- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

AMES, Iowa (AP) - A ruling that found Iowa State University administrators improperly removed a men’s basketball player from the team for alleged sexual misconduct will stand, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

The Iowa Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal filed by the university’s governing board, which argued the discipline against former Cyclone guard Bubu Palo was appropriate for his actions toward a female student in 2012.

The decision leaves in place last year’s ruling by District Judge Steven Oeth, who threw out the university’s sanctions against Palo and questioned the accuser’s credibility. The judge said ISU President Steven Leath had kicked Palo off the team and imposed other disciplinary sanctions despite no clear evidence that the sex was nonconsensual.

The school’s appeal had been backed by national groups representing rape victims and college deans, who saw the case as a test of whether universities can enforce strict sexual misconduct policies amid increased attention to rape on campuses. Those policies include an affirmative consent standard for sex that school officials accused Palo of violating, a higher standard than criminal laws governing sexual assault. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the groups argued that Oeth’s ruling “amounted to a substitution of criminal law standards for ISU’s own policies.”

In a 3-0 ruling, the appeals court didn’t address the substantive arguments, ruling instead that the appeal was moot given that Palo had graduated and exhausted his athletic eligibility.

The Iowa Board of Regents, the school’s governing body, is reviewing the decision and considering its options, one of which would be to ask the Iowa Supreme Court for further review, a spokesman said.

Palo’s attorney didn’t immediately return a message.

Palo and a friend were charged with sexual assault after a female student told police that they took turns raping her in an off-campus residence in May 2012. Palo maintains his innocence, arguing that the sex was consensual. He had known the woman for years.

Prosecutors later dropped the charges after finding inconsistencies in the evidence. Iowa State conducted a separate disciplinary hearing, and an administrative law judge ruled that Palo didn’t violate a school policy that prohibits unwelcome nonconsensual sexual behavior and requires clear affirmative consent.

But on appeal, Leath concluded that Palo had violated the policy and removed him from the team before his senior year. The regents upheld Leath’s decision, saying Palo initiated sex after the woman had been assaulted by his friend.

Palo, an Ames native who turned 24 Thursday, was returned to the team mid-season after a judge put his discipline on hold. He has filed a defamation lawsuit against the accuser and her mother, saying their false allegations destroyed his reputation.


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