Fraternity President Accused of Sexual Assault Files Civil Suit Against Cornell University
The suit argues Cornell's own administrative policies have violated Wolfgang Ballinger's civil rights
A 21-year-old Cornell University student arrested three months ago when a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her in his fraternity house bedroom has filed a civil suit against the school, claiming its internal investigatory process is both flawed and illegal, PEOPLE confirms.
Cornell’s administration did not return PEOPLE’s calls seeking comment.
A motion filed with New York’s Tompkins County Supreme Court on May 5 by the student, Wolfgang Ballinger, seeks a temporary suspension of Cornell’s ongoing internal investigation into the alleged attack.
The suit, which was obtained by PEOPLE, argues that Cornell’s administrative policies have violated Ballinger’s due process rights by denying him the chance to have a fair hearing because “it does not provide the accused student a fair and reasonable opportunity to defend himself.”
On Monday, a judge granted Ballinger’s request, barring Cornell from continuing with its disciplinary proceedings until after the next hearing in the matter, which is scheduled for June 30.
Since his arrest on Feb. 5, Ballinger – a resident of Ghent, New York, whose father owns the music venue Webster Hall in New York’s East Village – has denied any wrongdoing. His suit says he had never been arrested prior to this year says he maintains a 3.4 grade point average.
Ballinger was detained on attempted rape, sexual abuse, and criminal sexual act charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty. His alleged victim told police he assaulted her the evening of Jan. 31. Soon after his arrest, Cornell suspended him and prohibited him from returning to campus.
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The school maintains it strives to “keep this administrative process fair and transparent while providing the parties an equal opportunity to suggest witnesses and evidence and then to evaluate that evidence before a final report is written,” Elizabeth McGrath, Cornell’s investigator, wrote in an email to Ballinger’s lawyers.
The suit alleges Cornell’s investigation has thus failed to examine any of the DNA evidence collected from Ballinger’s alleged victim. The suit further contends Cornell administrators have publicly characterized the school’s adjudication process as “unfair, flawed and changing within the next few months.”
Seven months ago, New York legislators mandated that all universities “give students accused of sexual assault a fair hearing,” where evidence can be presented by both sides. At present, Cornell holds no such hearings and prevents the accused from seeing its investigator’s files on the case, the suit says. The school intends to update its policies this coming August, according to the suit.
Ballinger’s suit asks the court to order Cornell to “comply with the law and afford him the hearing to which he is legally entitled.”
Ballinger’s lawyers tell PEOPLE the matter remains in the hands of grand jury, which has until September to indict him on the initial criminal charges.
Sarah Wesley, Ballinger’s criminal defense attorney, tells PEOPLE her client is innocent of the charges, calling him “a sacrificial lamb” who has been “misconstrued and mispainted.”
“He is being held up as this frat boy who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, but that’s just not the case,” Wesley explains.