Since starting my career in 2000 as a lawyer in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and establishing a successful criminal defense firm that has grown into servicing other areas of law, I have become all too familiar with the gravity and magnitude a criminal accusation can and does have upon a person and his or her family. More specifically, as my law practice grew into representing clients involved in university and college Title IX and code of conduct investigations, I quickly learned that even beyond a criminal case, any allegation is overwhelming. When the target or subject of misconduct is a young person – a college, university, or high school student – an allegation that he or she violated a school’s Title IX policies against dating violence, sexual harassment, or some other infraction involving the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) amendments to the Cleary Act, the emotional burden for a client is often at its greatest. Why? Without an adult’s life experience, lack of a local support structure or fear of involving parents, and perception that their “life is over”, these teens or twenty-somethings find themselves in a place of despair, facing a stained academic career with the real possibility of suspension or expulsion, and a future life and career on the precipice.
Despite the fears many students have when accused of a Title IX offense or code of conduct infraction, with the right advocacy from a Title IX advisor, an accused or defendant can overcome the most heinous claims. Fortunately, for a recent Saland Law client, like other students we have represented before, the Title IX claim against him ended in a decision from the school’s hearing board that he was “Not Responsible”. What made this decision that much more rewarding was the fac that the complainant’s initial allegations “evolved” over time, based on the parallel criminal case, from bad to some of the most horrific and vile accusations of dating violence and sexual assault any person could perpetrate.
Though victims of Title IX sexual harassment and dating violence, among other violations of the law, need not only be women, when a woman makes an accusation against a man, the initial response I often hear is some variation of, “If it is not true, why would she make up such accusations? After all, she knows she is going to be confronted with lies and expose herself to the investigation process.” Certainly a fair question, the response is a simple one in theory even if not always easy to disprove.
No doubt many claims are absolutely true, but there are plenty of others that are born from regret, anger, jealousy, a vendetta, and/or, made by an emotionally or mentally unhealthy person. That may not be a politically correct thing to say and may not sit well with some, but that reaction is as irrelevant just as it is a fact that not all allegations are truthful. When you or your son or daughter is accused of shamefully humiliating acts fabricated or weaponized by a complainant, innocence hinges on your advisor’s ability to expose the truth in a sea of lies, not what’s the political atmosphere of the day. What compounds matters for a respondent and his or her advisor is the fact that the legal standard is far lower – merely a preponderance of the evidence in this case -and due process less existent than what we are entitled to and expect in a criminal prosecution for the exact same purported conduct.
With the realities of a Title IX complaint front and center, and I mentioned above, Saland Law is proud to share we successfully navigated a client’s investigatory and hearing process at his well-respected and renowned university. In identifying exculpatory evidence, challenging the complainant’s accusations, prepping him for cross-examination, helping him draft his opening and closing statement, and personally cross-examining his accuser, Saland law exonerated a young man from maliciously false accusations that could have upended his academic life and future well beyond his college campus.
Without going into detail exposing the parties of the Title IX case or the purported allegations there, I can briefly share some of what was alleged to prosecutors in a parallel criminal case that has since been adjourned for dismissal. In simplest of terms, our client’s ex-girlfriend initially, and falsely, accused him of entering her room, accosting her, and not letting her leave. Further, the complainant alleged our client had kissed her without permission earlier that day. As the case evolved, so did the ever-changing and well after the fact accusations. In fact, the complainant may have alleged additional and far more violently egregious misconduct on our client’s part. Because it is unclear if the even newer claims were made to law enforcement, we are unable to disclose them, but suffice to say, however, despite the attempt to paint our client as the personification of predatory evil to law enforcement and that she feared for her life, the complainant could not satisfy even the lowest of legal burdens. Again, upon review of the evidence we worked with our client to identify, Saland Law’s preparation of our client for cross-examination and our doing so of the complainant, and our client’s delivery of an opening and closing statement we crafted together, our client is now free to get back to studying, enjoying his social life, and living his best life in college without the shadow of the school’s now-lifted no contact order, a pending Title IX case, and criminal charges lingering over his head.
Founded by former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland, Saland Law is a criminal defense and Title IX firm representing both complainants and respondents in school hearings throughout New York City, New York State, and the nation. To learn more about Title IX and code of conduct investigations, and consequences of the same, follow the respective links.