A Spokane jury listened to two hours of testimony Wednesday by a former Gonzaga University student who school officials once thought was the victim of date rape on campus.
That testimony, presented on videotape, shed light on how some Gonzaga officials back in 1993 could have concluded she was sexually assaulted by another student.
The woman, Julie Peyton, is a central figure in an unusual civil lawsuit filed by her former boyfriend, Ru Paster.
Paster, 26, is suing GU, claiming the school defamed him by reporting unverified rape allegations against him to state education department investigators.
The trial started last week with Paster’s testimony. He said he found out about the investigation in 1994, when school officials refused to forward his application for a teacher’s certificate unless they added a report on the alleged rape.
Paster later learned that Peyton insisted to GU officials that no rape had occurred.
He and Peyton had a two-month relationship that ended in 1992. What happened as the relationship soured provided the bulk of testimony jurors heard this week.
In an unusual arrangement, attorneys interviewed and videotaped Peyton a week before the trial began. She said she couldn’t leave her graduate studies in North Carolina to testify in person.
That allowed attorneys on both sides to select portions of her testimony to play for the jury.
During testimony Wednesday, GU attorney Jerry Cartwright made sure jurors heard Peyton describe her troubled sexual relationship with Paster.
“(Paster) was talking me into doing things I wasn’t comfortable with,” Peyton testified.
“What kinds of things?” Cartwright asked.
“Oral stuff. And hands. And just different things,” answered Peyton, who said a number of times during her testimony, “I don’t like talking about my relationships with people.”
Earlier this week, jurors heard Peyton tell attorneys on tape that she was surprised when GU officials began asking her, in 1993, to sign statements alleging that Paster coerced her into having sex.
“That never happened, and I felt I was being pressured to say it had,” she said.
She said GU education school administrator Janet Burcalow told her, “We already know you’re lying; we know what happened.”
Peyton said some school officials may have formed erroneous assumptions about Paster based on comments she made after visiting the campus health clinic shortly after breaking up with Paster.
But Dr. Nancy Crotty said Peyton came to the clinic and said pains in her abdomen and pelvis resulted from being “an unwilling partner” in several sex acts with Paster.
Gonzaga finds itself in the uncomfortable position of being the first college in Washington to face a lawsuit over a teacher certification statement.
“This has never happened in the 10 years I’ve been involved in such matters,” said Rick Wilson, an attorney with the state superintendent of public instruction’s office.
State regulations require schools that offer education degrees to file a statement on each teacher candidate’s moral fitness and character.
If they have knowledge of a candidate’s criminal record or “history of serious behavioral problems,” school officials must add that information to the student’s application for a teaching certificate, Wilson said.
The goal, Wilson said, is weeding out potentially abusive teachers before they get into a classroom “and take advantage of being alone with 25 children.”
Paster, who now works as a hotel employee in San Diego, chose not to file an application to teach in Washington.
The state would have likely issued him a certificate, based on Peyton’s insistence that no rape occurred. But Paster said he didn’t want the rape allegations to become part of his permanent file.
Closing arguments in the trial are expected early next week.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.