A Gonzaga University graduate is trying to clear his name after being tormented for three years by an unfounded rape allegation.
Ru Paster is now in court, trying to prove that university officials violated his rights and destroyed his dream of becoming a teacher.
“I’ve given up on the idea of teaching,” he told a Spokane County Superior Court jury Wednesday.
Paster was seeking a teaching certificate in 1994, when he learned the university had investigated him for allegedly raping his former girlfriend more than a year earlier.
The woman later said she hadn’t been attacked, but the allegation was enough to cause university officials to reject his application.
Paster responded by suing his alma mater. Documents and testimony in the trial, expected to last two weeks, will show Gonzaga officials heard various accounts of the alleged rape.
School officials spent most of 1993 trying to verify what happened.
Paster never found out about the investigation until March 1994. That’s when the education school dean told him the university wouldn’t forward his application for the teaching certificate. The reason, he was told, was the rape allegation. Officials refused to name the accuser or provide any details.
Paster hired a lawyer and learned the alleged victim was his former girlfriend, education major Julie Peyton, who had since moved to Oregon.
Further investigation revealed that Peyton, during the 1993 investigation, told GU officials she hadn’t been raped.
University officials insist they had to act on the assumption that a rape might have occurred. At the time of their inquiries with Peyton, GU students had accused administrators of not reporting an alleged date rape on campus.
In his testimony Wednesday, Paster, 26, said he’s glad the legal battle has finally come before a jury.
“Since this whole thing started, all that’s happened is talking. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I want something to happen,” he said.
One person who won’t be talking at the trial is Peyton. Since Paster filed his lawsuit, she has refused to appear in person at this trial. Instead, both sides intend to introduce her taped depositions as evidence.
One of the key issues is whether Peyton told campus officials a rape ever occurred.
Attorney Laurel Siddoway told the jury that Peyton never accused Paster of rape.
“And she also will say (on tape) that she tried to tell those conducting the investigation that no rape occurred,” Siddoway said.
But defense attorney Jerry Cartwright said school officials will introduce testimony by a former university professor who was one of Peyton’s confidants during her time at the school.
That professor, Bill Sweeney, is expected to testify that Peyton said she’d been raped three times by Paster.
GU officials also investigated remarks made about Peyton’s health by her friends and a doctor she visited in late 1992, Siddoway said.
At that point as her relationship with Paster was ending, Peyton visited GU’s health clinic and reported feeling extreme physical pain. A doctor told her it appeared she had suffered “forced” sexual activity.
Peyton’s resident dorm adviser, Julia Lynch, later told school officials about that statement, suggesting that it might be a sign of “date rape,” Siddoway said.
Paster’s suit accuses GU officials of violating his rights by not telling him of the allegations.
Cartwright said the officials didn’t question Paster at the time because they feared it would place Peyton’s life in danger.
GU administrators were following state law when they told Paster they couldn’t forward his request for a teaching certificate unless they also added a statement saying they had investigated a rape claim against him, Cartwright said.
Paster opted not to submit his application with the attached statement, believing such a move would trigger a state investigation that could last two or more years.
Even if the state concluded he had done nothing wrong, Paster said the investigation would become part of his personnel file.
Cartwright said the state requires Gonzaga to provide the office in charge of teacher certification with any knowledge of criminal acts or “serious behavioral problems” by prospective teachers.
The state told GU officials that an investigation of unfounded rape allegations must be reported to Olympia.
If Paster went ahead and earned his teaching license and then committed sex crimes, GU would be at fault for not having disclosed the rape investigation, Cartwright said.
In addition to seeking compensation for lost wages he might have earned as a teacher, Paster is seeking unspecified damages for injury to his reputation.
Convinced the lawsuit itself could spread the false allegations, Paster filed it anonymously, using “John Doe” instead of his real name.
Superior Court Judge Kenneth Kato, however, ruled that the plaintiff’s name must be name public during the trial.
In his testimony, Paster said he’s tried to keep the 3-year-old legal battle secret.
The San Diego hotel worker said he lied last week when co-workers asked what he would be doing in Eastern Washington.
“They think I’m in sunny Spokane, visiting old school friends,” he said.
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