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Ayala v. Butler University

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 19, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by Defendants Butler University (“Butler”), James M. Danko, Levester Johnson, Stacie Colson Patterson, Anne Flaherty, Sally Click, Erin McCluney, Robert Padgett, and Martha Dziwlik (“Dziwlik”) (collectively, “Defendants”) (Filing No. 134). Plaintiff Christian Ayala (“Ayala”) filed this lawsuit against the Defendants after he was expelled from Butler for allegedly engaging in non-consensual sexual activity with another Butler student. Ayala asserted claims for breach of contract, defamation, violation of 20 U.S.C. § 1681 (“Title IX”), violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and other state law claims. The Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting the undisputed facts show that Ayala's claims are not viable. For the following reasons, the Court grants the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are presented in the light most favorable to Ayala as the non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). In his Response Brief, Ayala explained, “With the exception of the two issues of material fact stated above, Plaintiff accepts the Statement of Material Facts Not In Dispute as set forth in Defendants' Brief [DE-135] at pgs. 2-14)[1], and incorporates them herein by reference.” (Filing No. 157 at 2.) Therefore, the Court admits those material facts as uncontested and without controversy pursuant to Local Rule 56-1(f)(1).

         In the fall of 2014, Ayala enrolled as a freshman undergraduate student at Butler in Indianapolis, Indiana (Filing No. 13 at 9). Shortly before midnight on Saturday, April 18, 2015, Ayala decided to attend a fraternity party with some friends (Filing No. 137-4 at 12). At approximately 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 19, 2015, fellow Butler student “Jane Smith” (“Jane”) arrived at the party. Id. at 11. Around 1:30 a.m., Ayala approached Jane and began talking with her. Both had been drinking and they started dancing and kissing at the party. Ayala and Jane decided to leave the party together. Jane's friends tried to stop them from leaving the party together because they were concerned Jane was drunk. However, Jane told her friends that she was just going back to her dorm room. Id. at 11-12.

         Jane's friend asked her to take a picture of herself when she got back to her dorm room and send the picture to her via text message so that she would know Jane arrived at her dorm room. Once Jane and Ayala arrived at Jane's dorm room, Ayala waited in the hallway, and Jane went inside her room to take a picture. Jane sent the picture of herself to her friend, and she and Ayala then left to go to his dorm room.

         Jane believed that “just kissing” would happen in Ayala's dorm room. (Filing No. 137-4 at 11-13.) On their way to Ayala's dorm room, at 1:53 a.m., Ayala sent a text message to his roommate, “Don't go back to the room. I don't know this girl's name (insert smiley face with tears).” Id. at 13. Ayala later explained that he and his roommate would text each other “don't go back to the room” when they did not want the other to go back to the room because they intended to engage in sexual activity in the room. Id.

         One of Jane's friends who had followed them out of the party attempted to stop Jane and Ayala before they entered Ayala's dormitory, but Jane told her that she would just be ten minutes. At 2:02 a.m., Jane sent a group text message to her friends, explaining that she promised she would be home soon. At 2:04 a.m., Jane texted her friends that she would be ten minutes. After they went into Ayala's room, Jane and Ayala undressed, and Ayala performed oral sex on Jane. Then Ayala began to have sexual intercourse with Jane. Jane later reported that she told him “stop, it hurts” two times after he began having intercourse with her, but he did not stop (Filing No. 137-4 at 12, 15). While Ayala was having sexual intercourse with her, at 2:10 a.m., Jane texted her friend “I. Basement SOS, ” “So sorry, ” “SOS, ” “Please blow.” Jane stated the word “blow” was intended to mean “help” and that her text meant that she was in the basement, she was sorry, and she needed help. At 2:16 a.m., Jane sent a group text to her friends that stated, “I just got raped.” Id. at 12.

