A California judge has ordered the University of Southern California to stay its expulsion of football player Bryce Dixon, who was expelled late last year for alleged sexual assault.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert H. O'Brien granted Dixon's request for a stay of the results of a disciplinary process that was "lacking in due process, with no hearing, no right to counsel, no rules of evidence, no presumption of innocence, no right to possess copies of witness statements and evidence and no right to confront witnesses against him," according to Dixon's writ of administrative mandate.
Dixon's expulsion comes from an accusation of sexual assault lodged against him by a female athletic trainer. She filed two accusations against Dixon, but he was only found responsible for one.
The first accusation stemmed from an Oct. 9, 2014, encounter between Dixon and the accuser. The two had previously talked on the phone and sent text messages, and ran into each other around 3 a.m. The accuser had been at a fraternity party and hugged Dixon. She and her friends invited Dixon and his friends for a late-night swim at their apartment complex.
Once at the accuser's apartment, she invited Dixon into her bedroom to use a phone charger. She then proceeded to change into her bathing suit in front of Dixon and the two began fondling each other on her bed. When the accuser said she wasn't feeling well, Dixon says he stopped, made sure she was okay, and left, even though she allegedly invited him to stay the night.
The next day, the accuser texted Dixon to say she had blacked out and didn't remember what happened. Dixon told her what they did. Dixon was cleared by USC's Title IX investigator, Kegan Allee, because "there was no evidence to suggest that the female trainer demonstrated a lack of capacity in front of Mr. Dixon," according to Dixon's petition.
But the accuser's second claim stuck. On Oct. 23, 2014, the accusing student rode her bicycle to Dixon's apartment around midnight to smoke marijuana. Dixon believed something sexual would happen because of the earlier encounter (he had not yet been accused of assault for that night) and the fact that the female student was coming over so late at night.
After walking to get a burrito, the two returned to Dixon's apartment and went into his bedroom, as his roommate and roommate's girlfriend were in the living room. The two eventually engaged in sexual intercourse, which Dixon described as consensual. He said the accuser was "an active participant" in the activity.
The couple in the living room said they heard "normal-people-having-sex" sounds coming from Dixon's room.
The next day, the accuser told her boyfriend, another USC athlete, about the encounter. He was never called as a witness during the disciplinary hearing, which Dixon believes is because the boyfriend felt the encounter was consensual.
The accuser had sought medical tests a week after the encounter, but declined at the time to participate in a criminal accusation. Two weeks after the sexual encounter, the female student filed an accusation with the university.
The accusation was investigated solely by Allee, who is named in Dixon's lawsuit against the university. Not only did Allee conduct the investigation and interview witnesses, she also was responsible for determining a judgment against Dixon and assigning sanctions.
USC claims to provide students a "fair, thorough, neutral and impartial investigation," yet Allee's background is in victim advocacy. So not only was she the investigator, judge and jury determining Dixon's fate, she was also an advocate for the accuser — a conflict of interest that is only exacerbated by the fact that Dixon's guilt in this case is by no means clear-cut.
Allee acknowledged in her report the accuser never asked Dixon to stop or showed lack of consent. Allee, using a "yes-means-yes" standard of consent, asked Dixon to prove the female student consented. Dixon explained that she was "lip biting, moaning, kissing me back on my neck" during the activity and had laid naked on his bed while he put on a condom.
But Dixon had no evidence of consent, such as a videotape. Despite his roommate's assertion the sex sounded consensual, Allee sided with the accuser. Such is the problem with yes-means-yes policies.
Dixon appealed to USC's anonymous Student Behavior Appeals Panel. The university doesn't identify the members of the panel, their qualifications, responsibilities, procedures or how they deliberate. This secret panel upheld Allee's findings and expelled Dixon.
"All I did was tell the truth, and I feel I was vilified by the investigator and was guilty from the start and never had a chance to get a fair opportunity to defend myself," Dixon said in his lawsuit. "I thought I would just tell the truth and it would be over. My only wish in this world was to be a USC Trojan and to be successful while being a student athlete at one of the finest institutions in the world. I did not know it could all end by having a false allegation thrown at me."
The judge's order to stay Dixon's expulsion is not a clear indication he will win his case. But it does allow Dixon to continue his education in case he does eventually win, meaning that his future would not be compromised even if he is ultimately absolved.
If he ultimately loses, he will be expelled at that time. In the meantime, he has lost his football scholarship either way.
This is another clear case of accused student's lacking any semblance of due process. Dixon was not given a hearing, allowed to see the evidence and witness statements against him or allowed to confront his accuser. He was allowed legal counsel, but his attorney could not represent or speak for him during the disciplinary process.
Dixon's attorney, Mark Hathaway, issued a statement in response to the judge's ruling.
"Judge O'Brien agreed with Bryce that USC's Title IX sexual misconduct investigation was unfair and lacks due process." Hathaway said. "USC's investigator acts as police, prosecutor and judge. There is no hearing, no right to counsel, no rules of evidence, no presumption of innocence and no right to confront witnesses. Courts are beginning to recognize the injustice imposed on students."