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Cephus files lawsuit against UW-Madison claiming university violated constitutional rights

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MADISON, Wis. - Quintez Cephus, the University of Wisconsin-Madison football player facing multiple sexual assault charges, filed a lawsuit against the school on Tuesday, claiming the administration violated his constitutional rights.

Prosecutors charged 20-year-old Cephus in August with second- and third-degree sexual assault. According to a criminal complaint, Cephus sexually assaulted two drunken women in his Madison apartment in April. Since August, the Badger’s wide receiver has been on a forced leave of absence for the UW-Madison football team.

In a complaint outlining the university’s internal investigation of the sexual assault charges, the university, the Title IX coordinator, the director of the office of compliance and the chancellor are accused of violating Cephus’ Fifth and 14th amendment rights, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act, among others listed in the complaint.

“(The) defendants conduct was malicious, reckless, and/or callously indifferent to (Cephus’) rights,” the complaint said.

UW Communications released a statement Wednesday:

"We have not yet reviewed this lawsuit. However, we are confident that our processes related to these types of investigations comply with federal law," UW officials said. Officials later added, "UW–Madison is continuing with our process which is consistent with what federal law requires us to do."

Damages from the suit are to be determined at trial, according to the complaint, though they will include physical, emotional and psychological damages, damages to reputation and past and future economic losses, among loss of education and athletic opportunities.

Cephus was recruited to the university to play football, and was expected to graduate in 2020, according to the complaint. It also said Cephus “was a strong candidate to be a high draft pick in the National Football League.”

The complaint started with the beginning of the university’s investigation in April of 2018. Cephus’ lawyers pointed to specific conversations with Lauren Hasselbacher, the Title IX coordinator at the university, in which she requested an interview with Cephus as part of the investigation.

After criminal charges were filed in Dane County in August, Cephus’ lawyer declined to have Cephus participate until the criminal proceedings were complete, saying it would violate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. It went on to say the university continued with its investigation anyway, which violated Cephus’ 14th Amendment right to due process.

“Defendants have knowingly and intentionally forced plaintiff into the predicament of having to either waive his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by choosing to participate in the university process despite the potential harm to his criminal defense, or decline to participate in the university’s process thus leading to the inevitable finding of responsibility and severe sanctions,” the complaint said.

The complaint also said the university faced external pressures to find Cephus guilty, namely a prominent donor with close ties to the case, which it said caused the university to move forward more quickly and at the expense of Cephus’ rights.

Cephus' attorneys have also sought to dismiss the criminal case against him, alleging the women weren't drunk and surveillance video showed one victim had no difficulty standing. A judge denied that motion.

The complaint requested a trial by jury. Cephus will be in Dane County Court on Thursday for his arraignment in the criminal case. His case is expected to head to trial.

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