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Jun 03, 2014 04:47 PM EDT

Duke University Student Expelled For Sexual Assault Sues For Degree


A student is suing Duke University in North Carolina for $250,000 degree after being expelled in his last semester due to sexual assault allegations, Campus Reform reported.

Australian transfer student Lewis McLeod was denied his degree and prohibited from graduation due to a sexual assault he allegedly carried out in November.

A female student filed a sexual assault report with both Duke University police and Durham police accusing against McLeod. He was investigated but never criminally charged.  But Duke University's Office of Student Conduct investigated the matter and found McLeod guilty. He was expelled shortly thereafter.

However, a Judge Osmond Smith III, in North Carolina's Durham County Superior Court, issued a preliminary injunction on Thursday, ruling that Duke University should not have expelled McLeod. The school is not required to give McLeod his degree.  

"What the judge decided was Lewis was likely to be successful in his lawsuit, that Lewis would be irreparably harmed if Duke expelled him and Duke would not be harmed," McLeod's lawyer, Rachel Hitch, told the Australian Associated Press. "The judge ordered Duke not to expel Lewis, but the judge stopped short of requiring the university to go ahead and confirm his degree."

McLeod's future in the United States and ability to accept a job offer from a Wall Street firm remains in doubt, the AAP reported.

In his lawsuit, McLeod said he left a local bar with the accuser and had consensual sex before she "got emotional" and began to cry, Campus Reform reported.

He also states that Duke University executed a  "sloppy investigation" and that the trial "violated Duke University's own written standards for sexual misconduct and student disciplinary hearings, as well as all notions of fundamental fairness," Campus Reform reported.

Michael Schoenfeld, Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations at Duke University, told Campus Reform that the school "engages an independent investigator, and permits both the accuser and accused student to present their views about what happened to an experienced conduct board...[w]hen the conduct board finds a student responsible for sexual misconduct, it determines whether expulsion or a lesser penalty would be the appropriate sanction, based on the specific facts of the individual case."

However, Durham attorney Kerry Sutton said Duke officials overstepped their authority by investigating a case that should have been reserved solely by a law enforcement agency.

"I'm not saying rape doesn't happen. I know it happens. It's a horrific offense...[but] I think it's terribly unfair to impact an accused student's life, future career, even the pursuit of their degree at this level," Sutton said.

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