Lawyer: Minnesota's Lynch denies sexual misconduct claims
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota basketball standout Reggie Lynch “categorically denies” allegations of sexual assault lodged against him by two women, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Attorney Ryan Pacyga also said at a news conference that the 23-year-old senior center never had sexual contact with either woman.
The university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office recommended Lynch’s expulsion Jan. 3 after finding him responsible for sexual misconduct in an alleged assault off campus April 7, 2016.
The office issued that finding the same day as a separate recommendation that he be suspended and barred from campus until Aug. 1, 2020, for sexual misconduct in an unrelated incident alleged to have happened three weeks later. In that case, a woman said he assaulted her on April 28, 2016, in his Roy Wilkins Hall dorm room, according to documents from the EOAA office. Lynch, who has not played since Jan. 3, has appealed in both cases.
“Reggie Lynch categorically denies all of these allegations. In both instances,” Pacyga said.
Reading from the university’s reports, which have not been made public, Pacyga said one woman accused Lynch of digital penetration while the other accused him of full intercourse and oral sex. He said Lynch cooperated with the university’s investigation even though he had the right to remain silent.
Neither incident was reported to law enforcement at the time, Pacyga said, and he said he wasn’t aware of any active law enforcement investigations against Lynch. If either one had been reported, he said, police could have conducted a proper investigation and gathered physical evidence and looked for DNA. But because of the 18-month delay in reporting the allegations to the university, he said, the case comes down to “he said, she said.”
Pacyga said Lynch’s options include walking away from the case and dropping his appeal or fighting the allegations. Pacyga, who was hired Tuesday, said he needs time to go through the university’s investigative reports and consult with Lynch, his parents and their advisers about the allegations and potential defenses before they decide how to proceed.
Lynch still hopes to have a future in basketball, he said. He also said there are only a couple months left in what would be Lynch’s final college season, so it might not be possible to complete the proceedings before it ends.
Pacyga said the university’s burden of proof is lower in student disciplinary proceedings than it is in criminal cases, which makes the allegations harder to defend against. He said he’s afraid for his client because the recent flood of high-profile sexual misconduct allegations across the country.
Pacyga said he agreed that society needed a “correction… but there might be a little bit of a hysteria going on” in the rush and desire to correct past wrongs.
“Put yourself in the shoes of the accused,” he said. “How do you get a fair hearing right now?”
The university suspended Lynch from games last week but allowed him to continue practicing and remain enrolled in school while he appeals. In a statement Tuesday, the school said it can’t legally comment on the allegations.
“The university understands and shares the frustration that it cannot share more information,” it said. “However, federal privacy protections prohibit the university from sharing information related to any specific student discipline matter.”
Lynch, last season’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks before he was benched.
The new cases mark the second and third allegations of sexual misconduct to result in school action against Lynch. He was also suspended during the 2016 offseason over a different case. He was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a woman in an apartment May 8, 2016. He was cleared, however, and reinstated to the team before last season.
Lynch transferred to Minnesota after playing his first two years at Illinois State. Lynch, whose uncle, Kevin Lynch, starred with the Gophers from 1988 to 1991, also played at Edina High School in suburban Minneapolis.