By Dan Sewell
CINCINNATI (AP) — A star University of Dayton basketball player has sued the Ohio school in federal court over his suspension after a sexual assault accusation.
Dyshawn Pierre’s lawsuit asks a U.S. district court judge to order his reinstatement, and also seeks unspecified damages. The lawsuit notes that Montgomery County prosecutors declined to file charges against Pierre after what he says was a consensual sexual encounter with a female UD student last spring.
His lawsuit filed Wednesday says the school’s own investigation was “fundamentally unfair” and reached a “wholly irrational, unsubstantiated” conclusion after a hearing that failed to accommodate Pierre’s learning disability.
Pierre is represented by New York-based attorney Peter Ginsberg, whose athlete clients have included former Xavier University basketball player Dez Wells.
Wells, who went on to play for Maryland and was signed recently by the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, was expelled from Xavier in 2012 after a student at the Cincinnati school accused him of sexual assault. A grand jury declined to indict Wells, whose federal lawsuit was settled under confidential terms. Wells contended he had consensual sex with his accuser.
The school declined comment on the lawsuit, but said Thursday in a statement: “The University of Dayton’s processes are in compliance with U.S. Department of Education requirements.”
The 6-foot-6 senior, a 21-year-old native of Toronto, has played a key role in the Flyers’ recent basketball success. They made their second straight NCAA tournament appearance last March, after a surprising run in 2014, when they were among the tournament’s final eight teams.
Pierre, suspended for one semester after an August hearing, says the allegations against him are false and he wants a return to his normal life.
“And now, I find myself with my reputation tarnished, my schooling interrupted, and my dream of helping the basketball team win a national championship threatened,” Pierre said in statement released by Ginsberg’s office. Among other athletes Ginsberg has represented are football’s Ray Rice and Michael Irvin and basketball coach Larry Brown.
The lawsuit says Pierre has a learning disability that makes it difficult for him to articulate his thoughts, and the school improperly deprived him of meaningful representation in its hearing. It also says the university placed the burden on Pierre to prove he had consent. The suit says the hearing board subsequently notified Pierre he was “found responsible for sexual harassment.”
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