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Expelled basketball captain Jack Montague to sue Yale

Yale's Jack Montague, right, plans to sue the university, his attorney announced Monday.

Story highlights

  • Yale defends its student disciplinary process, calling it "thorough and fair"
  • Montague's attorney says his client was expelled from Yale on February 10, accused of nonconsensual sex
  • Attorney calls the decision wrong and unfair

(CNN)Expelled Yale men's basketball captain Jack Montague will sue the university, his attorney announced Monday.

Max Stern, legal counsel for Montague, said in a statement that Montague was expelled from Yale on February 10 after a panel of the Yale University-Wide Committee found that he had nonconsensual sex in October 2014 with a female student who is currently a junior at Yale. Montague was expelled during the second semester of his senior year.
    CNN previously had learned from a source close to Montague that, according to Montague, he had a consensual sexual relationship with a student in 2014. The unnamed woman has not spoken publicly about this allegation.
    "Mr. Montague intends to sue Yale University to vindicate his rights," Stern said.
    Yale has not confirmed Montague's expulsion, citing confidentiality.
    A spokesman for Yale declined to comment on the specifics of Montague's case, again citing student privacy, but defended the university's system for investigating sexual misconduct allegations as "thorough and fair."
    "Only about one out of 10 cases ends in expulsion, and the decision to expel a student is made only after the most careful consideration, based on the facts and, when appropriate, disciplinary history," university spokesman Thomas Conroy said in a statement.
    Both the New Haven and Yale police departments have said there are no complaints or investigations into Montague.
    The allegation against Montague sparked a recent protest on Yale's campus calling for greater awareness and action on issues related to sexual assault.
    The fallout comes ahead of the start of the NCAA Tournament, in which Yale has secured a spot for the first time in 54 years. The Bulldogs, seeded 12th in the West Region, will face fifth-seeded Baylor on Thursday in Providence, Rhode Island.

    The night in question

    According to Stern, Montague and the female student developed a relationship that led to their sleeping together in Montague's room four times in the fall of 2014.
    What is in dispute is the fourth occasion. According to the statement from Montague's attorney, Montague and the woman had consensual sex and then went separate ways. The statement said that later that night, she reached out to him to meet up, returned to his room voluntarily and spent the night in his bed with him. However, the woman stated she did not consent to sexual intercourse, while Montague said she did, the statement said.
    "Only two persons could have known what happened on that fourth night," Stern said. "The panel chose to believe the woman, by a 'preponderance of the evidence.' We believe that it defies logic and common sense that a woman would seek to re-connect and get back into bed with a man who she says forced her to have unwanted sex just hours earlier. And yet the Dean accepted this conclusion and ordered Jack to be expelled. His decision was then upheld by the Provost.
    "We strongly believe that the decision to expel Jack Montague was wrong, unfairly determined, arbitrary, and excessive by any rational measure," Stern continued. "Yale has been oblivious to the catastrophic and irreparable damage resulting from these allegations and determinations. The expulsion not only deprives Jack of the degree which he was only three months short of earning, but has simultaneously destroyed both his educational and basketball careers."

    Title IX agreement

    According to Stern's statement, the woman reported the incident to a Title IX coordinator a year later; the coordinator filed a formal complaint with the University-Wide Committee.
    Yale's University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct was instituted in 2011, about the time the federal government investigated the university for alleged Title IX violations involving the way it handled reports of sexual misconduct.
    Title IX bars gender discrimination in education. The Department of Education interprets Title IX to say that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and therefore schools could be held responsible if they don't investigate and adjudicate these cases.
    The federal investigation was spawned by a 26-page complaint filed by 16 students after a video was released online that showed fraternity recruits yelling chants encouraging rape as they marched through campus. The complaint also followed reports of a party at which undergraduate students were allegedly asked to strip naked.
    The U.S. Department of Education found no incidents of noncompliance by Yale but acknowledged in an agreement with the university that Yale "largely under-reported" allegations of sexual harassment.
    When the deal with the education department was announced, Yale said: "Over the past two years, the university has committed extensive resources toward improving its policies, procedures, practices and services to provide an environment in which all students feel safe and well supported, and protected from sexual misconduct."
    Stern noted the timing of Montague's expulsion, which comes shortly before he was set to graduate.
    "We cannot help but think it not coincidental that the decision by Yale officials to seek expulsion of the captain of its basketball team followed by little more than a month the report of the Association of American Universities (AAU) which was highly critical of the incidence of sexual assault on the Yale campus, and the Yale President's promise, in response, to 'redouble our efforts,'" Stern said. "From what appears, Jack has been pilloried as a 'whipping boy' for a campus problem that has galvanized national attention."

    Allegation sparks campus outrage

    Montague's Yale teammates recently showed their support for him, causing outrage on campus. In a February 26 game against rival Harvard, the Bulldogs wore gray warmup jerseys with Yale spelled backward on the front and Montague's number, 4, and his nickname, "Gucci," on the back. The game was televised nationally.
    The team's action sparked negative reaction on campus. Posters were hung up around campus criticizing the gesture.
    The team apologized Wednesday.
    "Yale Men's Basketball fully supports a healthy, safe and respectful campus climate where all students can flourish," the team statement said. "Our recent actions to show our support for one of our former teammates were not intended to suggest otherwise, but we understand that to many students they did. We apologize for the hurt we have caused and we look forward to learning and growing from these recent incidents. As student representatives of Yale we hope to use our positions on and off the court in a way that can make everyone proud."
    The allegation against Montague sparked a recent protest on Yale's campus calling for greater awareness and action on issues related to sexual assault. Nearly 450 Yale students participated in a chalk-in Wednesday, writing messages in chalk on a plaza near the library to show their support for survivors of sexual assault. The event was co-sponsored by Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale and the Yale Black Women's Coalition. Helen Price, the co-director of Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale, a student organization, said the event was organized in response to the basketball team's show of support for Montague.
    "There's been a lot of anger and frustration on campus recently," Price said.
    One chalk-written message read: "Imagine if Yale men cared as much about ending rape culture as they cared about sports."

    Rare NCAA Tournament appearance

    Montague's last game was February 6, a home contest against Cornell that Yale won easily, 83-52, led by Montague's 16 points. For the season, he was averaging 9.7 points per game, the best in his four seasons with the team. He was the team's fourth-leading scorer this season.
    After a 71-55 win over Columbia on March 5 that clinched the regular-season Ivy League title and Yale's first NCAA Tournament bid since 1962, senior Justin Sears revealed that some of the team FaceTimed with Montague before the game, according to USA Today.
    "He's our leader, our captain," Sears said. "He's still our captain. ... It's tough. There's not much to say because it's a controversial situation. We just have to wait and let everything play out and see. ... He's our brother, and we miss him."
    Yale has never won a game in the men's NCAA Tournament.