The California Court of Appeals reversed a ruling against former USC kicker Matt Boermeester, who sued the university after a Title IX investigation into intimate partner violence led to his 2017 expulsion.
The court concluded Thursday that the disciplinary procedures used by USC in its investigation of Boermeester “were unfair because they denied Boermeester a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine critical witnesses at an in-person hearing.”
Those limitations, the court wrote, “prevented Boermeester from fully presenting his defense, which was that the eyewitnesses misunderstood what happened between him and [his girlfriend] on January 21, 2017.”
The case will now be remanded to the superior court, with instructions to “afford Boermeester the opportunity to directly or indirectly cross-examine witnesses at an in-person hearing.”
The reversal comes nearly three years after a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge barred Boermeester from enrolling in classes or stepping foot on USC’s campus. At the time, the case was cited as an example by Education Secretary Betsy Devos of a “failed system” for dealing with sexual assault on college campuses.
This month, Devos announced sweeping new rules governing how universities handle allegations of sexual assault. The rules force universities to adhere to a judicial process for investigating Title IX complaints, in which the accused is allowed the right to cross-examine accusers.
USC expelled Boermeester in July 2017 following an incident in which two students observed him put his hands around his girlfriend’s neck and push her against a wall. Boermeester contended, at the time, that the couple was “horsing around.”
Zoe Katz, his girlfriend, initially confirmed those allegations to investigators. But in a statement two months prior to the superior court’s decision, Katz decried the university’s investigation, proclaiming that her statements to Title IX investigators had been “misrepresented, misquoted, and taken out of context.”
“I made it very clear to USC that I have never been abused, assaulted or otherwise mistreated by Matthew Boemeester; not on January 21, 2017, and not ever,” Katz wrote in a statement at the time.
Boermeester, who kicked a field goal on the final play of the game to defeat Penn State 52-49 in the 2017 Rose Bowl, petitioned to return to the school in 2018, but was denied.