A lawyer for a college student who was sexually assaulted at a fraternity “Date Night” party and then driven across campus and assaulted again asked a U.S. appeals court Tuesday to hold the public college liable.
Lawyer Patrick J. Whalen argued that Ramapo College of New Jersey created a dangerous environment by failing to monitor fraternities, discourage underage drinking and prevent sexual assaults.
Five former students, including a woman, were charged with taking part in the videotaped 2014 attack. Two of the men charged pleaded guilty to sex assault charges and were sentenced to about five years in prison, according to Whalen. The other three entered pretrial diversion programs.
The victim is now suing the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, college officials and the individuals involved. The victim filed the suit under a pseudonym. The Associated Press does not typically identify people alleging sexual assault.
Prosecutors have said two assailants played the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide who would sexually assault the heavily intoxicated woman first in a fraternity bedroom.
One of the perpetrators then drove her past a campus checkpoint, used a friend’s identification card to enter a freshman dorm and took her past a security desk even though neither lived there, Whalen said. He then sexually assaulted her while others watched or videotaped the crime, prosecutors said.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court in Philadelphia must decide if the assault stemmed from a state-created danger, a legal standard usually reserved for when the state takes an action that causes harm, not when it fails to act. However, Whalen argued that the line between the two is often blurred.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office said officials of the public college should be immune from damages.
“Here, all we have is passive inaction,” Deputy Attorney General Christopher Riggs argued Thursday. “No Ramapo officials had any knowledge of what was happening.”
Circuit Judge Cheryl A. Krause asked if the second assault occurred “only because they were allowed into unauthorized areas.”
Riggs represents the school’s president, acting dean, alcohol abuse coordinator and others. The three-judge panel did not indicate when it would rule.
The victim, a sophomore honors student at the time, left Ramapo and is not currently in college, Whalen said.
Ramapo, with about 6,000 students at its Bergen County campus, is located about 30 miles northwest of New York City.
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