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Idaho athletic department admits to mistakes in handling of sexual assault, harassment complaints against football player in 2013

The University of Idaho athletic department violated federal Title IX guidelines and university policy in handling complaints of sexual assault and harassment involving a football player in April 2013.

Diver Mairin Jameson and distance runner Maggie Miller reported six instances of harassment by wide receiver Jahrie Level to Moscow Police and members of the university’s athletic department staff. Miller reported verbal harassment on April 8; Jameson accused Level of sexual assault, verbal harassment and unwanted physical contact on April 23.

Jameson detailed her experience on a friend’s Tumblr blog on Jan. 30, 2018, which sparked an Idaho Statesman examination of how her case was handled.

The University of Idaho provided a statement about Jameson’s blog post to the Idaho Statesman on Thursday. In it, the school acknowledged making mistakes with her case.

“U of I commends the blog writer in this case for having the courage to come forward and talk about how she has been affected by the incident she describes and for her persistence in insisting the university address the mistakes we made in how we handled the incident,” the statement says. “We are glad the young woman ultimately found the U of I’s Women’s Center and the dean of students office where she received help and support while the matter was addressed. That said, the university acknowledges the matter was initially mishandled. The blog author says she did not feel supported by the athletics department and was given incorrect information about her options under U of I policy regarding sexual assault or harassment. For that we must, and do, express our apology and our regret for making worse an already difficult and personally challenging time for her.”

The university was required by Title IX law and guidelines to promptly investigate the reports from Jameson and Miller, take immediate steps to prevent any further harassment or assault, and help them deal with any effects from the harassment. Most of that didn’t happen until Jameson told her story at the Women’s Center in May 2013, which prompted a university investigation into the women’s accusations.

Athletic Director Rob Spear acknowledged this week in an interview that his department failed to comply with Title IX in Jameson’s case.

“We take responsibility for that and we learned from that and really have since educated this whole department with how to deal with these things in the right and correct way,” Spear said.

Other alleged missteps include:

  • Miller told Moscow Police and football head coach Paul Petrino that Level threatened to slap her in the training room. Petrino doesn’t remember that conversation, he said, but it’s reflected in the police report generated that day. Spear says he was never informed of that incident.
  • Jameson was told in a meeting led by Spear that the university couldn’t investigate her assault because it happened off campus, she said. Spear says he operated under an outdated university policy that didn’t include off-campus incidents. The Department of Education released extensive Title IX guidance in 2011 that clarified universities’ obligation to investigate off-campus incidents of sexual harassment or assault. Idaho changed its policy in March 2012 to comply – more than a year before Jameson’s case. Also, some of the alleged harassment occurred on campus.
  • Spear wrote in an email to Jameson’s parents after the assault that Level was “not a threat” but also indicated that he’d told Petrino to keep him away from the school’s female athletes.

  • Level was dismissed from the team 16 days after Jameson’s accusation, after Moscow Police Lt. Dave Lehmitz found surveillance video that corroborated Jameson’s assault complaint and determined he could cite Level for misdemeanor battery. But Jameson wasn’t told of Level’s fate for several weeks, she said. During that time, she considered transferring to another school to get away from him.
  • Spear, Petrino and swimming and diving coach Mark Sowa were told May 7, 2013, in a meeting with the university’s legal counsel that they hadn’t followed Title IX guidance with Jameson’s complaint, Spear said. He didn’t tell Jameson that, or apologize, until Feb. 13, 2018 – nearly five years later.

Jameson, a former youth gymnast, decided to go public in the wake of the #metoo movement and the sexual-abuse case involving former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

The Statesman and The Spokesman-Review typically don’t identify victims of sexual harassment or assault, but both women agreed to be named in this story.

“When I think about what happened to me, I’ve put the actual assault behind me,” said Jameson, who was the 2014 Western Athletic Conference Diver of the Year as a senior. “I’ve been able to put those pieces of it in the past. The one piece that still lives with me is how Idaho handled it.

“It’s so sad that I have a clouded view of my alma mater. I had a lot of great teammates, I had a great athletic experience, I had an awesome athletics academic adviser. But now every time someone brings up the football team or Rob Spear, I just get this bad taste in my mouth, and I don’t want that anymore. The one thing I’m holding on to is that. I needed to get it out there and hope that gives me closure on how the situation was handled. I don’t know if I’ll ever get that closure.”

Read the full Idaho Statesman story online here.


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