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Less than two weeks after rape charges were dismissed against Ernest Suttles, lawyers representing the former Memphis football player have filed a lawsuit against the university alleging breach of contract, denial of due process and violations of Title IX.
Suttles was arrested just hours before Memphis hosted Navy at the Liberty Bowl on Oct. 14, 2017.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, claims Suttles lost his "scholarship, reputation, job prospects and a potential career in the NFL" because of the allegation and subsequent discipline from the university.
In addition to seeking damages "in an amount to be determined at trial," Suttles also is seeking to have his disciplinary record expunged, any record of his suspension removed from his education file and "permanently destroy any record of (the accuser's) complaint."
The defensive lineman, who appeared in 42 career games with 21 starts in four seasons, was kicked off the team and suspended from campus after his arrest.
The charges against Suttles were dismissed on July 24 because the state was unable to "carry its burden of proof on to the elements of this offense," according to the judgment sheet from the Shelby County Criminal Court.
Suttles alleged the university's sexual misconduct policy did not consider due process for his rights compared to the rights of the accused. The lawsuit also alleged the university did not resolve its investigation or interview Suttles' roommate, who he told investigators was present at the time of the allegation and could help clear his name.
According to the lawsuit, the university issued a "Notice of Complaint" to Suttles on Oct. 16, 2017, but has yet to render a decision regarding the complaint. Because of that, Suttles could not appeal the decision to suspend him from campus and cut off his financial aid.
The lawsuit also alleged Suttles' case was treated differently than that of a white student who was indicted on rape charges in 2017. While Suttles, who is black, was barred from campus, the white student was able to attend classes as recently as October 2017, according to the lawsuit
Suttles also took issue with a statement that university President M. David Rudd released after the white student's allegations were made public. In the second paragraph, Rudd noted that "we are a community and country governed by the rule of law, and we will follow those laws and provide due process throughout.
"When the facts of investigations are established and evidence gathered, we have not hesitated to take the harshest position possible for criminal activity on our campus."
Ernest Suttles before a preliminary hearing. (Photo: Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal)
After Suttles was arrested and charged, the university's statement made no mention of due process but that Suttles was dismissed for a violation of team rules and removed from campus while the matter was reviewed by the Office of Student Accountability, Outreach and Support for violations of the U of M Student Code of Conduct.
Suttles' arrest occurred one week after the university faced on-campus protests against rape and sexual assault after a student told the school newspaper, the Daily Helmsman, that she was raped twice in 20 days earlier that year in separate off-campus incidents.
Nicholas Wayman, a 20-year-old Memphis student, subsequently was charged with rape and sexual battery in one of the incidents, which allegedly occurred sometime between March 30 and April 3 at a home in Arlington.