BREAKING NEWS: Grand jury indicts SMU student on rape charge

One SMU panel has found him “guilty,” another “not guilty”
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Posted September 14, 2012 by By Natalie Posgate, Brooks Igo. and Patricia Boh in News
Breaking

Editor’s note: Fort Worth Weekly has reported several times over the last several years about controversies regarding the reporting and handling of crime on college campuses, in Texas and nationally. Included in that coverage was an award-winning story reported by student journalists around the state, including those at Southern Methodist University.

            The Weekly is publishing this story as a follow-up to that earlier coverage and also because the journalists on this story — one current SMU student and two alumni — were having trouble finding another news media organization to publish the story under conditions the students found acceptable.

A Dallas County grand jury has indicted an SMU student on charges that he sexually assaulted another student, the first such case to be prosecuted in decades, records and interviews show.

            Donald Samuel Cuba, a 20-year-old junior, was indicted last week on one count of sexual assault after he allegedly raped an SMU student in Smith Hall on Feb. 10, according to records and interviews.

            On Monday, Cuba was arrested and booked on a sexual assault charge. Bond was set at $15,000, according to court records.

            Dallas attorney Robert Udashen, who is representing Cuba, said Thursday his client will plead not guilty.

            Jill Cuba said Wednesday that her son is innocent. “He is not guilty,” she

said, speaking from the family home in La Grange Park, Ill.

            Erin Hendricks, chief prosecutor in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Sexual Assault Unit from 2007 to 2010, said she could not recall a previous case where a grand jury indicted a SMU student for sexually assaulting another student.

“This case might be one of the first, if not the first of its kind to make it this far in the criminal justice system,” said Hendricks, a graduate of SMU’s Dedman School of Law.

Over the past 25 years, more than 100 SMU students reported being sexually assaulted. Yet as The Daily Campus reported in May, in only one case — the three men who raped Monika Korra in 2009 — were the suspects successfully prosecuted.

Those men were not SMU students. For every sexual assault suspect who is, SMU relies on a system of secret hearings in which the goal is educational — “not an adversarial process of antagonists striving to best one another.”

SMU officials say the system — where all records are kept secret — works well.

“The university is confident in the integrity of its process and its procedures,” SMU spokesperson Kent Best said Thursday.

Jan Doe, the pseudonym for Cuba’s accuser, likely has a different view.

It was during the early morning hours of Feb. 10, according to Doe, that Cuba raped her in her dormitory. Three days later, Doe told SMU officials she’d been sexually assaulted. They posted a crime alert that said the suspect was a “student acquaintance” but did not describe him.

Officials referred the report to SMU’s internal judicial system. The first panel (three students, a faculty member and a staff member) found Cuba guilty of sexual assault, according to two sources close to the investigation.

After Cuba filed an appeal of that ruling, a second panel (three students, two faculty members and two staff members) found Cuba not guilty, the sources said.

This is precisely what happened in one of the few earlier SMU rape cases to be made public, one that raised serious questions nationally about the fairness of the university’s approach. In 1990, a secret panel found an SMU student guilty of sexually assaulting another SMU student only to have a second panel overrule that decision in 1991, a decision upheld by then-President A. Kenneth Pye.

In 2012, Doe appealed the second panel’s not-guilty finding, an effort that eventually resulted in last week’s indictment of Cuba.

Exactly how the case reached the district attorney’s office is not clear. In most cases, police departments and other law enforcement agencies refer criminal cases for prosecution along with an offense report describing the alleged crime. However, judicial officials said that in the Cuba case, the district attorney’s office referred the case to the grand jury and that there is no offense report from the SMU Police Department.

Best said university officials couldn’t comment on student conduct matters.

Police Chief Richard Shafer and Evelyn Ashley, the SMU official who oversees judicial panels, were not available to be interviewed, according to Best.

The sexual assault case has been assigned to State District Judge Susan Hawk.


29 Comments


  1.  
    SMU Student

    I’m ever so shocked that SMU tried to cover up rape and didn’t want the Daily Campus reporting anything negative about SMU……..said by no one ever




    •  
      Anonymous

      Wrong. SMU’s Daily Campus didn’t want to publish the story because they felt that their sources weren’t credible and that they needed to gather more information.

      The writers of this story are actually not college students. They misrepresented themselves as SMU students on purpose, shopped their illegitimate story to various newspapers after refusing to share their “secret sources” with the Daily Campus, and ultimately have produced this junk.

      This is unethical journalism. I am shocked that Fort Worth Weekly agreed to publish this. The writers of this story stooped to a low to get what they wanted.

      Real journalism requires extensive research and a consideration for ethics. These writers are a disappointment.




      •  
        Current SMU Student

        Actually one of the authors is a classmate of mine and I know that this classmate dedicated months to researching this subject.

        I’m omitting their name and gender for their privacy.




  2.  
    Jill Richards

    A poorly written story without much detail. Was SMU even contacted for an official response? How about the other people involved?

