By Henri Gendreau
Kenyon College has been dismissed from a lawsuit brought by a former student alleging the College mishandled a 2012 sexual assault case against him.
Knox County Common Pleas Judge Otho Eyster said in an Aug. 7 court order that there “exists no genuine issue of material fact” in the counts brought by Stephen Zingarelli against the College.
In an email from Mark Ellis, director of Public Affairs, the College issued a statement in response to the dismissal: “We appreciate the ruling by the court. Given the facts of the case, this was the decision we sought and expected. Kenyon responded to the situation appropriately and with fairness.”
Zingarelli sued the College in December 2013, alleging breach of contract in how Kenyon followed its student conduct review process in the sexual assault case brought against him by a former student. The suit also included the former student and a Sexual Misconduct Advisor (SMA).
The Collegian does not name those who identify as victims of sexual assault.
Zingarelli withdrew from the College after being arrested for rape in December 2012. After a jury acquitted Zingarelli on charges of rape and gross sexual imposition on June 26, 2013, he was readmitted pending the outcome of a Student Conduct Review Board hearing. Zingarelli then withdrew his request for readmission.
Zingarelli claimed in the original lawsuit he had been unsuccessful in applying to other schools because of the “student conduct charges pending” note on his transcript. Zingarelli said the only way to fix that would be to face the hearing, which he alleged wouldn’t be fair, in part because of what the suit described as “institutional bias and discrimination against [Zingarelli] based on his gender.”
Eyster said last Friday that Zingarelli’s actions refuted the allegation that Kenyon mishandled its investigation into the claims of sexual assault.
“Zingarelli’s withdrawal (twice) from Kenyon prevented the hearing process from going forward and negates his claims that the charges were improperly investigated, the hearing process was improperly conducted, or that a hearing would have reached an improper result,” Eyster wrote.
Eyster also dismissed Zingarelli’s allegations of gender bias in the College’s handling of his case, “other tortious conduct,” and false light, stemming from reports of the sexual assault allegation against Zingarelli that appeared in The Kenyon Collegian and the Alumni Bulletin.
Zingarelli had also accused the College of negligence in the training of an SMA. He accused the SMA, Ellen Kaufman ’13, of negligence and destruction of evidence after she encouraged his accuser to delete text messages purportedly showing the “sexual relations at issue were voluntary and consensual,” according to the lawsuit.
On July 1, Eyster dismissed the counts against Kaufman, saying “the texts in question were not destroyed and were available to [Zingarelli] at all times on his own phone.”
Counts against the former student who accused Zingarelli of sexual assault, including defamation and malicious prosecution, are still pending. Her counterclaim for assault and battery is also pending, said Elizabeth Cooke, one of the attorneys for the accuser.
Voicemail messages seeking comment left with Zingarelli’s lawyers and lawyers representing Kenyon were not immediately returned. It was not clear whether or not the plaintiff would seek to appeal the decision.