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College apparently settles with accused student whose disability made alleged rape impossible

Allegations depend on him having functional feet

Colleges sometimes undertake such mediocre investigations of sexual-assault allegations that they ignore or wave off basic factual problems with the allegations.

In the case of Augustana University, those include the impossibility of an accused student being able physically to have committed the alleged rape.

The Argus Leader reports that Koh Tsuruta and the South Dakota private school have jointly agreed to dismiss his federal lawsuit against the university for expelling him. Neither lawyer is talking, so it’s not clear whether the action counts as a settlement in which Tsuruta obtained any financial consideration or otherwise favorable terms.

Still, it seems pretty likely he came out with something substantial, because the judge in the case approved Tsuruta’s lawsuit (actually his second against Augustana) to move forward less than two months ago, after Augustana’s unpersuasive motion to dismiss.

The Argus Leader reported then that Judge Karen Schrier said the student “has pleaded sufficient facts to support his claims” that Augustana employees “weren’t properly trained in investigating and adjudicating allegations of rape” and they ignored witnesses in his favor.

They wouldn’t have even known about the allegations without Tsuruta, he claims: He was the one who told Augustana that he had been accused of rape. His accuser only told police “a month later at the school’s behest.”

She said Tsuruta chased her down as she tried to leave his apartment. That’s an important nugget that the incompetent investigators ignored, particularly because she wasn’t exactly a credible person.

Tsuruta lost most of his feet in an accident several years ago. He was “physically incapable of committing the rape as alleged.” (You can read about his troubled history and school’s possible motivation in giving him a shady proceeding in this comprehensive Argus Leader profile from last fall.)

Investigators also ignored that his accuser was a serial accuser who had “accused other students of sexual misconduct, including threatening a prior boyfriend with a false rape allegation,” and didn’t bother to look at “potentially exculpatory emails.”

Perhaps a judge or jury could have been convinced that Tsuruta somehow did rape his accuser in a way she didn’t allege, viewing the “totality of the evidence” (as real courts of law are bound to do).

But the criminal case was evidently so weak it got dropped after Augustana expelled Tsuruta. (Judge Schrier approved the release of his accuser’s mental-health records to his lawyers, after which “she supported dropping the charges.”)

The university would have been wise at that point to look at the evidence again and preemptively offer to reinstate Tsuruta, rather than filing a motion to dismiss that probably made Judge Schrier roll her eyes:

Tsuruta, of course, would like to seek vengeance for his expulsion and depose those he thinks wronged him, including his accuser. But he simply has no contract with the university that would allow him to pursue this case beyond the pleading stage.

Yeah, except for the thousands in tuition Augustana took from him (his property right) and Keystone Kops investigation it ran against him that branded this crippled man a rapist, perhaps the most scurrilous accusation in America (his liberty right).

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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