Section: News

Kenyon motions for dismissal of Zingarelli lawsuit

Lawyers for Kenyon College responded on Jan. 6 to former student Stephen Zingarelli’s lawsuit, which seeks damages from the College, Ellen Kaufman ’13 and a former student who accused Zingarelli of rape and gross sexual imposition last June.

The College, which is represented by Columbus-based law firm Bricker & Eckler LLP, also filed a motion to dismiss the case on Jan. 6, claiming that Zingarelli had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Zingarelli’s lawyers, Gregory O’Brien and Eric Weiss of Cavitch, Familo & Durkin Co., LPA, filed a memorandum in opposition to the College’s motion to dismiss on Tuesday.

The court also issued a second summons for Kaufman on Tuesday, who must appear in court before the trial can begin.

The College’s answer to Zingarelli’s complaint, essentially a line-by-line disputation of the suit, denies that Kenyon — and by extension Kaufman, who acted as a Sexual Misconduct Advisor for Zingarelli’s accuser — advised his accuser to spoil any evidence related to the sexual assault trial.

The suit alleges that Zingarelli’s accuser “willfully destroyed text messages that demonstrated the voluntary and consensual nature of the sexual relations between them.”

Zingarelli was found not guilty of rape and gross sexual imposition on June 26, 2013.

The College also denied any breach of Title IX, a federal statute banning discrimination on the basis of sex at educational institutions.

“Kenyon complied with obligations under IX, properly balanced those obligations with respect to all relevant parties and did not act with deliberate indifference,” the College’s answer to the complaint read.

The College flatly denied the majority of Zingarelli’s allegations, often citing a lack of information. On Wednesday, the College released a statement on the Zingarelli case through the Office of Public Affairs.

“Kenyon College will defend the integrity of its rules of governance and student conduct in the matter of a lawsuit filed by former student Stephen Zingarelli in Knox County Common Pleas Court on Dec. 5, 2013 against the College and others. The College believes the allegations are unfounded,” the statement said.

“Out of concern for the rights of the former students involved, and as a matter of policy, the College declines any further statement at this time.”

Zingarelli’s suit against the College is currently in discovery — a pre-trial phase during which the plaintiff and defendants can obtain evidence from one another.

On Tuesday, Zingarelli’s attorneys reasserted that evidence in his sexual assault trial was spoiled.

“Stephen alleges that by deleting the text messages from [her] phone, [his accuser] and Kaufman made it more difficult for him to defend against [his accuser’s] false accusations,” the memo opposing the case’s dismissal read.

The memo claims the text messages were “exculpatory,” or significant enough to “make the difference between conviction and acquittal.” Although Zingarelli was in fact acquitted, his claim to damages rests in part on the allegation that evidence that would have precluded his arrest was destroyed before he went to trial.

Judge Otho Eyster, who is presiding over the suit, has not yet ruled on the motion to dismiss. If the motion is denied, the suit will go to trial at the end of the discovery period unless a settlement is reached.

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