Former football player wins wrongful expulsion lawsuit

Matthew Boermeester, pictured above in his appearance at USC’s 2017 Rose Bowl win, filed a lawsuit in March 2019 alleging the Title IX investigation involving sexual misconduct damaged his academic and athletic careers. (Daily Trojan file photo)

The California Court of Appeal overturned a court decision Thursday involving former USC kicker Matthew Boermeester, who was expelled from USC in 2017 following a Title IX investigation into an intimate partner violence incident with girlfriend Zoe Katz. 

Both Boermeester and Katz denied the presence of foul play in the January 2017 incident during which Boermeester put his hand on Katz’s neck and pushed her against a wall. Boermeester filed a lawsuit in March 2019 alleging that his subsequent expulsion ruined his academic and athletic careers. 

“We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has again recognized that accused students under Title IX must have a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine critical witnesses at an in-person hearing,” said Boermeester’s attorney Mark Hathaway in a press release Thursday.

According to Hathaway, Boermeester was expelled after the Title IX Office presented security footage that depicted the two “clowning around and celebrating” in an alleyway. Two students witnessed the event.

In a 2017 statement, Katz maintained that she was not mistreated by Boermeester. 

”Nothing happened that warranted an investigation, much less the unfair, biased and drawn out process that we were forced to endure without speaking publicly,” Katz said in court documents. 

The decision also cited Doe v. Allee, a case regarding sexual misconduct allegations against former USC football player Bryce Dixon that resulted in Dixon’s expulsion, as precedent for extending cross-examination to third-party witnesses. The trial court ruling was reversed in January 2019 when the California District Court of Appeal court concluded that USC’s disciplinary proceedings neglected to provide a fair trial by failing to allow the cross-examination of key witnesses. According to court documents, the Title IX investigation also denied a live hearing involving cross-examination for Boermeester’s trial. 

Earlier this month, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made changes to the department’s Title IX regulations, which, among redefining sexual assault, include the right to cross-examine evidence in a live hearing. 

USC is still reviewing the appellate court’s decision, the University told the Daily Trojan. At the time of oral argument before the California District Court of Appeal in early March, the University maintained that its disciplinary proceedings were fair and that the process of sexual misconduct did not apply in Boermeester’s case. 

“[The case] involves violence toward a girlfriend, not sexual misconduct,” the statement read. “It is not a case where ‘credibility of witnesses is central to the adjudication of the allegation,’ another requirement for having a live hearing as part of an investigation of a sexual misconduct case. It is a case of violence, perpetrated in public, witnessed by numerous people and caught on video camera.”

USC did not comment on the situation following the court’s choice to reverse the decision.    

In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Hathaway said he hopes USC abides by the reversed decision and previous rulings regarding the University’s disciplinary proceedings. 

“The court set forth the requirements for a fair hearing in a number of cases involving USC … all of which pointing out that USC’s process for student discipline is fundamentally flawed and has been lacking in due process,” Hathaway said.