November 2, 2015 / 9:09 PM / 3 years ago

Former basketball player sues University of Oregon over rape allegations

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - A former University of Oregon basketball player has sued the school for $7.5 million after it dropped him from the team and barred him from campus last year because of a rape accusation, school officials said on Monday.

Brandon Austin argued in the lawsuit filed on Thursday in Lane County Circuit Court that he was unfairly suspended by the Eugene, Oregon-based university and that his constitutional right of due process was violated.

The lawsuit, which denies Austin committed sexual assault, says he was a top amateur basketball player and had a scholarship to play at the university. His suspension, it said, diminished his chances of playing in the National Basketball Association and earning millions of dollars. 

Austin and fellow players Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis were dropped from the team and then suspended from the school in June 2014 amid a police investigation of accusations that they sexually assaulted a female student on March 8, 2014, at an off-campus party.

Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner ultimately decided not to file charges against the players, citing a lack of evidence. But the university suspended them from the school for a minimum of four years to a maximum of 10 years. 

The woman, still a student at the university, settled a lawsuit in August that she had filed against the school for $800,000 as well as four years’ paid tuition and a promise of changes in how the school assesses transfer students.

Her suit claimed that staff at Oregon’s flagship public university recruited Austin despite knowing he previously had been suspended from Providence College in Rhode Island for allegations of sexual misconduct in 2013.

Austin’s lawsuit also names as defendants former university president Michael Gottfredson and three other former and current university officials.

University officials in a written statement said Austin was “afforded fair and consistent due process that fully complied with the university’s legal obligations.”

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Austin has decided to pursue this type of lawsuit and we intend to vigorously defend the university,” officials said in the statement.

Austin’s attorney did not immediately return a request for comment. After his suspension, Austin transferred to Northwest Florida State College where he plays on the basketball team.

Reporting by Shelby Sebens in Portland, Oregon; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Bill Trott

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