Former University of Memphis football player Ernest Suttles was one semester away from finishing his master’s degree when he was immediately banned from campus following a 2017 rape accusation, while a female student was distressed to find herself in the same classroom as one of her accused rapists, Nicholas Wayman.
Wayman and another then-student, Raymond Tate, were indicted in the alleged rape case. However, the alleged victim contended that no interim measures were initially taken against the two accused rapists.
According to the lawsuit filed by the alleged victim, “Plaintiff was forced to choose between attending classes with Wayman or skipping classes. OIE (Office of Institutional Equity) did not even take immediate steps to prohibit Wayman from having contact with Plaintiff.”
Instead of removing Wayman from the alleged victim’s classes as required by Title IX, the OIE coordinator at the time, Michael Washington, advised her to drop out of classes or take online courses for the rest of the Spring 2017 semester, according to the lawsuit. The victim also confirmed Tate’s presence on campus immediately after the incident via social media posts, the lawsuit also states.
Meanwhile, Suttles was arrested on Oct. 14, 2017, for allegedly raping a female student-athlete. Arrested one day before a football game, Suttles did not see the field or classroom after that day, losing his scholarship and reputation in the process, according to his civil lawsuit against the UofM filed Aug 5.
The criminal indictment against Suttles was subsequently dismissed on July 24, 2019. Attorney Blake Ballin represented Suttles in the criminal case and gave The Daily Helmsman the following statement.
“While we are pleased with the dismissal of the indictment against Mr. Suttles, the effects of the accusation still linger. It is important to create an environment in which victims feel comfortable revealing abuse. But we must not allow that environment to erode the systems we have in place to protect the falsely accused.”
Suttles is not finished with court hearings though, as his lawsuit in the U.S District Court against the UofM alleges “denial of 14th amendment due process.”
The lawsuit provides an overview of what happened from Suttles point of view:
“…a miscarriage of justice against Plaintiff (Suttles) through the University of Memphis’ flawed and biased Title IX sexual misconduct process, carried out under a presumption of guilt…(the accuser’s) account was never questioned and vital witnesses were ignored…As a result of this allegation and suspension, he lost his scholarship, reputation and potential career at the NFL, this lawsuit comes as a result of those losses.”
Suttles was one year away from obtaining his master’s degree and won defensive awards during his time as a Tigers football player.
The University of Memphis legal team declined to comment on the “pending litigation,” according to V. Latosha Dexter, deputy legal university counsel.
Unlike Suttles, Wayman and Tate did not have their indictments dismissed. In fact, a Tennessee Grand Jury found enough evidence in both cases to proceed with criminal court trials, according to the indictments received from The Shelby County Criminal Court public records.
According to the victim’s lawsuit, she drank two glasses of champagne and felt as if she had been given a “date rape” drug. She informed Wayman of how she was feeling, and said she was driven to his home in Arlington where she was allegedly raped on April 1, 2017.
Less than a month later on April 21, 2017, people close to Wayman invited the same victim to a social gathering on Highland which was said to be an attempt to clear up hard feelings. According to the lawsuit, it was that night that she said she was raped again, this time allegedly by Wayman’s friend, Raymond Tate, better known as T.J Tate, at The Gather on Southern, an apartment complex close to the University of Memphis.
After The Daily Helmsman published a story about the alleged rapes by Wayman and Tate, many students and activists voiced their opinions on social media, some holding protest signs outside the University Center.
“We must stand up for our brother, why these hoes lyin,” tweeted an account at the time named Free Nick Wayman. Another user, @lupita_stan responded, “They say there’s no rape culture at The University of Memphis, but they make a Twitter page to free a rapist.”
But there are inaccuracies within the old Twitter beefs. Nick Wayman has been free since hours after his arrest.
Wayman was released on a $5,000 bond, according to criminal court records, and Tate was released on the day of his arrest after posting a $50,000 bond.
The reason Suttles received harsher punishment than Wayman or Tate has not been made public by the UofM, but Kenneth Anderson of the Office of Institutional Equity provided statements regarding how sexual incidents are handled at The University of Memphis.
“We investigate policy violation allegations which are governed by campus policy, not criminal law or procedure,” Anderson said. “OIE investigations are independent of law enforcement investigations, although they often occur simultaneously or parallel to one another.”
OIE does not investigate crimes and does not decide punishments, according to Anderson. The Sexual Misconduct and Domestic Violence policy is the guideline for OIE investigation, but the decision on what is done with those found responsible is dependent on the situation and coordinating office, Anderson said.
Anderson also said it is important to understand the difference between interim measures and permanent measures. For example, a student could be prohibited from campus during an investigation, then receive punishment based on the results of an investigation.
The memorandum filed by the University of Memphis in the Suttles case on Aug 29, 2019, said, “The University informed the Plaintiff (Suttles) that interim measures…including prohibition from entering the University campus for any reason, would be applied…The University began the investigation but never completed its investigation. As a result, interim measures remained in place.”
The University began to follow the procedure explained by Anderson and Title IX, but never completed the procedure. There is no explanation from the University on why the investigation was never completed, or why Wayman and Tate could return to campus while Suttles could not.
Wayman is a current student at the UofM, according to his Twitter page, but his name could not be found in the UofM white pages. Tate claims to have graduated from Middle Tennessee State University on his Instagram page but has not been publicly active on social media since the rape allegations against him surfaced.
The Suttles vs. University of Memphis lawsuit, states “…The University of Memphis trains its staff to adopt a trauma-informed approach, which discourages the thorough questioning of complaints in the sexual misconduct process…The Plaintiff (Suttles) received his Master of Business Administration degree online at the University of Memphis, without the financial aid he was promised by the University.”
The alleged victim of the Wayman and Tate cases has sued the UofM for $5 million and has been diagnosed with PTSD after the incidents, according to her lawsuit against the University of Memphis.
“Due to (the university’s) failure to conduct an adequate, reliable and impartial investigation,” according to the Suttles lawsuit, he suffered “psychological damages… loss of financial aid and income, embarrassment and humiliation due to his banishment from the University.”