed to remain in the room the entire hearing.

Ultimately, the student conduct panel found that there was insufficient evidence to uphold Hardin’s expulsion and determined that no sanctions should be levied against him, according to the suit.

On Jan. 11, 2017, Hardin pled guilty to the criminal offense of battery related to the incident and, while the battery is an expellable offense according to Marshall’s Student Handbook, Hardin was reinstated to Marshall and permitted on campus right after pleading guilty in criminal court, according to the suit.

Gonzales was seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is being represented by Amy C. Crossan of Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 3:18-cv-00235

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