NEW UPDATE: Officials change accounts of Notre Dame investigation

Well, if that don't bet all. Now that sexual assault has made the news, stories are changing fast. The latest is:

The St. Joseph County Police Department said today that university officials did inform them of the sexual attack allegation by a 19-year-old Northbrook woman made shortly before she died from an apparent suicide in September.

In a report Sunday detailing Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg's sexual battery complaint, Assistant Chief William Redman was quoted saying the department investigating Seeberg's death had not been told about her sexual attack complaint. Redman said that after the story was published, a detective investigating the death told him that Notre Dame police had called him a couple days after he was assigned to the matter to inform him about her allegation.

The rest of the story is here. 

UPDATE:

The central question is simple: Sexual assault is a crime. Crimes must be reported to criminal prosecutors. Did Notre Dame promptly notify the county prosecutors? Or did it wait months while its "investigation" was underway. 

The county prosecutor said Notre Dame forwarded its report to his office "last week," which just happened to be after the Tribune, in fairness, had notified the university that it would soon run the story. The prosecutor said he was not aware of it until the Tribune published the story on Sunday. He said he had not yet finished reading the report. [Story is here.]

Now: Is the forwarding of the ND case file to civil authorities just as the story was about to break only a coincidence? Are we to believe that the chief prosecutor was just getting around now to reading the details of an explosive story involving one of the county's, state's and nation's most recognized institutions? Are we to believe that a police force hired and managed by the university itself does not have a conflict of interest in investigating a story that can be damaging to the university?

Seeberg well documented the alleged attack and told friends about it. She reported it to Notre Dame authorities, where the attack took place, She did everything right. Yet, she waited days and days for something, anything to happen, or to be contacted by civil (non-Notre Dame) law enforcement agencies.

Finally, she committed suicide. The Tribune reported that county law enforcement authorities investigated her death. But--here's the thing--they were not informed in their death investigation about a critical piece of information--that she had filed a formal complaint of sexual assault against a specific individual. If this is true, Notre Dame officials are as irresponsible and guilty as were some of the Catholic Church's hierarchy in not reporting alleged sexual attacks by predatory priests.

When the school defenders repeatedly point out that the law protects
the privacy of individual students--as well it should--note should be
take that Seeberg's own parents have been so dissatisfied with the
school's handling of the case that they have hired a former federal
prosecutor--the one that successfully tried former Illinois Gov. George
Ryan--to conduct their own independent investigation.

Original Post:

What in hell is going on at Notre Dame University?

The
latest mind-numbing news out of the vaunted, but now alleged, Catholic
school is its near-criminal mishandling of the apparent suicide of a
19-year-old student who was allegedly sexually assaulted in a dorm room
by a football player.

Thumbnail image for nd.jpg

The stunning details of this latest blot on the school are revealed in a front-page story in Sunday's Chicago Tribune.
The allegations against the unnamed player were made by Elizabeth
"Lizzy" Seeberg, 19, a freshman from Northbrook who was attending St.
Mary's College near Notre Dame. Seeberg, who had battled depression and
anxiety, apparently overdosed on a prescription medication in her own
room during the third week of classes in September following the attack.

The stunning details of this latest blot on the school are revealed in a front-page story in Sunday's Chicago Tribune.
The allegations against the unnamed player were made by Elizabeth
"Lizzy" Seeberg, 19, a freshman from Northbrook who was attending St.
Mary's College near Notre Dame. Seeberg, who had battled depression and
anxiety, apparently overdosed on a prescription medication in her own
room during the third week of classes in September following the attack.

And
how has Notre Dame responded to this tragedy? The player has remained on
the team. Local law enforcement authorities weren't notified of the
assault. And two months after the assault--which she documented in
writing--the university refuses to disclose what it has done to
investigate the case or, according to the Tribune, even acknowledge the
existence of the case. Said the Tribune:

"Campus authorities did not tell the St. Joseph County
Police Department investigating Seeberg's death about her report of a
sexual attack, county officials said. Nor did they refer the case to the
county's special victims unit, which was established to handle sex
offenses, according to prosecutors."

Not until the Tribune informed the school on Friday that it was about to publish the story did the university turn over a "voluminous" file on its investigation to St. Joseph County prosecutors.

By
itself, this insult to justice and decency is monumental. But the insult
becomes stratospheric when you add it to the death of student
videographer Declan Sullivan who was sent up in a scissors lift on a
very windy day to tape football practice. Athletic director Jack
Swarbrick must have thought he was talking a country full of morons when
he said the wind that day was "unremarkable." The school dodged and
weaved responsibility until public pressure became so great that
university president John Jenkins finally publicly accepted full
responsibility.

