Judge says Duke can't yet expel senior accused of sexual assault
Posted May 29, 2014
Durham, N.C. — A Durham County Superior Court judge has ruled that Duke University can't yet expel a senior found guilty of sexual misconduct by the school's honor court.
Lewis McLeod, 23, filed a lawsuit against Duke earlier this year after he was banned from his graduation ceremony because of another student's claim of sexual assault.
According to court documents, McLeod claims he took the woman back to his home on Nov. 14 and had consensual sex with her.
Both Duke University police and Durham police investigated the woman's assault claim but decided not to charge McLeod. Duke's Office of Student Conduct, however, expelled him after a hearing in which it found him guilty.
After a hearing last week, Judge Osmond Smith issued a preliminary injunction against Duke for expelling McLeod after finding that he did not have a fair hearing.
While he ruled that Duke cannot expel McLeod, he did not order the university to award him his degree.
McLeod's attorney, Rachel Hitch, said he views Thursday's injunction as "hopeful news" and that he's encouraged that Smith ordered Duke not to expel him.
"While this is not an ultimate finding on the merits of the case (which can only come at trial), in our opinion, it is an extremely strong indication that Duke has acted improperly, unfairly and illegally," Hitch said.
A psychology major from Australia, McLeod's student visa expired at the end of the semester, and without a job, he can't stay in the United States. He has a job offer from a Wall Street firm, but it is contingent upon his graduation.
If he can't start that job as planned in July, McLeod's lawyers wrote in a complaint, "inability to actually assume employment in this prestigious position is substantially certain to negatively impact him forevermore."