Feb 23, 2021
Ex-Wisconsin receiver Cephus sues school over 2018 expulsion
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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Former Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the university that he was used as a scapegoat during a sexual assault investigation that resulted in his temporary expulsion.
Cephus seeks unspecified damages in his lawsuit filed in federal court in Madison, accusing the defendants of violating his due process rights, violating Title IX provisions and breach of contract.
Cephus was suspended from the Badgers football team in August 2018 and was expelled from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for violating its nonacademic misconduct code as part of a Title IX investigation following his arrest on second- and third-degree sexual assault charges.
After a jury acquitted Cephus, he was reinstated and led Wisconsin in receiving during the 2019 season as the Badgers went 10-4 and reached the Rose Bowl. Cephus recently completed his rookie season with the Detroit Lions, who took him in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.
University officials did not immediately respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment about the lawsuit.
Cephus’ lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg, said he’s spoken with NFL agents and draft analysts who believe Cephus would have been drafted earlier if not for his expulsion.
“He wants to set a precedent so that schools are more careful and more diligent in how they proceed on these cases and not just sort of rushing ahead to judgment when they know for a fact they don’t have all the evidence,” Miltenberg said.
The complaint says that Wisconsin was “seeking to push for harsh male prosecutions in order to remedy its long-standing failure to address sexual assault complaints.” The complaint adds that Cephus’ status as a well-known football player made him “the perfect candidate for the university to prove its investigative efforts and punish accused males in a high-profile way.”
Defendants include Chancellor Rebecca Blank, campus Title IX coordinator Lauren Hasselbacher and the school’s board of regents.
The criminal charges stemmed from an incident at Cephus’ Madison apartment in April 2018. Cephus engaged in sexual acts with two 18-year-old Wisconsin students, who later said they were raped and too drunk to consent. Cephus said the sex was consensual.
Cephus’ lawyers say in the complaint that the schools’ Title IX investigation was “an egregious miscarriage of justice.” That investigation concluded that Cephus “more likely than not” sexually assaulted the women.
Cephus’ lawyers argue that the university should have delayed the investigation until the conclusion of the criminal proceeding because there was relevant evidence that wouldn’t be released until after the criminal case was closed. They say that included video evidence disputing the women’s claims that they were intoxicated that evening.
They say that the school acknowledged it had unsuccessfully attempted to obtain this evidence and went ahead with its disciplinary hearing anyway.
The complaint also says two female students’ statements were consistently taken at face value and that the investigation was biased with a lack of transparency.
The lawsuit comes five months after one of the female students involved in the case sued the university over its 2019 decision to reverse Cephus’ expulsion and allow him back on the football team.
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Saint Sabina to withhold $10K monthly assessments to Archdiocese following investigation into Father Michael Pfleger
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Archdiocese of Chicago said Friday that it has received a letter from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services stating that DCFS has concluded its investigation into Father Michael Pfleger, the St. Sabina pastor who faces two sexual abuse allegations.
However, the leadership and cabinet of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina announced Sunday that they intend to withhold approximately $10,000 a month in assessments to the Archdiocese starting next month and until the investigation is concluded.
"In its continued effort to get the Archdiocese of Chicago to swiftly conclude its investigation into the allegations against Fr. Pfleger, that it has made the decision to withhold the monthly assessments of the church and school to the Archdiocese starting in March. These assessments total approximately $100,000 per month," officials said in a statement. "To be clear these funds being withheld will not be used for ministry, outreach, or any current or future programs, but will be set aside to be paid at the conclusion of the investigation."
Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich asked Fr. Pfleger to step away from ministry at St. Sabina parish on Chicago's South Side in early January when Pfleger was initially accused of sexually abusing a minor more than 40 years ago. According to the archdiocese, the brother of the first alleged victim of abuse also made a claim last month.
The agency was investigating risk, the archdiocese said, not the allegations of abuse dating back four decades.
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Father Michael Pfleger responded Wednesday to an allegation that he sexually abused a child decades ago.
In a statement, DCFS confirmed: "The law does not permit DCFS to investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect made by an adult victim. DCFS can only determine whether there is a current child victim."
The archdiocese said DCFS has completed its investigation into Pfleger and said in part, "DCFS has determined the report to be 'unfounded.' This means that credible evidence of child abuse or neglect was not found during this investigation. This does not necessarily mean that an incident did not occur. An incident may have occurred but the evidence did not rise to the level required to indicate for abuse or neglect as dictated by state law and DCFS Administrative Rule."
RELATED: 'He will be fully exonerated': St. Sabina announces 'full support' of Fr. Pfleger after child sex abuse allegation
"The Independent Review Board of the archdiocese will conduct its investigation into the allegations and will communicate its findings in due course. Fr. Pfleger will remain away from the parish pending the outcome of that process," the archdiocese said in a statement.
"I would hope and expect I would be returned to ministry quickly," Pfleger told ABC7 Chicago by phone Friday.
In the meantime, parishioners have continued many of the initiatives Father Pfleger worked on before the investigation, such as distributing food to seniors and others in the Auburn Gresham community.
Attorney Juliet Boy, who specializes in DCFS investigations, said their determination is significant.
"If the evidence does not meet DCFS standards that means the quantum of proof is fairly low," she said.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese released a statement saying the process is not over: "The Independent Review Board of the archdiocese will conduct its investigation into the allegations and will communicate its findings in due course. Fr. Pfleger will remain away from the parish pending the outcome of that process."
"We want them to move quickly, and diligently, but the key word is quickly," said Cory Williams, with St. Sabina.
Pfleger said a Canon lawyer, who has to be approved by the Vatican, has recommended he be reinstated. He said he is restricted now, but when this is over, he will have much more to say.
READ: DCFS letter to Chicago Archdiocese on Father Michael Pfleger investigation