Attorney general’s office asks for rape victim’s suit against Utah State University to be dismissed

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Victoria Hewlett has filed a lawsuit against Utah State University after she was raped and sexually assaulted multiple times by a fellow student, Jason Relopez, in 2015. Relopez is now in prison, but Hewlett is suing, saying USU knew about accusations leveled against Relopez a year before he raped her, yet the school did nothing.

The state attorney general’s office filed a motion late Friday night asking a federal judge to dismiss a complaint from a rape victim against Utah State University.

Victoria Hewlett, a former USU student who was raped by Jason Relopez, filed suit in U.S. District Court in November, alleging that five other women had reported sexual assaults by Relopez to school officials before she was attacked in July 2015.

But Relopez, then a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, remained on campus until his arrest after Hewlett’s rape. The school then suspended him. He eventually pleaded guilty to first-degree-felony attempted rape and third-degree-felony forcible sexual abuse, admitting that he sexually assaulted two women in two years.

Hewlett’s suit alleges that USU and campus officials — specifically Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Eric Olsen, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards Krystin Deschamps and then-adviser for the school’s Greek system Kevin Webb — failed to take appropriate actions against Relopez.

In turn, her suit says, they failed to protect her, and to provide her with services required by Title IX to help her overcome emotional trauma and to continue her education. 

Under Title IX — a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education — school officials must "take immediate and appropriate steps" to investigate and address potential sexual violence.

In the motion filed Friday, the Utah attorney general’s office argues that the defendants did not violate statutory protections against sexual harassment, nor did they violate Constitutional rights obligating the university to ensure a person’s security “against harm from a third party.”

Hewlett denied a request for comment Friday night, noting that she wanted to speak with her lawyer first.

The motion says that Hewlett’s suit did not disclose that some previous reports of sexual assault by Relopez may have been shared with university personnel anonymously.

Olsen, Deschamps and Webb ”absolutely were not ’clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances,’” the motion states. It adds that a university education is not a right, and that “even if there were, Hewlett’s allegations fails to support” the assertion that the individual defendants violated it.

The motion also argues that USU did not breach a contract with Hewlett by failing to remove Relopez from campus.

“The pertinent part of the school code indicates that the university will strive to maintain a safe educational environment for students by properly and appropriately responding to reports of sexual assault,” the motion states.

The motion asks the judge to dismiss Hewlett’s claims against the three administrators and to dismiss her contract claim against USU because it’s not a ”plausible or viable claim.”