HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A woman`s lawsuit claims University of Alabama in Huntsville officials acted with deliberate indifference toward her claim that she was raped by a UAH hockey player.
In March, U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala denied UAH`s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges Title IX violations, that is, the conduct denied the woman’s access to education.
The suit deals with events that started January 2013. It claims then-UAH hockey player Llasse Uusivirta raped the plaintiff — listed as Jane Doe — in a campus dorm.
It alleges UAH police Sgt. John Beswick advised the woman against filing criminal charges, even though Uusivirta reportedly confessed that he realized the student had been drinking and she couldn`t consent to sex.
A student discipline review board twice recommended Uusivirta`s expulsion, the lawsuit claims, but Associate Provost Brent Wren overruled that decision.
The lawsuit contends Wren issued a lesser punishment, suspending Uusivirta two semesters, but allowing his return in time for the next hockey season.
The lawsuit also claims nobody told the woman about Uusivirta`s successful appeal to Wren, that is, until she saw him on campus.
She contacted an attorney, spoke to the Madison County District Attorney’s office and Uuisvirta was arrested by the UAH police department and charged with first degree rape in April 2013.
A month later he fled to his home in Finland. A grand jury later declined to charge him with rape, but prosecutors said if he returned to the U.S. they would again pursue the charge.
Through a spokesman, UAH declined to comment on a matter of pending litigation.
The woman’s attorney, Mary Ellen Bates, told WHNT News 19 today called her client, a “very, very, brave young woman.
“This young woman placed her trust in the university and its staff,” Bates said. “She suffered a horrible and life-changing event and the university tried to sweep it under the rug to protect their hockey program.”
In March 2015, a magistrate judge had recommended a dismissal of the lawsuit, saying UAH did not act with deliberate indifference. The judge found that UAH did punish Uusivirta, the plaintiff just didn’t think it was sufficient.
But a year later, Judge Haikala said a dismissal wasn’t appropriate, allowing the case to move forward.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and also names Regina Young Hyatt, who was UAH’s Dean of Student Affairs.
(This story has been corrected, the UAH Police Department arrested Uusivirta.)