    As an SMU alum, I am disappointed after reading this.




  3.  
    Mr. Blonde

    As an SMU alumni, I am disgusted to hear of this case’s handling and of an evidently decades-long system of whitewashing and concealing similar crimes.




  4.  
    Mcbeese

    To me, this ranks right up there with the Penn State scandal. All those involved in not reporting alleged criminal assaults and instead referring them to private kangaroo courts need to be exposed… and prosecuted if the details justify it.




    •  
      Boo

      The “secret” case proceedings are also known as confidential. This is confidential for the sake of both students involved. Additionally, student accusers are able to go through multiple judicial processes simultaneously: the college’s and the local legal authorities’. Lastly, whether or not a survivor of rape plans on pressing charges, he or she should always always get a rape kit. There are many resources that will collect this information for free and without mandated reporting. This will avoid a one-said, the-other-said situation.




  5.  
    Mustangs

    You all need to remember that his boy is innocent until proven guilty. No details are provided. Maybe they are not covering it up. Maybe they didn’t want anything published because this boy could actually be completely innocent.There have been many cases of girls claiming rape for attention, a coverup instead of admitting they cheated, a cry for help, etc. You cannot judge this person. Only a court of law can, so do not gossip about such serious matters.




    •  
      RickTownMustang

      You’re right. Cuba could be completely innocent. But that’s not what this article is about. The real issue at hand here is the fact that 100 cases of sexual assault have been brought to the university’s attention with only one being successfully prosecuted- ironically one where the suspects were non-SMU students.

      It’s absolutely disgusting that a school would silence the wounded in order to keep a reputation. My heart goes out to all the women whose voices weren’t heard where they should have been heard and where justice should have been served. As an alumnus, I am glad to see that all of this is coming to light.




  6.  
    RamsGirl

    Of course the school wouldn’t publish it! Rumor has it you wouldn’t even share your sources. What irresponsible journalism. Y’all are obviously extremely biased. As I woman, I understand being horrified to hear someone’s story of rape. As I sexual abuse victim, I become enraged. I agree with “Mustangs” above though. I have seen women who have cried rape and ruined someone’s life. I hate such women. They make all other victims such as myself furious. In my eyes, he is innocent until proven guilty. From this story, it seems like people are on a rampage to teach SMU a lesson, but it is worth this poor boy’s life?




    •  
      RickTownMustang

      “From this story, it seems like people are on a rampage to teach SMU a lesson, but it is worth this poor boy’s life?”

      And from this story, it seems like SMU is on a mission to keep their hands and students clean no matter what, but is it worth all of those poor girls’ lives?




    •  
      Stuart Smith

      Refusing to burn sources is far from “irresponsible journalism”




  7.  
    Mcbeese

    With all due respect, those of you who are arguing for the case of this young man’s rights are missing the point. The main point is that SMU has for decades been using secret star chambers to protect SMU’s brand image at the cost of justice for those who have been sexually assaulted. If you review the statistics for reported sexual assaults on college campuses, you will realize that there is ZERO chance that SMU is not denying justice for those who are victims of criminal sexual assault, just as Jerry Sandusky’s young victims were denied justice by the coverup at Penn State.

    Here is an estimate, taken from an excerpt in the article, of the size of the cover up: “Over the past 25 years, more than 100 SMU students reported being sexually assaulted. Yet as The Daily Campus reported in May, in only one case — the three men who raped Monika Korra in 2009 — were the suspects successfully prosecuted.” Interestingly, in this one case that was forwarded to police and successfully prosecuted, the perpetrators were not SMU students.

    SMU is apparently the next Penn State, and needs to have just as much of a spotlight applied in order to expose and end the problem. I encourage all of the victims who never saw justice done to come forward.




    •  
      Boo

      Secret star chambers? They’re called confidential hearings! All colleges use them. “Justice” is for the courts to decide. SMU only has the power to create parameters regarding the students’ statuses at SMU and/or the students’ future interactions with one another while on campus.

      Sexual assault and rape can be very different situations. Also, while a student might choose to report a rape (or sexual assault for that matter), that does not mean he/she must pursue a hearing process. Also “successfully prosecuted” at what level? Many students choose to report their rape to the institution, but not take it to the police. If this is the case, of course an unreported rape would not be “successfully prosecuted.”

      I do agree with your call to action.




  8.  
    Mcbeese

    To be clear, the young man in this article is innocent until determined otherwise in a court of law. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise in my previous post by skipping over that point. He will get his day in court and will be offered the rights and protections that our legal system provides to all those accused of a crime. However, as I stated in my previous post, the main story is not about this one isolated incident, it’s about a secret star chamber system of justice at SMU that is sheltering sexual predators and denying victims THEIR day in court.




