While many students, parents and one lawmaker spoke Thursday in support of letting suspended football player Robert Barber return to class at Washington State University, attorneys representing the school filed court documents this week that shed new light on the actions leading to his suspension.
The documents say the “undisputed facts” are that Barber punched another student at a party in July, then punched him again as the student lay unconscious on the floor.
The documents also detailed a 2015 incident in which Barber was cited for threatening an off-duty police officer.
The filing provides the most detailed account to date about the allegations against Barber and how the school handled his disciplinary hearing. The paperwork was filed this week in response to a motion by Barber’s attorney, asking a Whitman County judge to issue a stay in Barber’s suspension, which would allow him to attend school while the issues are addressed.
Danielle Hess, a senior assistant attorney general representing WSU, refuted earlier claims by Barber’s attorney about the Student Conduct Board hearing regarding the fight on July 23 that left one man with a concussion and another with a broken jaw.
Hess wrote that Barber “chose not to be accompanied by an attorney at the hearing.”
Video of the fight that was part of Barber’s conduct board hearing showed Barber striking the man, Jackson Raney, who suffered the concussion. The video also showed Barber striking Raney after he was down on the floor. Barber admitted he was the person in the video punching the man, who was on his back.
“At the time of the assault, (Barber) said he felt someone push him from the side, which made him feel threatened, and he reacted to it by punching the person,” Hess wrote. “When asked if he still felt in danger once (Raney) was lying on the ground, Mr. Barber answered yes. He said he just ‘didn’t think’ and ‘felt threatened.’ ”
At the end of the hearing, Barber apologized for injuring Raney and requested community service instead of expulsion or suspension.
On Sept. 13, the board rejected Barber’s claims of self-defense.
“The man you struck was not even looking toward you when you struck him,” WSU wrote in documents submitted to the court. “And certainly, after he was on the ground and unconscious, he was no threat to you, but you still struck him again.”
In expelling Barber, the conduct board also took into account an incident in March 2015. The expulsion later was changed by the University Appeals Board to a suspension that will last until July 2017.
In the incident last year, Barber apparently had become upset after a friend was arrested for disorderly conduct. Barber hit the side of another student’s car and began yelling expletives as well as “I hate white people.”
Barber then pointed to an off-duty police officer and said, “Once these officers leave, I’m going to beat the shit out of you,” according to court records.
Even after the off-duty cop informed Barber that he was an officer, Barber continued to threaten him. The officer called 911 and Barber responded by taunting him using profanity, saying, “What? Are you a little bitch? Now you’re gonna call 911?”
Barber subsequently was arrested and cited for misdemeanor harassment.
At his Student Conduct Board hearing for that incident, Barber said he became angry because people were laughing at his friend. He was ordered to write a “reflection” paper in which he wrote: “I know that I would get in serious trouble for physical assault.”
Based on the officer encounter and the allegations from the July 23 fight, the conduct board “determined that expulsion was the proper sanction because Mr. Barber was a risk to other members of the community,” Hess wrote. “Because of the seriousness of Mr. Barber’s violations, allowing him to return to WSU could … pose a threat to other students.
“Based on the foregoing, WSU respectfully requests that the Court deny Mr. Barber’s motion for a temporary restraining order,” Hess wrote.
As of Thursday, the Whitman County judge had not set a hearing to decide the matter.