CINCINNATI — Most of the claims in a lawsuit by a former Xavier University basketball player accusing the school and its president of damaging his reputation by expelling him for what he says was a false rape accusation will proceed to trial, a judge ruled on Wednesday.
Dez Wells' federal lawsuit, filed in August, included 11 claims against the university and its president, Rev. Michael Graham, including sex discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel for injury to his reputation and negligence.
After a request by the university and Graham to dismiss many of the claims, federal Judge Arthur Spiegel allowed most of them to remain.
Spiegel dismissed a request by Wells to throw out the University Conduct Board's decision to expel him, citing an expired statute of limitations. He dismissed the sex discrimination and deliberate indifference claims only against Graham, but those charges survived against the university.
The university is pleased the court dismissed some of the claims and believes Xavier will be vindicated once all the facts are known, Xavier spokeswoman Kelly Leon said in a statement.
Xavier kicked Wells out of school in 2012 in the aftermath of a student's accusation that he raped her.
Wells said he had consensual sex with the student following a game known as "Truth or Dare" with a group of students, during which he said the girl took off most of her clothes, kissed him, and gave him a lap dance.
Court records say that a hospital examination showed no trauma on the girl's body, and she later told police that she didn't want to press charges. A Hamilton County grand jury declined to indict Wells after hearing evidence in the case.
Before the investigation was over, court records say that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters expressed his doubts about the alleged rape to Graham and urged him to hold off on any discipline against Wells until the investigation was finished.
At the time, Xavier said Wells was expelled for a "serious violation" of the code of student conduct, and that a board consisting of faculty, students and administrators made the decision following standard procedures for U.S. universities.
Wells claims that the university and Graham used him as a scapegoat to demonstrate an aggressive response to sexual assault allegations in the wake of two unrelated federal investigations of the university by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.
The federal investigations were prompted in part by an allegation that Xavier allowed a student accused of two rapes to remain on campus.
Wells, who's from Raleigh, N.C., was a freshman star for Xavier. He subsequently transferred to the University of Maryland, where he became a top player after the NCAA agreed to waive the usual transfer requirement for sitting out. Wells and his team will play in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament this week.
Wells has previously said that since the rape allegation, he has been heckled by fans and faces continued questions about his character.
"From the moment this nightmare began, I've told the truth. I am innocent," Wells said in a statement last year. "It's time to make this right. Xavier needs to set the record straight."