Jack Montague, the Yale basketball captain who was expelled near the end of the team's best season in a half-century, sued the university Thursday for breach of contract and defamation, a development likely to reignite a charged debate over campus sexual harassment.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven, Connecticut, Montague, 22, of Brentwood, Tennessee, names as defendants the university itself and two officials responsible for overseeing its compliance with federal sexual equality laws. The suit specifies no damages, asking that they be determined at a jury trial.
In a statement, Yale called the lawsuit "factually inaccurate and legally baseless," promising to offer a "vigorous defense."
The suit claims that Montague's expulsion had ruined his "promising future," an assertion strikingly similar to that made by the father of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer whose sentence of six months for rape led to harsh criticism. Turner's father objected to his son's sentence by dismissing his offense as "20 minutes of action."
"The result of Yale's wrongful conduct has been devastating for Mr. Montague," Montague's lawyers said in a separate statement announcing the suit.
"He was deprived of the Ivy League degree he came so close to obtaining," they said. "He was deprived of the ability to join the Yale men's basketball team in the NCAA playoffs (a feat the team had achieved, with Mr. Montague's skill and leadership, for the first time in 54 years), and he was unfairly branded a sexual assailant, a label he may never be able to shed."
The 53-page suit accuses Yale and its office in charge of Title IX compliance of having made Montague a "poster child" for its enforcement of equality laws, singling him out because of his prominence as captain of the unexpectedly successful basketball team.
The lawsuit says Montague had a continuing relationship with the woman he was accused of mistreating, who is identified only as "Jane Roe." They had had consensual "sexual encounters" several times before the incident on the night of Oct. 18, 2014 — when, it claims, the woman voluntarily went to Montague's room to spend the night, disrobed and joined in consensual sex.
The complaint against Montague wasn't filed for more than a year afterward, on Nov. 18, 2015, and it was brought by the university, not the alleged victim, the lawsuit says. Only later, after having been "pressured" by Yale's Title IX office, did the woman allege that the sex wasn't consensual, it says.
Yale had been under scrutiny from the U.S. Education Department and the Office of Civil Rights until earlier in 2014 as part of an agreement it reached to settle an unrelated 2010 Title IX complaint.
In that climate, the complaint alleges, Title IX officials were looking to bag a prominent target, and "imposing harsh discipline on Montague would surely make an impact."
That Montague's expulsion made an impact is indisputable.
The expulsion roiled the campus, drawing special criticism to his teammates, who showed up for a nationally televised game against Harvard University wearing T-shirts printed with Montague's number and nickname.
That gesture, in turn, created a backlash from activists who accused the team of "supporting a rapist."
The basketball team later apologized, and all mention of Montague was scrubbed from the Yale athletic department's website.