  9.  
    Devin Trousdale

    Great points, McBeese. What I wonder is because these crimes occured on the SMU campus, then does that automatically mean SMU police have jurisdiction before UP or Dallas? Because it sounds like the best option if you’re raped on the SMU campus is to go straight to Dallas County. This young man could be totally innocent, but as you state the bigger concern is that 100 cases in 25 years and only 1 prosecution. Surely a few out of those 100 could use the “education” of the Texas justice system.
    The other concern is the handling of evidence. Is a small campus police force going to have the kind of resources to successfully gather and present evidence for a sexual assault trual? Maybe future articles related to this story will expand on this.




  10.  
    Sam815

    The only thing yellow here is a bunch of SMU students and faculty wanting to sweep this sort of thing under the rug as they have for decades. Next they will want to debate what’s “Legitimate Rape”. I hope the guy gets 20 years minimum if he’s guilty. This story needs to be kept in the press until justice is done.

    There is nothing wrong with a journalist keeping a source confidential. It’s been done for years all over this country. Of course there are those who would like to intimidate witnesses and take retribution on Sources. Why else would they be so concerned about the sources.




  11.  
    Devin Trousdale

    The article that was first published in the SMU Daily Caller goes a long way toward explaining the concerns I iterated above, see link: http://www.smudailycampus.com/mobile/news/sweeping-rape-under-the-rug-1.2863843#.UFNxoq4qd8E




  12.  
    Dallas238

    This has been SMU’s strategy for generations. First they blame the victim, then they intimidate the victim in to not pressing charges or simply discount all allegations as coming from a mere female. The perpetrator is set free with all charges dismissed behind closed door secret proceedings.

    And these people actually defend and believe that a closed door system in which all records are kept secret — works well. Yes! it does work quite well for the rapist, in maintaining secrecy of his identity it allows him to continue his crimes against many more women.

    SMU needs to wake up and join the 21′st century. SMU Officials who fail to immediately report these crimes to the Dallas Police Department need to be brought up on charges themselves if they want to continue to conceal these crimes against their female students.




  13.  
    Pony

    As an SMU alum, I can attest to the farce that is the SMU judicial system. It is completely and totally rigged.

    And the school itself is much more concerned with protecting its name and avoiding bad press than doing what is right- see the Jake Stiles case way back in 2006 or so, when the school wouldn’t even release the police report of his death to his own parents.




  14.  
    Pepper

    College campuses have to have a way with dealing with casual “hook-up” that go on daily on campus. Occasionally, someone will be ashamed of participating in casual sex and feel remorse, so they say something to make them selves feel better. A girl that makes a claim after three days no longer has evidence that can be documented by a rape test. The evidence is cirmstancial and testimony by witness who saw the interactions play a role. SMU did not cover up a rape. SMU investigated the party and the alleged event. SMU called witnesses. There will be no evidence. Remember the Duke lacrosse players? Remember the prosecutor Michael Nifong and how he made nothing into national headlines. He is now disbarred.
    This is bad reporting!




    •  
      Seriously?

      Ugh. You know what? False accusations of rape and sexual assault is really not as common as people seem to believe. It’s really not. Attitudes like yours “Oh she was into it, she just regretted it the next day, that’s it!” seriously hurts victims of rape and sexual assault. That line of thinking is continuously used to discredit them (along with other ridiculous notions like how what someone is wearing means that it’s okay to “have sex” with them against their will).

      Yes, it happens that things get fucked up in that direction you describe (an innocent person gets accused of rape/sexual assault and their names are smeared), but the other way around is a lot more common, and by a lot I mean by a landslide (the victim gets told to be quiet, they bring up her previous sexual history to try and discredit her, they help the rapist/assaulter out at the cost of the victim, the victim gets shamed and smeared for being raped/assaulted, the list of shit that often happens to rape/sexual assault victims is disgusting and seemingly endless).

      Stop pushing the “it was a casual hook-up she regretted the day after” angle, because it’s fucking disgusting. While it may happen, I doubt most of those who regret a hook-up the day after go out and start yelling rape or sexual assault.




  15.  
    Anonymous6

    This is terrible journalism. The reporter has chosen to take the easy story, rather than searching for the true one. There are no details to describe the event, witnesses, or the ongoing trials. For instance, I’m sure “Jan Doe” didn’t care to mention that there was a third party sleeping in the dorm room where the alleged “rape” took place.

    If you are going to report on a story dealing with such a severe topic, put more work into it. Get both sides of the story and print them both. If you can’t gather enough information to do this, then it shouldn’t be written.




  16.  
    Jack

    As an SMU student with knowledge about SMU’s sexual assault response protocol, I can guarantee that SMU never tries to subvert legal action in these cases. The decision to press charges is at the hands of the complainant (aka victim).




  17.  
    tcufrog

    Whether or not someone was sleeping in the room doesn’t mean that sexual assault didn’t take place. The roommate may have been used to the accused assailant bringing sexual partners back to the room and ignored it or he may have been a really sound sleeper. My husband can sleep through pretty much anything including a smoke alarm going off and our son screaming over the baby monitor. The worst option is that he heard cries for help and ignored them.





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