Recall, if you will, that the University of Iowa's latest football-related legal scandal (aside from last night's public intox arrest of incoming freshman Riley Reiff, anyway) came about six weeks ago when freshman defensive backs Cedric Everson and Abe Satterfield were arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault. What made the assault case peculiar is that it allegedly happened in late October, and investigations by public safety didn't even take place until about a month later. Everson and Satterfield transferred after the fall semester.
Why the long delay, you may be asking? The victim's mother wondered the same thing.
In a letter to the University dated November 19, 2007 and released today by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the mother detailed a long list of frustrations in relation to the school's handling of the case. The concerns ranged from the university's preference to keep punishment for the alleged sexual assault "in house" to the general welfare and safety of the alleged victim.
The University offered a response that included the following passage:
The safety and well-being of the student has always been at the forefront of our concern. Each step of the way everyone involved with the University worked in accordance with University policy and procedures and attempted to convey those policies and procedures to the student and her family.The mother's letter, however, paints a starkly different picture.
In a letter sent last fall to UI officials that she provided Thursday to the Press-Citizen, the alleged victim's mother chronicled the process she and her family followed and the university's response during a five-week period following the October 2007 alleged assault at Hillcrest Residence Hall.The mother's complaints reach every conceivable corner of the UI athletic department. Within 36 hours of the incident, the victim (herself an athlete) repeated her allegations to the following members of the department:
"University of Iowa's character was non-existent. It is disappointing to say the very least," the alleged victim's mother said in a phone interview. "We were told the school will take care of it. We will keep it in house. We will be swift. We will be just, and you don't have to worry about it."
- · Gary Barta, athletic director
- · Fred Mims, associate athletic director
- · Kirk Ferentz, head football coach
- · The victim's head coach
- · Betsy Altmaier, representative on the Presidential Committee of Athletics
Altmaier turned the case over to UI General Counsel Mark Mills on October 20, despite the fact that Mills and his office are nowhere to be found in the official UI policy on sexual assault (pops to large PDF). From then on, according to the letter, the UI appeared to try to freeze the family out of the process:
"From that day forward, any communication regarding this situation was initiated by the father. He was directed to speak with Mark Mills. ... We were never given any clear reason why he was now involved.The inclusion of the general counsel is especially curious. Not only is it not part of UI policy, but the only reason he would get involved is if the situation was a legal problem for the university. What would he have to protect the University's best interests from? Did the University bring him in anticipation of a civil suit? If so, why?
"We asked over and over and over and over and over and over -- what is the process? What can we expect? Who is protecting the victim after she told her story to so many people that first week? Where are these boys in all of this? NO ANSWERS. Only, due process, due process."
The University of Iowa administration should have little problem understanding and following policy on reporting sexual assault by its student athletes. After the embarrassment the UI suffered in the wake of the Pierre Pierce debacles (yes, plural), the process was overhauled in 2003 and streamlined to avoid any confusion on the part of both victim and officials.
As for treatment of the athletes, Satterfield and Everson were suspended from the football immediately, then transferred to different I-AA schools to continue playing football. In an interview this spring, Satterfield's new coach (and former Illinois head coach) Lou Tepper had this to say about his new recruit:
"I said, 'Would you take him back if you could?' Tepper told the Indiana Gazette. "And they said, 'Absolutely.' They told me that he might have started for them next year at corner. They were all high on him. He seems like a great kid."Absent any charges, the two athletes were allowed to remain on campus. Everson even moved in with his girlfriend, who just so happened to live three doors away from the alleged victim.
Speaking of dorm rooms, the alleged assault occurred in a "ghost room," registered to a third player but unoccupied. After the incident, according to affadavits obtained by the Press-Citizen, Ferentz ordered the player to reoccupy the room, and a different player moved into the room as well. The room was never secured, evidence was never gathered from it, and the incoming players cleaned all the mess from the alleged assault.
Per UI policy, the case (as with all similar cases) was referred to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (EOD). All in the department declined comment, but the letter alleges an unreasonable level of hostility from the staff during the week of October 21, 2007:
"They were aggressive and forceful in their interviewing tactics and accusatory in their stance. She told me afterwards, while crying, that they basically accused her of bringing this upon herself. She was interviewed with the intention of making her feel that she caused this. ...The situation sufficiently frustrated the alleged victim's parents that they finally contacted Sally Mason, the president of the University of Iowa, on November 19. The letter cited by the Press-Citizen was written the same day.
"Her friends were called in as well, not having any idea what they were being called in for, and without the mention, again, of the right to an advocate, and they also left crying feeling as if they had committed some kind of crime by being associated with the victim and this situation," according to the letter.
Mason, too, did little to assuage the mother's fears that the University was not adequately addressing the situation:
"She shared her concern but told me in no uncertain terms that she very rarely gets involved with things of this nature. Isn't that the truth? Me neither," the letter stated.UI policy also dictates that the Vice President of Student Services, Phillip Jones, should be notified of the charges at the same time as the EOD. However, the alleged victim's mother says when she contacted Jones in November, he said did not know "anything about this investigation." Jones asked whether the alleged victim could even be safe entering her dorm, to which she replied that she'd already been doing just that by herself for five weeks after the alleged assault.
[...] "I told her she might like to take a minute with me and she simply told me she would direct me to someone who handles these things. My question today is WHO IS THAT PERSON AND WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN FOR THE PAST FIVE WEEKS?" according to the letter.
On Nov 19, the day the letter is dated, Mason told the Press-Citizen editorial board that UI had been working closely with the alleged victim and the alleged victim's family and the university had tried to keep the wishes of the alleged victim in mind every step of the way during the investigation.
One day after Jones was contacted (and nine days after Public Safety became involved), the University finally announced that they were investigating the alleged sexual assault, one month to the day after the incident. It took over six more months for any arrests to occur, and both await trial.
Another player, Jevon Pugh, was questioned by police, then implicated by the Press-Citizen, but he was never suspended by the football team or charged with a crime. Pugh, despite having a starting role all but assured for the 2008, quietly left Iowa this spring. The alleged victim has since withdrawn as well.
Obviously, this letter contains very serious charges of at best incompetence, and at worst conspiracy and malice. At the very least, it raises quite a few questions that the UI must answer in order to maintain even a semblance of integrity. They can start with these:
- · The mother's letter calls much of the UI's official statement into question. What parts of her letter are incorrect, and what actually happened?
- · Did nobody advise the alleged victim to retain a victim advocate? If so, why?
- · Why was the general counsel involved?
- · Why, in apparent violation of UI guidelines, was the Office of Student Services not involved until the parents contacted them?
- · What actions did Sally Mason take to ensure proper procedure was being followed after being apprised otherwise by the alleged victim's family?
- · Why was the dorm room not secured and searched for evidence?
- · Why, despite daily confrontations from the accused, did the alleged victim not receive any sort of protection until she contacted police?
- · How much about the incident did Kirk Ferentz actually know, and why did he tell Satterfield's new coach he'd take Satterfield back if he could?
- · Whose best interests does the University of Iowa really serve?