Daily Egyptian

Basketball player’s sexual assault case prompted change in policy

By Kayli Plotner, @kayplot

Editor’s note: The following story stems from FOIA requests obtained by the Daily Egyptian. Neither the accused perpetrator or victim’s full names appeared in the FOIA documents.

The university dismissed a sexual assault claim against a Saluki men’s basketball player in 2014 using a procedure that did not exist at the time.

SIU’s sexual assault policy lists six outcomes for appeal proceedings. However, one of those outcomes was applied to a case belonging to a starting athlete before the policy was updated.

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Tyler Smithpeters was accused of sexual assault in the fall of 2014, university officials confirmed. Within the first two weeks of October, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities found him responsible for violating the SIU Student Conduct Code on charges of sexual assault, sexual harassment and underage possession or consumption of alcohol.

Smithpeters appealed the charges, and his case was reviewed by the chancellor’s office. The outcome of his appeal, “remand for new investigation,” was handed down by then interim-Chancellor Paul Sarvela on Oct. 14, 2014.

“Remand for new investigation” did not become an official outcome for a sexual assault appeal until January 2015.

Smithpeters was reportedly not practicing with the team on Oct. 14, 2014. However, he was confirmed to be back at practice and a member of the team the following day.

Smithpeters declined to be interviewed for this story and said he would prefer not to revisit the topic. Linda McCabe Smith, associate chancellor for institutional diversity, deferred to SIU’s legal counsel, Reona Daly, and ultimately to university spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith, who said the university is unable to comment on specific cases.

The outcome of the second investigation, which was conducted by McCabe Smith at the request of Sarvela, was “insufficient evidence to support a charge of sexual assault.” During McCabe Smith’s second investigation “witnesses were interviewed and other evidence gathered previously was taken into consideration.”

“The university protocol was followed to the letter, and vetted through the proper channels by multiple university entities at the highest level,” said Mario Moccia, former SIU athletic director. “There was no finding, and thus there was no need to take action on the situation.”

MORE: SIU under U.S. Department of Education investigation for handling of sexual assault cases | Majority of sexual assaults on campus are in student housing

On Oct. 15, 2014, the Office of Diversity and Equity received an appeal from the victim to the outcome of McCabe Smith’s decision.

David DiLalla, associate provost for academic administration, took over the case after Sarvela’s death. DiLalla also declined to comment for this story.

DiLalla’s letter of decision rejected the victim’s appeal. The victim’s reasons for appeal were:

  • The accused party lied in his original statement and was allowed to make another.
  • The accused party was allowed on campus and to continue practicing, despite the outcome of the first investigation resulting in suspension — the 2014 Student Conduct Code states that “sanctions become effective on the date they are communicated in writing to the student and are not held in abeyance pending the filing or outcome of any appeal.”
  • Sarvela re-opened an investigation, rather than sending the case back to Student Rights and Responsibilities for a new hearing.

DiLalla rejected the procedural point, writing: “I understand that the code does not provide the specific remedy for reinvestigation … A new hearing for this sexual misconduct case would not have accomplished the development of new facts, and here, where the University failed to garner sufficient information to make a determination, a reinvestigation was the fairest option for both parties.”

MORE: Victim’s choice leading reason for dropped sexual assault claimsSIU fails to redact names in sexual assault documents

DiLalla denied the victim’s appeal.

“This decision is final, and there is no further avenue for appeal,” the letter reads.

The 2015 Student Conduct Code, amended in January 2015, includes “remand for new investigation” as an outcome for sexual assault appeals. The update also states that students who were sanctioned for violating the Student Conduct Code do not have to serve their punishment during the appeals process. 

Kayli Plotner can be reached at 618-536-3325 or [email protected]

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