By Delaney Brown
A former Student Government leader contends that the text messages and statements of a female student who accused him of sexual assault are contradictory and cast doubt on her credibility.
In arguments filed Sept. 28 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, the former leader’s attorneys say those contradictions support his contention that he should not have been expelled from the university in May.
They say a series of text messages the accuser sent their client in the hours after spending the night in his dorm room undercut her accusations and the findings of the student conduct board that decided to kick him out of school.
In a case like this, the conduct board’s “findings had to turn on the credibility” of the female student,” the attorneys say. “But the undisputed evidence in this case demonstrates that the complaining party was not credible.”
Neither student is named in court documents, which call the female student “Jane Roe.” But the male student is clearly Samuel Goetz, who resigned as vice president-elect of Student Government on April 17, seven weeks after he was elected.
Goetz’s expulsion was upheld by Dean of Students Joseph Diaz on May 10, and on June 28 Goetz sued the university.
Goetz is not seeking re-enrollment, but he hopes to overturn the expulsion and clear his record as he continues his education and prepares for a career.
The expulsion grew out of an incident in Goetz’s dormitory room on the night of Sept. 28-29, 2016.
Roe accepted Goetz’s invitation to come to his room to “cuddle.” But that led to what the university calls “non-consensual sexual contact” and “non-consensual sexual intercourse.”
Goetz has countered that “every moment of my encounter with (Roe) was consensual.”
In its Aug. 25 response to Goetz’s suit, the university stressed the contradictions in his statements to university investigators.
He first acknowledged having non-consensual sexual intercourse with Roe, the university says. But when he appeared at the student conduct board hearing two months later, he denied it.
Now, Goetz’s attorneys, Mark J. O’Brien and Victoria E. Hatfield, contend that Roe’s statements are contradictory as well.
On the morning after the encounter, the attorneys’ filing says, Roe sent Goetz a text message (“Food?”) inviting him to breakfast.
“Roe then continues to have text message conversations with (Goetz), all of which she initiates,” the attorneys say.
Later, she texted, “Is it too presumptuous to ask what you’re doing tonight?” then later asked, “How was your night?”
The following day, Goetz’s attorneys say, Roe sent him texts saying, “Fam, you know what sounds good?” and “Watcha doing?”
Those texts, the attorneys contend, underscore the point that “every reason that the (conduct) board listed as a reason to find (Goetz) not credible could have been said of Roe.”
In a separate document, Roe says that at the time she invited Goetz to breakfast she did not yet realize that what had happened was inappropriate. It wasn’t until later that day after talking to a friend Roe realized “that what he did wasn’t okay and that anal sex is still sex and rape.”
In the filing, Goetz’s attorneys contend he has suffered a financial loss, “but more importantly a stigma that may very well preclude his admission to another university” and a career “that requires a clean conduct record, such as becoming an attorney.”
The attorneys also repeat their assertions that Goetz was denied due process in the investigation, denied an opportunity to prepare fully for his conduct board hearing and denied an opportunity to pose questions to his accuser.
For Goetz’s lawyers the decision of the panel must reflect the credibility of the complainant. “After all, it is the complaining party that made the allegation and initiated the proceeding,” they say.
His expulsion “was not based on competent substantial evidence,” they say.