The
Tribune story--a fine piece of journalism by Stacy St. Clair and Todd
Lighty--leaves the reader with the distinct impression of a cover-up of
the Seeberg matter. This is a school so besotted with itself that it
deems it need answer to no one, not even to civil authority when a crime
has been reported. That would include Seeberg's parents, who have hired
Zachary Fardon, a former federal prosecutor who tried ex-Gov. George
Ryan, to conduct their own independent investigation.

This
insularity is high irony. While leaving to its own "police force" to
investigate the sexual assault charges it quickly handed over to the
local prosecutor the case of 88 people who were arrested by school
police for peacefully demonstrating on campus the selection of anti-life
president Barack Obama as an honored commencement speaker. The school's
determination to punish the demonstrators can only be described as
spiteful and obsessive.

The
Notre Dame 88, which included a nun and an elderly priest, face
penalties of up to a year in prison and fines of $5,000. The
Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a pro-life law firm, is defending the
protestors without charge. The university technically can claim that
calling off the prosecution is out of their hands, but at the same time,
it has not used its so-called prestige to seek Christian charity for
the protestors.

Notre
Dame considers its police force to be on the same level as municipal
forces, but it refuses to make anything public about the alleged attack,
as real police forces are required to do. Arrogantly, it reserves to
itself the power and right to conduct the investigation in secret and to
leave an accused sex offender on its football team.

Notre
Dame claims to be the nation's pre-eminent Catholic university, but it
behaves as if it had no sense of justice and accountability. Clearly any
concept of in loco parentis has disappeared. What remain are vanity, arrogance and malice.

Comments

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  • It seems like "cover up" is the way of life with Catholic entities, especially with regard to sexual assault.

    Although you seem more aggrieved with the 88, the other incidents have to do with football. I understand that American football was invented in universities, but I don't see why they still have it, and, in Notre Dame's case, allow it to pervert all other values. Even if it is argued that it is job training for the 1% of athletes that make the pros, Brady Quinn indicates that Notre Dame isn't doing such a good job with even that task.

  • In reply to jack:

    Where is the "cover up" here? You rode the coat tails of a hack journalist, hoping to tie this in with the "catholic church abuse scandal" and crashed and burned. Tuck your tail between your legs and stop leaning on crappy sources to make your point.

  • In reply to dalber:

    I guess there is now a factual question about when it was reported to the St. Joseph County Sheriff. The Tribune line was that was after they said they were going to break the story. One could infer that the posters here resulted in the Tribune changing their story.

    Hence, Dalbs, I am not in an independent position to judge, so, personally I am not apologizing. I do know that the Church has had a long history of covering up.

    However, unlike my position on the facts, I am in a position to know that ChicagoCitizen was engaged in hypocrisy in making an argument about constitutional law that had no legal basis.

    I guess no one can be sanctimonious in the blogosphere. You, too, Dalbs, at least until such time as you can publish the results of the police investigation.

  • In reply to jack:

    Notre Dame and it's officials should be held accountable for this travisty. I'm glad my 2 grandsons decided against going here and choose Loyola instead. I hope the parents of that young girl sue them big time. No wonder we have priests we can't trust.

  • Talk about sinful: Dennis Byrne writes an article, printed the day after the South Bend Police Department, the South Bend Prosecutors office and the Coroner ALL ADMIT THAT THEY HAD the information that the Chicago Tribune claimed that they did not have! What a blatant disregard for journalism ethics. Obviously ND did all they were supposed to do and most importantly, all they were allowed by federal laws to do. Would you rather they identify and suspend a player before an investigation? Do we assume guilty until proven innocent. This all probably by the same Byrne who will claim his 1st amendment rights while forgetting the constitutional guarantees to one accused. SHAMEFUL.

  • In reply to ChicagoCitizen:

    There may be a point about Tribune journalism. However, the last I heard, the 5th amendment doesn't apply to the "right" to play football, and also not to Notre Dame as a result of the 14th. They can suspend a player for far less. Don't enable the suspect.

    Tell us where you got your legal education.

  • In reply to jack:

    Obviously, "jack" has a short memory: forgot about Duke? And, Twana Brawley?

  • In reply to ChicagoCitizen:

    Just because one university wrongly fingered some students doesn't mean you have any comprehension of the legal issues involved. Don't try this diversion.

