University of Missouri

Former player says Mizzou cleared him of rape, stalking allegations in Title IX cases

Former Missouri Tigers guard Terrence Phillips during a Nov. 10 game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
Former Missouri Tigers guard Terrence Phillips during a Nov. 10 game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. jsleezer@kcstar.com

The University of Missouri has closed its investigation of Terrence Phillips and did not find enough evidence to support allegations of rape, stalking and sexual misconduct, the former MU basketball player told The Star on Thursday.

The Title IX probe, which Phillips said included reports of physical and sexual misconduct from four female students, concluded that Phillips had engaged in violence when he shoved a woman in the fall of 2016. Phillips and a friend who advised him during the Title IX investigation, Ashley Reed, told The Star on Thursday that he pushed the complainant involved in the one case for which he was found responsible.

“I’m just glad it’s finally over,” the woman involved in that complaint against Phillips told The Star.

Mizzou’s Title IX office informed complainants of decisions related to their cases in emails this week, The Star confirmed with two women who had filed complaints.

Reed showed The Star two documents that indicate Phillips had been found not responsible for two separate incidents that would have been considered “sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct” under university policy. He later posted a three-page statement on his Twitter account.

“Today, I can finally speak,” Phillips wrote, in part. “Today, the Title IX investigation I’ve been undergoing for the last 6 months is finally over. Today, I can finally say that I was found not responsible of the allegations against me of sexual misconduct, rape, exploitation, and stalking.”

The university opened the investigation in January, prompting Phillips’ indefinite suspension from the basketball team. The next month, he was dismissed from the Mizzou basketball program.

Phillips did not participate in any team activities, including practices, while he was indefinitely suspended. MU coach Cuonzo Martin previously said he kept in contact with Phillips during the suspension because the 5-foot-11 guard from California is “somebody’s son. It is my job to make sure he’s OK.”

“When I was kicked off the team, I think then everyone thought I was found guilty,” Phillips told The Star on Thursday.

An email from the university’s Title IX office that was sent to the woman who reported that Phillips physically assaulted her verifies that he was found responsible for violating university policy in her case and that the decision was considered “final.”

Phillips told The Star that he intends to appeal that finding.

He said a complaint made by a fifth woman, who said his behavior in class made her uncomfortable, did not advance in the investigation.

The woman who reported his classroom behavior told The Star in January that Phillips had also frequently sent her sexually suggestive messages despite being asked to stop. She confirmed to The Star this week that investigators had dropped her complaint prior to this week.

Title IX cases are federally required investigations of sexual discrimination and violence on university campuses. Unlike criminal investigations that use a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, investigators must only find that a person is more likely responsible than not to substantiate an allegation.

Phillips told The Star that the experience had taken a mental toll on him. He said he had applied to another school, which he declined to name, but was waiting to hear from that college’s admissions office.

According to the MU directory, he is academically a junior studying communication.

“I applied to a school just to be a normal student,” Phillips told The Star. “I don’t know if I can take going on the court, and having the student section call me a rapist, even though I’ve been cleared. I don’t know if I can deal with that.”

Phillips started 54 combined games during his first two years at MU, but he sparingly played this past season, his first under Martin.

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