Three former University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) students did something few accused of sexual assault on college campuses are able to do: Score large settlements from the college or university that defamed them.

The three students, who will not be named by The Daily Wire, were paid $450,000 – that’s $150,000 each – by UMBC, though the school denies they did anything wrong. The students had sued the college alleging they had been defamed when the student-run newspaper, The Retriever, published their names as well as the allegations against them. The trio maintain they were falsely accused.

Ron Schwartz, one of the attorneys representing the three students, confirmed to The Baltimore Sun that school officials had agreed to the settlement and also agreed to work to remove their names from the article about the allegations against them.

Schwartz called the settlement a “total vindication,” but told the Sun that it wouldn’t undo the harm caused to the three men and their reputations. One of the three accused students has since graduated with a computer engineering degree, but is struggling to find work due to the allegations.

In 2017, the three students, who played baseball at UMBC, went out drinking with two women before ending up at an apartment and engaging in sexual activity. The women claimed to police the next day that they had been blacked out or passed out and could not consent to the sexual activity, while the men said it was all consensual. Blacking out is different from passing out. When someone “blacks out” they are still capable of walking, talking, and consenting to sexual activity, but their brain is not forming new memories so they will forget what they have done the next morning. Since no one can see inside someone’s brain, it cannot be determined that someone is in a blackout state when it is occurring.

The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to bring charges against the accused men, but thanks to Maryland law, one of the accusers was able to file “an application for a statement of charges with a court commissioner,” who then charged the men with rape and other sexual offenses, the Sun reported.

The State’s Attorney’s Office, however, intervened and dropped the charges again. Even though the legal system saw no basis to charge the men, colleges and universities work differently. There, guilt is assumed from the start and women are to be believed regardless of the evidence, making it much easier to condemn accused men. That’s what happened here, and the three men were banned from on-campus activities except for in-person classes and baseball.

As the Sun reported, “News of the criminal charges were printed in The Retriever in fall 2018 around the same time that a class-action lawsuit was filed alleging that police, prosecutors and university officials conspired to cover up sexual assault allegations.”

Numerous lawsuits have been filed in the case. One of the women filed a civil lawsuit in 2019, claiming the men spiked her drink. The three men countersued her for defamation. The lawsuit was dismissed in October 2020. A class-action lawsuit was also filed, claiming the university and police conspired to cover up sexual assaults. That lawsuit was largely dismissed, except for one claim regarding one of the women’s First Amendment rights.

The men also sent letters to the State Treasurer’s Office, claiming UMBC had acted “in a defamatory and reckless manner” when it published their names.

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