Patches of Fog
CINCINNATI - It appeared Tuesday that Dezmine Wells' days of playing basketball for the Xavier Musketeers are officially over.
Earlier this month, the sophomore-to-be was expelled by the university for what was termed a "serious violation" of the school's Code of Student Conduct. A resident assistant in one of Xavier's dorms alleged that he sexually assaulted her in July.
Wells appealed the ruling, but the University Conduct Board didn't budge from its initial finding.
On Tuesday, a Hamilton County Grand Jury decided not to file criminal charges in the case. Prosecutor Joe Deters said all the evidence was thoroughly reviewed and grand jurors declined to charge Wells with any criminal offense.
"We always take allegations of this nature very seriously," he said, adding he hopes Xavier will revisit the situation.
Wells' attorney, Merlyn Shiverdecker, said he was thrilled to get the news.
"The significance is that Dez has been exonerated," Shiverdecker said. "It's a great day for Dez to get his name cleared."
However, that excitement was short-lived.
Xavier's Director of Strategic Communications, Kelly Leon, issued a statement saying that the ruling of the students, faculty and staff members of the Conduct Board is final.
Shiverdecker termed that stance unacceptable.
"It's outrageous for Xavier to make Dez Wells a sacrificial lamb for its sins of the past," he said.
According to Shiverdecker, Wells and a female resident assistant plus two other couples decided to play a game of "Truth Or Dare" in a dorm room in early July. Later on, he said Wells and the woman decided to go to her room.
"Dez has said that he engaged in sexual activity with another person at Xavier, but it was consensual," he said.
Soon after the woman took her concerns to university officials, Wells received a letter which began, "I am writing to advise you that the University Conduct Board has found you responsible for rape." Expulsion was the punishment.
A rape examination was conducted at University Hospital and Shiverdecker said the results contradicted the woman's claim.
"It was a complete examination and there was no trauma to support any type of forced sexual activity at all," he said. "None. Zero. Nada."
Shiverdecker questioned why the woman didn't mention the incident to any of her friends who were with her that night. It was after a phone call later on with another friend that she mentioned that she thought she had been the victim of a sexual assault. She then contacted the university.
The case comes on the heels of the United States Department of Education citing Xavier for violating anti-discrimination laws after three sexual assault victims said nothing was done to protect them once they reported their alleged attackers. Xavier never admitted any wrongdoing.
Did that have an impact on the university's decision regarding Wells? Shiverdecker said he thinks it did.
"I believe Xavier was committed to a process because of their consent decree with the Department of Education," he said. "Sometimes in following the process we lose sight of what the objective of the process is and that ultimately is to come to a right and just decision. Somewhere in this process the concept of justice seems to have been lost."
It was also suggested by Shiverdecker that members of the Conduct Board -- students, faculty and staff members -- don't have the background, training and education to make decisions that come up with the right result.
Leon said federal law prevents universities from ceding student conduct matters to the criminal justice system. She said schools must act quickly using the "preponderence of evidence standard," whereas the criminal justice system uses the "probable cause" standard to indict, and the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard to convict.
The school's statement continued, "The process used by the Xavier University Conduct Board is the standard used in American Universities. The XU Conduct Board heard evidence that may or may not have been heard by the Grand Jury. After the Conduct Board reached its decision, the matter was considered and upheld by an appeal board of members of the student body, faculty and staff and is final."
Shiverdecker said Wells is a good young man who is trying to vindicate himself.
"We got a bad decision at Xavier. We got a good decision out of the legal system," he said. "Hopefully, Dez can get his reputation back and ideally he'd be back playing basketball at XU if everything fell in place the right way. I'm sure his teammates and staff up there would love to have him back."
Wells had a promising freshman year on the hardwood for the Musketeers. He averaged nearly 10 points and five rebounds per game and was a member of the 2012 Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. The six-feet, five-inch tall guard/forward started 32 games last season.
Xavier now has no returning starters and only two guards on the roster that have any collegiate experience in Brad Redford and Dee Davis. Forward Travis Taylor is now the returning leading scorer on the team with 4.5 points per game in the 2011-12 season.
The full text of Xavier's statement is below:
Federal Law (Title IX) and Federal regulations and guidances prohibit universities from ceding student conduct matters to the criminal justice system. The Federal law requires schools to act quickly and all schools, by law, must use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, whereas the criminal justice system uses the "probable cause" standard to indict, and the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard to convict.
The process used by the Xavier University Conduct Board is the standard used in American universities. The XU Conduct Board heard evidence that may or may not have been heard by the grand jury. After the conduct board reached its decision, the matter was considered and upheld by an appeal board of members of the student body, faculty and staff and is final.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters released the following statement Tuesday:
Today, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announced that the Hamilton County Grand Jury heard the case alleging sexual assault against former Xavier University basketball player Dezmine Wells. After hearing all of the evidence, the Hamilton County Grand Jury ignored the case.
Prosecutor Deters commented, "We always take allegations of this nature very seriously. I assigned senor assistant prosecutors to this case to review all of the evidence and to conduct a complete presentation to the Hamilton County Grand Jury."
After this office conducted an independent review of all of the evidence, it was presented to a Grand Jury yesterday. The Grand Jury declined to charge Dezmine Wells with any criminal offense.
I have nothing but the greatest respect for Xavier University, and in particular Fr. Graham. I would sincerely hope the institution will revisit this situation.