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Former IUP student, acquitted of rapes, sues over expulsion

Paul Peirce
| Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 4:09 p.m.

A former Indiana University of Pennsylvania student who was acquitted in separate trials last year of raping two women in 2015 alleged in a federal lawsuit that his expulsion by the school's disciplinary board violated his constitutional right to due process.

Jose Aponte, 24, of Philadelphia seeks unspecified civil damages against the university and IUP officials, including President Michael Driscoll, alleging his constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment were repeatedly violated by university officials after his May 7, 2015, arrest by borough police, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

He is asking the court to order IUP to confer upon him a Bachelor of Science in criminology.

Aponte, a senior majoring in criminology, was charged with raping two women in separate off-campus incidents in May 2015, a week before he was scheduled to graduate, according to the 18-page lawsuit. Aponte maintains in the lawsuit that before his arrest he had “a sparkling” academic and personal record, had never been arrested and agreed to be photographed for IUP marketing material promoting student diversity.

Aponte said he was immediately suspended by the university after his arrest without an opportunity to present his version of events at an expulsion hearing.

“By virtue of this suspension, Aponte was barred from finishing his finals and attending graduation,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Aponte's Hispanic heritage contributed to his treatment and resulted in a “smear campaign” against him.

“Aponte was deemed guilty from the moment of his arrest, and the stories of his accusers were taken as gospel because of their sex and prevailing stereotypes, even though the accusations made against Aponte were not true. The (disciplinary) hearing (in June 2015) was simply a formality that had no impact upon the predetermined decision to expel the male participant in what was nothing more than consensual sexual activity,” the lawsuit states.

Aponte was acquitted of both rapes in separate Common Pleas Court jury trials in Indiana in March and August 2016.

Michelle Fryling, IUP's executive director of communications and media relations, said the university has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

Aponte alleges in the lawsuit that his expulsion by the university indicates he was a victim of sex discrimination in violation of the federal education act and a victim of race discrimination in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

“(Aponte's) guilt was presumed because of racial prejudice,” the lawsuit states.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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