By CARRIE ANTLFINGER
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Prosecutors have decided not to charge several Marquette University athletes accused of sexual assault because the school failed to notify police of the alleged incidents, a district attorney said Thursday.
In a news release, District Attorney John Chisholm said investigations into two separate alleged assaults were impeded because Marquette’s public safety department didn’t tell authorities. Instead, it advised students of options available, including reporting the allegations to the police department.
“We’re not proud of these incidents or the way in which they were handled,” Dr. Stephanie Quade, Marquette’s Dean of Students, said in a statement. “There have been some blunt and direct conversations with offices throughout the university, and we’re working on ways to address the issues that have been raised.”
She said the school has since instituted protocol to notify police immediately of sexual assaults allegations.
A female student reported being sexually assaulted by several athletes to the school’s public safety department in October 2010. Public safety didn’t report it to Milwaukee police and the woman didn’t go to police until March.
Chisholm said his office is mindful of the wishes of victims but an immediate and thorough investigation is needed to gather as much evidence as possible.
“No law enforcement agency was able to adequately investigate this matter at the time it occurred, and the subsequent efforts by the Milwaukee Police Department were inhibited by the fact that it did not receive this information until several months after the incident occurred,” Chisholm said in a statement.
Chisholm said one of the suspects told investigators that the accused athletes met together with a member of the coaching staff about woman’s allegations before police could interview the suspects. At least one of the suspects sent a text message to the alleged victim during this meeting asking her if she reported something to the public safety department, Chisholm said. There was no evidence the coaching staff intended to interfere with the investigation.
“It highlights, however, that when proper procedure is not followed it prevents an untainted interview with any suspect and provides an opportunity for the individuals allegedly involved as suspects or witnesses to compare recollections regarding the circumstances of the alleged misconduct,” he said.
The students were found not responsible for the allegations under the student conduct code, university spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfeil said.
Another female student went to public safety in February and reported being sexually assaulted by a student athlete but public safety didn’t report it. The woman went to police a month later.
“Unfortunately, a police investigation undertaken even four weeks later was not able to produce corroborative evidence that would support a criminal prosecution,” he said.
Pfeil was not able to say if the other suspect had been found responsible under the student code. She said the student did not give permission for the findings to be released, like the others did.
Quade said Marquette has had a series of meetings with the district attorney and police department, as well as on-campus and community resources, including victim advocates.
“We have had meetings with Marquette University and its public safety department in order to ensure such a lapse between the reporting of a crime and its investigation never occurs again. Marquette University has pledged to do better. We will hold them to their word,” Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn said in a statement.
Neither the school or law enforcement has named the athletes.