In April 2003, a female student and member of the women’s basketball team at La Salle University reported to the men’s team coach, Billy Hahn, and to her own coach, John Miller, that she had awoken in her bedroom to find male player Dzaflo Larkai sexually assaulting her. She claimed that the coaches discouraged her from telling anyone else about the incident and did not report it to campus authorities or to police. Because she was discouraged from reporting the rape, the woman waited another 14 months before finally telling authorities about the attack. The coaches have claimed that it was the player who asked them to keep the matter private. The university’s failure to alert the student body of a major criminal incident was a violation of the Clery Act.
In 2004, a counselor who was working with La Salle University’s summer basketball camp reported to the coach that she had been sexually assaulted by La Salle superstar Gary Neale and another player, Michael Cleavers. The incident allegedly happened at a party. Coach Hahn spoke to the players and reported it to athletic director Tom Brennan. This time the university did inform the campus community, albeit four days later, and the students alleged to have been involved were suspended. When the victim from 2003 heard about the incident, she, too, came forward.
Cleaves and Neal were tried the following fall and were acquitted on all eight counts. The prosecution argued that the men assaulted the woman while she was very drunk, having consumed at least eight shots of high-proof alcohol. Neal and Cleaves claimed the sex was consensual, and the defense maintained she had made up the charges because she was embarrassed. In the other case, the 19-year-old victim decided she did not want to go forward with a trial of Larkai, and the charges were subsequently dropped. Both coaches resigned when the charges were filed.
The U.S Department of Education fined La Salle University for violating the Clery Act. It was the first time the Department had cited a college for failing to inform the student body about an acquaintance assault, and only the 15th time since the enactment of the Clery Act that a college was fined. The Act was passed after Lehigh University student Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in 1986.
- Finley, P., Finley, L., & Fountain, J. (2008). Sports scandals. Westport, CT: Praeger.
- La Salle faces sanctions for handling of alleged sexual assaults. (2006, December 20). Associated Press. Retrieved June 12, 2007, from LexisNexis Academic database.
- La Salle University cited for mishandling two rape cases. (2006, December 26). Campus Safety Magazine. Retrieved May 3, 2010, from http://www.campussafetymagazine.com/Channel/Emergency-Management/News/2006/12/26/La-Salle-University-Cited-for-Mishandling-2-Rape-Cases.aspx