         While the sexual activity was occurring between Jane and Ayala, Jane's friends were gathering outside of Ayala's dormitory and trying to get inside. Another student entered the building and let them inside. Other students helped Jane's friends find Ayala's dorm room. While Ayala was having sexual intercourse with Jane, one of Jane's friends knocked on Ayala's bedroom door. Ayala went to the door and opened it. The friend pushed her way into the room and observed Jane naked on the bed and Ayala naked and standing up. The friend helped Jane quickly get dressed, and they left the bedroom. Id. at 12, 13, 15, 17, 18. Jane told her friends that Ayala hurt her, and she told him to stop, but he would not stop. Id. at 15, 17, 18.

         Jane and her friends reported the incident to the Butler Police Department. Jane met with Detective Diane Sweeney, who drove her to the hospital to be examined. Jane was examined at the hospital and met with Butler victim advocate Sarah Diaz (Filing No. 137-4 at 12, 15, 17, 18). Later that morning, Sarah Diaz sent a report to Defendant Stacie Colston Patterson (“Patterson”), then Butler's Title IX coordinator, that Jane had reported a sexual assault to the Butler Police Department that morning around 3:00 a.m. (Filing No. 137-4 at 6). Jane's parents had been notified of the incident, and they were traveling from Illinois to Indianapolis to be with her. Id.

         Later that morning (Sunday, April 19, 2015), Jane and her parents met with Patterson and Butler's vice president of student affairs, Defendant Levester Johnson (“Johnson”), to talk about how Butler addressed complaints of sexual assault and to discuss the next steps in the process (Filing No. 137-4 at 9; Filing No. 137-3 at 7-8).

         In the afternoon of April 19, 2015, Patterson sent an email to Ayala to inform him that Butler had received a report of an incident involving non-consensual sexual intercourse and non-consensual sexual contact and that the report had named him as the person involved. Patterson requested to meet with Ayala the next day, April 20, 2015, to discuss Ayala's rights and the next steps in the process (Filing No. 137-1 at 31-33). Pursuant to Butler's policy for handling allegations of sexual misconduct, a Title IX advisor was assigned to Ayala to be a resource for him. Scott Peden was assigned as Ayala's Title IX advisor, and he contacted Ayala on April 23, 2015, to let him know that he was available to answer any questions. Id. at 36-37.

         As Butler's Title IX coordinator, Patterson assigned Defendant Martha Dziwlik (“Dziwlik”) to investigate the allegations against Ayala. Dziwlik interviewed Jane on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, and she interviewed Ayala on April 23, 2015 (Filing No. 137-4 at 11). Ayala's attorney attended the interview with Dziwlik on April 23rd (Filing No. 137-1 at 10; Filing No. 137-2 at 23). Throughout the next week, Dziwlik interviewed several students who were named by either Jane or Ayala as witnesses or individuals with knowledge of the incident. Dziwlik held follow-up meetings with Jane on April 27, 2015 and with Ayala on April 30, 2015 to confirm her notes (Filing No. 137-4 at 11).

         After she finished her investigation, Dziwlik completed a Title IX investigative report, which summarized her interviews, findings, and recommendations. Id. at 11-19. Based on her interviews and the text messages sent among the witnesses, Dziwlik concluded, “[w]ithin 23 minutes, through documented communication, the situation turned from potentially consensual to potentially non-consensual based on a series of text messages indicating a need for help and that an assault had occurred.” Id. at 19. Dziwlik recommended that the case move forward to a formal hearing with a grievance panel because there was “sufficient eviden[ce] to support the claim of non-consensual sexual contact and non-consensual sexual intercourse.” Id.

         On April 30, 2015, Patterson emailed Ayala, informing him that the information obtained from the investigation up to that point in time was sufficient to support a possible university policy violation, and thus, a grievance panel hearing was tentatively scheduled for May 14, 2015 (Filing No. 137-1 at 40).

         On May 6, 2015, Defendant Anne Flaherty (“Flaherty”), the dean of student life and grievance panel chair, emailed Ayala to inform him of the date, time, and location of the grievance panel hearing. The letter also informed Ayala of the identity of the witnesses who would be called and the members of the grievance panel: Defendants Robert Padgett, Erin McCluney, and Sally Click. The letter invited Ayala to identify any other witnesses who he wished to call at the hearing, and it informed him that Dziwlik's Title IX investigative report would be provided to him five days ...

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