With criminal charges behind him following his acquittal last week on sexual assault charges, former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Quintez Cephus and his lawyers filed a petition Tuesday to readmit Cephus to UW-Madison, which had expelled him last semester.
“This afternoon, attorney (Kathleen) Stilling and myself filed at the direction and request of our client, a petition for readmission to the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” Cephus’ lawyer, Stephen Meyer, said in a statement Tuesday. “We have asked for a response by Thursday.”
Because the filing is confidential, Meyer said he would have no further comment.
Under UW System administrative code, the only way a student who has been expelled can be reinstated is by written petition, in this case to UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who would decide whether to reinstate Cephus. In cases involving alleged sexual assault, the code states, Blank would make the decision in consultation with the school’s Title IX coordinator.
The reinstatement filing was an abrupt change from earlier Tuesday, when lawyers who represented Cephus in a civil matter regarding his student disciplinary case told the Wisconsin State Journal it could be weeks before any decision was made about Cephus’ future.
“I think right now everyone’s sort of breathing a sigh of relief and recovering from what’s been a horrific year,” said Andrew Miltenberg, one of the lawyers representing Cephus in civil matters related to sexual assault accusations made against Cephus last year by two female UW-Madison students. “And he’s a good young man under the cloud of this year. He definitely wants to get back and continue his education and perhaps there’s some football in his future. But we haven’t decided what that path looks like.”
Cephus, 21, of Macon, Georgia, was charged last August with second- and third-degree sexual assault for an alleged April 22 incident at his apartment, but was found not guilty by a jury that deliberated for less than 45 minutes Friday after a week-long trial.
After he was charged, Cephus filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that UW violated his constitutional rights by pursuing a student disciplinary investigation while Cephus was unable to defend himself because of the then-ongoing criminal investigation. Cephus dropped the lawsuit in March. At the time, his lawyers said it could be re-filed after the criminal case had ended.
Earlier Tuesday, before Meyer announced the reinstatement bid, Miltenberg said that in “a week or two” plans may be formulated regarding Cephus’ future.
“He wants to get back to his education and to make a career in football,” Miltenberg said. “The path to that is what we’re going to think about.”
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Cephus said his lawyers will work with UW officials to “to clean up my record” so he can return to school, though he said then he didn’t know if he’ll return to UW.
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Cephus told the newspaper he also plans on playing football again and he is in “the best shape of my life.”
Cephus was initially suspended last August from the football team and UW-Madison launched an investigation under federal Title IX, which is intended in part to protect students from sexual harassment and sexual assault on college campuses. The student disciplinary process is different from a criminal proceeding in that the burden of proof is lower — cases must only be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard in criminal court. He was then expelled.
Stuart Bernstein, another of Cephus’ lawyers, said Cephus “could not participate and could not give a statement and answer questions” as part of the student disciplinary process because he wished to preserve his Fifth Amendment right to silence while the criminal case against him was pending.
“That’s our position,” Bernstein said.
Miltenberg added that students trying to defend themselves in Title IX matters in which there is a parallel criminal case are “really caught in a tough spot” because they should not say anything.
“If you really want to defend yourself and listen to your lawyer in a criminal case, part of that means you can’t say anything,” he said. “And that debate is an interesting one because schools are suspending and expelling people when there is certainly the specter of, or the promise of, a more complete investigation being done by law enforcement. So they’re essentially making decisions without all the tools that a prosecutor or investigator has at their disposal.”
Schools like UW have maintained that under federal law they cannot delay proceedings under Title IX to wait for the outcome of criminal proceedings, but instead must proceed expeditiously.
Some Badgers players started a campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #LetQTPlay supporting their former teammate's efforts to possibly become their teammate again.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.