MU athletic director explains why 2008 Derrick Washington allegation wasn’t investigated by school

08/22/2014 5:32 PM

08/22/2014 5:32 PM

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said Friday he wasn’t aware of Title IX-mandated reporting procedures for sexual assaults in 2008.

That’s why, when former tailback Derrick Washington was investigated by MU Police for allegedly raping a female student in her dorm room in October 2008, the university didn’t launch an independent investigation. Washington wasn’t dismissed from the team until September 2010, after he was charged with felony sexual assault in a different case in which he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to prison.

Speaking at a news conference at Mizzou Arena with Tigers football coach Gary Pinkel, Alden said he was aware of the allegation six years ago and that he informed then-chancellor Brady Deaton and former chief public affairs officer Chris Koukola about it.

But MU never conducted an investigation into the alleged rape, which became public Thursday as part of an ESPN “Outside the Lines” story about lax Title IX reporting practices.

“Today, I am aware of all of that,” Alden said of the mandatory-reporting requirements, citing recent efforts by University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to increase awareness on campus.

But in 2008, Alden said he believed police involvement was sufficient. “I felt like we were reporting it the way we would normally report things,” he said.

Pinkel also was aware that Washington was investigated for an alleged rape in 2008, but no disciplinary action was taken after the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges.

“(The police) investigate, and they know a lot more than I do,” Pinkel said Friday. “Certainly, I look at that, but if they don’t charge him, what am I supposed to do unless there’s other circumstances, other things I know, and sometimes that has happened.”

Pinkel dismissed wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham from the team in April despite the fact that no charges were filed after witnesses refused to cooperate with the Columbia Police Department’s investigation into an alleged burglary and assault.

“I had other information, quite honestly, that I knew that helped me make a decision, (regarding Green-Beckham)” Pinkel said. “The decision was that I had to remove him. That’s confidential where I got that, but I got it. I could have thrown it out. I didn’t, because I have to do what’s right.”

Alden also said his department was aware that a women’s soccer player had been arrested during a bar fight at the Field House, a Columbia sports bar, in May 2010, but he didn’t learn about the allegation that her scholarship was threatened if she pursued charges against Washington until February 2014.

Washington’s girlfriend and the soccer player got into a fight that spilled outside the bar. The soccer player told police Washington punched her in the face, but he was never arrested or charged.

Alden said Friday that ESPN’s Sunshine Law request brought to light the accusation that she was pressured not to pursue charges against Washington, but after speaking with Tigers soccer coach Bryan Blitz and ordering an outside review, he found the claim to be unsubstantiated.

“Obviously, we know that mistakes were made in the past,” Alden said. “We understand that. For that, it’s incumbent upon all of us to learn from those mistakes. How do we analyze those? How do we learn from those? And, how do we improve? I’m not talking about just as an athletic department. I’m talking about as a university.”

Missouri’s Title IX reporting practices already were under scrutiny after an earlier ESPN story about the alleged rape and subsequent suicide of former MU swimmer Sasha Menu Courey.

In that case, an independent investigation found that MU fell short of its obligations to report, investigate and make support services available when a student has been the victim of sexual assault.

Spearheaded by Wolfe, all four of the University of Missouri system’s campuses reviewed Title IX reporting procedures. Each campus also took an inventory of resources available for students and took steps to ensure students knew about those resources.

At MU, a full-time Title IX coordinator and support staff was put in place by Loftin.

Pinkel said players who get into trouble are now required to attend counseling, whether they ultimately are charged with a crime or not. He said issues of sexual assault and respect for women are frequent topics of conversation in team meetings.

“Certainly, there’s been many things that have changed, particularly on campus with knowledge of reporting and knowledge of what needs to take place at the appropriate time,” Alden said.

Pinkel said Friday that Washington denied the sexual assault allegation in 2008. Washington also denied it to The Star on Friday when reached by phone.

The alleged 2008 victim told police and ESPN that she engaged in several consensual sex acts with Washington, but she said she told Washington to stop when he wanted to have intercourse.

Washington admitted having intercourse, but he said she didn’t tell him to stop until after the act had started.

“It was probably like 30 seconds and she said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ so I stopped,” said Washington, who denied grabbing her wrists or pinning her down, causing bruises or a gash in her neck as alleged in the ESPN story.

On Friday, Pinkel said the 2008 allegation still factored into his decision to suspend Washington before he was charged with felony deviate sexual assault after a former female tutor reported a June 2010 rape.

“When that happened,” Pinkel said, “I said to (Washington), ‘Two years ago and now, this is serious. You might be dismissed from the program and the police are investigating this. We’ve got problems here.’”

Pinkel said he was getting regular updates about the police investigation and had a series of meetings with Alden.

He decided to suspend Washington when “we got the feeling there was a greater than 50 percent chance they were going to arrest him,” Pinkel said.

Pinkel said he told Alden, “There’s no way in the world, knowing that he very likely is going to get arrested in the middle of September, that we can play the first game with him. We can’t do it.”

Washington was arrested and charged Aug. 30 with felony deviate sexual assault. He was arrested about two weeks later for third-degree domestic assault, a misdemeanor, against a girlfriend. He was convicted in both cases.

Washington was sentenced to five years for the sexual assault and 90 days for the domestic assault. He served four months as part of a first-time offenders program and was released from prison in February 2012. He finished his football career that season at Tuskegee, where he is working toward completing a degree.

“I’ve already done my time and I’m trying to move on in my life,” Washington said.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @todpalmer.

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