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Monday, April 20, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Retired Notre Dame cop critical of handling of sex assault cases"

Margaret Fosmoe of the South Bend Tribune reported this weekend in a long story that begins:

Patrick Cottrell has one regret about his 20 years as an investigator on the University of Notre Dame's Security Police department.

He investigated about 30 cases that involved allegations of sexual assault by students against other students — ranging from fondling to rape — but not a single one of those cases resulted in criminal charges from the county prosecutor's office, he said.

Not a single alleged assailant had to appear in court to answer to sex assault charges.

"The major disappointment of my career was I couldn't get any charges filed in sex assault cases," Cottrell said Thursday in a telephone interview.

The lack of prosecutions is one reason the retired police officer with 41 years of professional experience agreed to be interviewed and appear in the new documentary film, "The Hunting Ground," about sexual assaults on American college campuses. Three allegations of sexual assault involving students at Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College are highlighted in the film.

"The Hunting Ground" is being shown in theaters across the country. It was shown Friday night at Notre Dame and was screened this weekend at the Goshen Art House in Goshen.

More from the story:

In his Tribune interview, Cottrell, who retired from Notre Dame in 2010, raised concerns about several aspects of Notre Dame's handling of sex assault cases:

• A policy change that he said forbid campus police officers from contacting coaches or other athletic department employees in order to interview student athletes who were the subject of a police investigation.

• Lack of support for victims of sexual assault who requested a student affairs hearing to provide evidence an assailant should be suspended, expelled or otherwise face disciplinary action by the university.

• The fact that campus police investigate sex assault cases on their own, instead of joining with the countywide sex assault police investigation unit that handles cases in South Bend, Mishawaka and throughout St. Joseph County.

• Notre Dame's private campus police force not adhering to the state's public records law, just like every public police agency in the state. * * *

One woman interviewed in the film, Saint Mary's graduate Rachel Hudak, said she was raped in a Notre Dame residence hall by a male student after being invited to the dorm on the pretense of a party. Cottrell investigated that case and no charges were filed, although he and the woman's father later wanted the prosecutor's office to take the case before a grand jury and obtain testimony under oath from witnesses who had provided inconsistent statements.

The case of Lizzy Seeberg also is recounted in the film. Seeberg, who was a Saint Mary's freshman in 2010, reported that Notre Dame football player Prince Shembo committed sexual misconduct against her, and she committed suicide a few days later. No charges were filed. Her father, Tom Seeberg, appears in the film. Cottrell was not involved in the Seeberg case investigation.

When Cottrell learned Seeberg and another Saint Mary's victim has participated in the film, he agreed to be interviewed. Hudak also later agreed to appear in the film.

Cottrell has seen the film and thinks it does a good job of reporting on the huge problem of sexual assault on college campuses. "It's definitely fair and accurate," he said. "The stats that are reported in it are really pretty alarming."

The former officer said he hopes the film spurs action.

"We need to do more to encourage every victim to report sexual assault. And we need to follow through and encourage the prosecutor's office to file charges if there is probable cause," he said.

ILB: This long list of ILB posts include many about the Lizzy Seeberg case, the failure of Notre Dame police to comply with the public records law, etc.

[More] See this April 20th Fosmoe story headed "Movie on college sex assaults continues to stir Notre Dame controversy."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 20, 2015 10:13 AM
Posted to Indiana Government