  • In reply to jack:

    Is it possible that the alledged assault did not take place? Or does every accusation of this nature turn out to be true? Should individuals be punished based upon accusations? The only crime that has been established here is Mr. Byrne and the Chicago Tribune's shoddy, inaccurate, and sensationalist reporting. Mr. Byrne, your reporting is sinful, shameful, and wrong. Is this what print journalism has been reduced to? Knowingly spinning untrue and malicious information to sell papers? A tragedy certainly has occurred here, but none of us have all the information and everyone is innocent until proven guilty - it is not acceptable for the Tribune to make up information to fit their story and a retraction and apology would be appropriate. Do you always think the worst of people Mr. Byrne? What a sad way to live! You may also want to consider being more careful when you characterize institutions in broad generalities and assign guilt and evil intentions before they has been proven.

  • In reply to ChicagoCitizen:

    Dennis Byrne, this is perhaps the stupidest piece of editorial journalism ever published, even in front of the "fine piece of journalism" recently published in the Chicago Tribune. As I'm sure you're already aware, all of the relevant authorities have already admitted that they know the full details of the case, and that they are working in conjunction with NDSP to investigate the allegations. Have you ever heard of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)? Probably not-- your concerns appear to lie with opinions, rather than facts. Well, this is a law that prohibits universities from publicly discussing certain disciplinary measures, including the allegations the student in question is now facing. The issue in question is not a cover up....it is a LAWFUL obligation to not discuss the allegations. After the tragic death of Declan Sullivan, Notre Dame was wholly open to the press and authorities regarding the details of the situation.

    Allow me to point out another thing you fail to consider. Notre Dame has an obligation to protect its students. While the death of Lizzy Seeburg is a tragic reality, the details regarding the alleged sexual assault are still under investigation. Suppose the football player in question did not actually commit actions that could be construed as sexual assault. These sorts of allegations happen every week on college campuses, and many end up being cases of wrongful accusation. Of course, I would hesitate to publicly make this statement for fear that "journalists" such as yourself would paint me as a misogynist willing to cover up cases of sexual assault. This is, of course, not my position. If the allegations are confirmed, the player in question deserves to experience legal penalties in full force.

    You, and other journalists (though I hesitate to use the word) who have written on the tragic deaths of Lizzy Seeburg and Declan Sullivan have truly disgraced and disrespected their deaths as well as their lives. Both took pride in their connection with Notre Dame and considered the university an integral part of their lives, and you have chosen to add insult to the already tragic fashion in which their lives were cut short. This, as I'm sure everyone realizes, is truly sinful. I can only imagine that this is the manifestation of some old jealousy you have regarding the University.

  • In reply to ChicagoCitizen:

    Try reading this: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-11-22/news/notre-dame-case-forwarded-20101122_1_campus-police-notre-dame-prosecutors

    The point being that the university didn't turn over the report until AFTER the newspaper told the university that it was soon to run the story.

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    Dennis, the point is taken. But, NDSP is vested with investigatory powers. So, they can investigate and then forward to the county prosecutor as they normally proceed. Also, they did inform county police of the assault shortly after the suicide. This was well before the article was to be printed. Are you saying the county police also kept this a secret from the prosecutor. Otherwise, it appears two separate investigatory agencies took their time looking over the facts before making reports available. It would appear the Tribune article is not entirely based upon fact. Those missing facts are very important to your position and undermine your criticism of the university.

  • In reply to esilvas:

    Before I forget, my degree was granted by the University of Notre Dame, not Notre Dame University as your article states.

  • Dennis Bryne should be ashamed of himself for such poor journalism. He is not up to date on the facts pretaining to this case. The university sent out an email to the entire campus informing them of the assult just hours after it had been reported. The University also handed over information to the county and St. Joe's county officials have admitted this. Also to think Notre Dame is acting high and mighty while it is protecting the rights of its students is childish and shortsighted. Additionally, claiming that the University tried to pass the blame for the death of Declan wheb Father Jenkins admitted the University's responsibility a few days after the tragedy is just a blatant lie. The University in fact has outside people conducting an investigation about how Notre Dame handled the incident. Now would a school that thought they were always right do that? I think not. Notre Dame is the best Catholic institution in the world for a reason. They do things the right way in the classroom, in its administration offices, and outside the classroom too. It takes baseless accusations like this to try to bring Notre Dame down and it really is a shame. I thought Chicago would have better journalists than Mr. Byrne.

  • If anyone would care to see someone actually reporting the facts of this situation as they come out (as opposed to spewing his own skew and agenda, Chicagonow's ND football blog "On Down the Line" is doing a much better job of covering the situation:

    http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/on-down-the-line-notre-dame-football/2010/11/character.html

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