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Thursday, February 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sexual assault at WSU fraternity dropped

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 26, 2018

The exterior of Delta Upsilon fraternity is seen on Thursday, Sep 15, 2016, Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
The exterior of Delta Upsilon fraternity is seen on Thursday, Sep 15, 2016, Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
By Katie Short Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Whitman County prosecutors say there is insufficient evidence to prosecute a former Washington State University student accused of sexually assaulting another student at the Delta Upsilon fraternity in the fall of 2016 – an allegation that led to the fraternity’s suspension by the WSU Interfraternity Council.

The case began in September 2016, when Pullman police were called to Pullman Regional Hospital to interview an 18-year-old woman who said she was provided alcohol while at a party at the fraternity and believed she was drugged.

Several hours later, police responded to PRH again, where a 17-year-old WSU student reported she had also been provided alcohol at the same party and later became ill.

A third woman later came forward with similar allegations. All three woman sought treatment at PRH and reported they felt drugged after drinking alcohol at Delta Upsilon, however, only the first woman who said she was sexually assaulted provided a urine sample. The Washington Crime Lab analyzed the urine sample and reported it had been unable to find any trace of drugs in the woman’s system other than alcohol.

The Pullman Police Department investigated the alleged drugging and sexual assault for nearly three months. While officers were unable to find sufficient evidence the women were drugged while at the fraternity, the PPD did find there was enough evidence to charge a member of the fraternity with second-degree sexual assault. Those charges were forwarded to the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office.

Whitman County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dan LeBeau said he elected not to pursue felony second-degree rape charges against the former student and former fraternity member on Sept. 17 since there was insufficient evidence to prove a sexual assault occurred beyond a reasonable doubt.

LeBeau said he conducted his own investigation into the case for nine months.

“I focused entirely on proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a sexual assault was committed,” LeBeau said.

While he commended the detectives’ investigation into the case, LeBeau said, he ultimately did not have enough evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

PPD Detective Sgt. Jake Opgenorth said detectives were able to establish probable cause during the investigation through reports from the woman and witnesses at the party who stated she had been too intoxicated to give consent.

Opgenorth said detectives were able to determine the woman had been drinking and was taken to a media room in the basement of the fraternity “to sleep it off.”

“This guy then went into the media room and apparently had sex with her,” Opgenorth said. “Her memory was fuzzy, but she was able to identify him in a photo line up.”

A comparison of the man’s DNA and the DNA sample taken from the woman’s rape test kit were a match, he said.

“We believe, and still do, that there was probable cause that this crime occurred. Obviously the prosecutor looks at it as if he can present it to a jury and have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a higher burden of proof,” Opgenorth said.

No arrests were made in the case.

With the sexual assault charges dropped against the student and the fraternity now suspended for two years, it is unknown what the future holds for the Delta Upsilon chapter at WSU.

Five days after the allegations surfaced, the WSU Interfraternity Council held an emergency meeting and voted 23-1 to suspend the chapter, partly due to the alleged sexual assault and partly due to fraternity members supplying alcohol to minors.

The chapter was also suspended by its national headquarters at the meeting.

Richard Arquette, WSU assistant director of the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life, said Tuesday that Delta Upsilon is still suspended from the university and will remain unrecognized until at least January 2021.

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