Suspended UW-Madison wide receiver Quintez Cephus, who was charged in August with sexual assaults of two women in April, sued the university on Tuesday alleging that it violated his constitutional rights by going ahead with a student disciplinary investigation despite Cephus’ inability to participate in it because of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Cephus, 20, a Macon, Georgia, native who was suspended from the team in August after he was charged with second- and third-degree sexual assault, claimed in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that a Title IX investigation against him that has been ongoing at UW-Madison since May 31 is unfair and should be stopped.
On Aug. 31, the lawsuit states, Title IX coordinator Lauren Hasselbacher issued her initial investigative report, despite Cephus’ “inability to participate in an interview or otherwise meaningfully participate in the university’s process,” due to the ongoing criminal case against Cephus.
“Defendants have knowingly and intentionally forced (Cephus) into the predicament of having to either waive his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by choosing to participate in the university process despite the potential harm to his criminal defense,” the lawsuit states, “or decline to participate in the university’s process thus leading to the inevitable finding of responsibility and severe sanctions.”
Sanctions can include expulsion from UW.
The matter, the lawsuit states, “highlights the widespread issue of colleges and universities, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, investigating and adjudicating allegations against its students prior to the conclusion of any parallel criminal case.”
In addition to the UW Board of Regents and Hasselbacher, the lawsuit also names as defendants Cathy Trueba, director of the Office of Compliance at UW-Madison, and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank.
“We have not yet reviewed this lawsuit. However, we are confident that our processes related to these types of investigations comply with federal law,” UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified money for emotional and psychological damage, damage to Cephus’ reputation and future career prospects, and past and future economic losses, among other damages. It characterizes Cephus as a “star wide receiver” and “a strong candidate to be a high draft pick in the National Football League.”
It also seeks an order barring UW from violating Cephus’ due process rights while investigating sexual misconduct complaints against him, an injunction barring UW from violating Cephus’ equal protection rights and an injunction barring racial discrimination against Cephus during its investigation.
The lawsuit also demands that UW suspend its disciplinary proceedings against Cephus until the criminal case against him is resolved.
A criminal complaint against Cephus alleges that he had sex with the two women at his Spring Street apartment on April 26 even though they were too intoxicated to consent to sex.
Cephus told police that the sex was consensual, the complaint states. In motions filed in court, Cephus’ lawyers, Stephen Meyer and Kathleen Stilling, maintained that surveillance video at Cephus’ apartment building, along with text messages between one of the women and Cephus after the alleged assaults, shows that the two women were not too intoxicated to consent to sex.
Cephus was ordered to stand trial in the case. He is due back in court for an arraignment on Thursday.
Cephus is being represented in his lawsuit by a second set of lawyers, including a trio from a New York City firm and a Milwaukee attorney.