Judge won’t toss rape victim’s lawsuit against USU

Posted at 9:36 PM, Feb 08, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge will not dismiss a lawsuit filed against Utah State University by a rape victim.

However, some school officials are now off the hook.

Victoria Hewlett (FOX 13 file image)

Victoria Hewlett sued USU, alleging she was raped in 2015 by Jason Relopez. She alleged that numerous other women had reported being sexually assaulted by him, yet school officials did nothing about it.

Relopez pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges and was sentenced to jail time. FOX 13 does not typically name sexual assault victims, but Hewlett has spoken out about her assault and USU’s actions.

In a ruling handed down Thursday night, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer dismissed the lawsuit against the school officials citing a legal immunity standard.

“The potential threat Relopez posed to Hewlett, of which the Personnel Defendants were allegedly aware, was realized off campus and outside of the Personnel Defendants’ supervision,” he wrote.

Jason Relopez appears in 1st District Court for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 6, 2015. Relopez was bound over to stand trial for rape and aggravated sexual assault. (Courtroom pool image)

However, Judge Nuffer ruled that other parts of Hewlett’s lawsuit may proceed, including a claim that USU’s student code was essentially a contract that the school violated.

“Hewlett asserts that the ‘Student Code constitutes an agreement between Utah State University and its students.’ The Student Code is enforced to control students’ on- and off-campus behavior,” he wrote. “Hewlett further alleges that Utah State breached the Student Code’s provisions on sexual assault and violence, which harmed Hewlett by causing the Incident. These allegations are sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss the contract claim.”
Judge Nuffer suggested that the Utah Supreme Court may need to weigh in on whether a student code policy qualifies as an enforceable contract. The judge also allowed Hewlett’s attorneys to amend part of her original lawsuit against the university.

Read the judge’s ruling here: