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Attorneys for Gopher Football Players Concerned About Conflicts of Interest During Appeal Hearings

January 27, 2017 06:26 AM

Attorneys representing the Gopher football players suspended for their varying roles in a sexual misconduct investigation at the University of Minnesota are raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest that could impact the university’s appeals process.

Ryan Pacyga, who represents Antoine Winfield Jr., says Tina Marisam, the university official who led the investigation for the office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA), should not have been allowed to testify Thursday before a panel from the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittee.

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An orientation agenda from last August shows Marisam provided subcommittee members an overview of the "best practices for the University's hearing process in sexual misconduct cases,” raising concerns about the panel’s ability to be impartial, according to Pacyga.

“We're in a position where we have to ask (the panel members) to find the very person that trained them is not credible or had a flaw in her investigation,” Pacyga said Thursday shortly before Marisam testified. “That doesn't seem right.”

A university spokesperson said officials cannot comment on specific issues due to privacy restrictions but stated objections to the appeals process are resolved during the pre hearing process, which took place earlier this month.

Pacyga says he was unable to raise the objection at that time because attorneys had not yet obtained the university documents showing Marisam’s involvement with the subcommittee.

Marisam wrote the 82-page investigative report that recommended five players be expelled for sexually assaulting a female student in a Dinkytown apartment last September. The report also recommended one-year suspensions for four players, including Winfield Jr., found to have sexually harassed the woman.

The players were never charged with a crime. They are appealing the disciplinary recommendations and will have the opportunity to testify when the hearings resume Friday afternoon.

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Joe Augustine

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