Duke student expelled over rape claim sues for diploma so he can begin work on Wall Street

By Travis Gettys
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 10:27 EDT
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A Duke University student is suing to obtain his degree after another student accused him of sexual assault.

Lewis McLeod, a psychology major and former soccer player from Australia, was banned from the May 10 graduation ceremony after the woman accused him of raping her Nov. 14 in his room at the Sigma Nu fraternity house.

McLeod told his attorneys the woman had gone to Duke University and Durham police, and they decided not to charge him with a crime.

A spokeswoman for Durham police told WRAL-TV she had no record of the investigation, but court documents show the department investigated the day after the alleged assault and determined the use of force was “not applicable.”

McLeod was found guilty of sexual assault by a three-member disciplinary panel convened by the university Office of Student Conduct, which issued a no-contact order and barred McLeod from the campus.

But he violated the on-campus restriction at least once and was also issued a trespassing citation, reported Indy Week.

The former student said he had consensual sex with the woman, who he said then “got emotional” and began to cry.

McLeod said he stopped having sex with the woman. She said he did not, and she told university officials she offered to perform any other sex act but intercourse.

The first-year student told investigators her memory of the encounter was cloudy, but she claimed she begged McLeod to stop and even threatened to call police.

After he fell asleep, according to court documents, the woman texted an ex-boyfriend to apologize and ask for help and then texted at least three other people.

“I don’t wanna look like a slut,” she told one friend in a text.

Attorneys for McLeod have asked Duke to award his degree and let him go on with his life.

The lawsuit claims university officials violated their “own written standards” and “all notions of fundamental fairness” with their “sloppy investigation” of the woman’s claims.

The suit questions the testimony by anonymous friends of the woman against McLeod, who claims he was unable to use his roommate as a witness.

“Throughout the hearing, members of the panel and the Office of Student Conduct made decisions that prevented Mr. McLeod from presenting his side of the story, denied him his right to respond to allegations against him and denied him his right to a fair and impartial hearing,” the suit claims.

McLeod’s attorney, Kerry Sutton, said the case should have been investigated by police, not the university.

Sutton, who advised one of the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape in 2006, said it was inappropriate for the university to investigate a case that should have been limited to law enforcement.

“I’m not saying rape doesn’t happen. I know it happens. It’s a horrific offense,” Sutton said. “(But) I think it’s terribly unfair to impact an accused student’s life, future career, even the pursuit of their degree at this level. I think it’s terribly unfair.”

McLeod’s student visa expired at the end of the semester, and he cannot stay in the U.S. without a job.

He has a job offer from a Wall Street firm to begin work in July, but that opportunity is contingent upon his graduation.

The case will go before a Durham County Superior Court judge, but McLeod’s attorneys have no idea how soon the judge might rule.

[Image: back of graduates put hands up during commencement via Shutterstock]

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