Two former college football players, both of whom were falsely accused of rape by a New York woman, are suing Sacred Heart University for forcing them out of school.
Filed in a Bridgeport, CT, court, Dhameer Bradley and Malik St. Hilaire claim Sacred Heart violated its own ethics handbook. The athletes point to a passage that states that all students “have the right to be treated with respect, dignity, and compassion by university officials and by all persons involved in disciplinary procedures.”
The Connecticut Post reports that the lawsuit also names Nikki Yovino as a defendant. Yovino, who told prosecutors that Bradley and St. Hilaire had taken turns raping her in a bathroom, is accused of making false claims, slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“Thea action taken by Sacred Heart was a violation of the contract they have with students,” attorney Augustin Sevillano said. “Women who are sexually assaulted should never be doubted but unfortunately the school rules leave a large loophole that allows for false accusations to be made.”
Yovino, writes the Post, recently pled guilty to ‘two counts of second-degree falsely reporting an incident and one count of interfering with police.’ The misdemeanor plea-bargain let Yovino avoid a trial. She was given a three-year sentence, one of which will be spent in jail; the remainder, on probation.
Both Bradley and St. Hilaire had admitted to having sex with Yovino but maintained the encounter was completely consensual.
While neither man was arrested, Bradley and St. Hilaire withdrew from Sacred Heart together. One of the men—unnamed by Fox News—lost his football scholarship before a disciplinary investigation could be completed.
Yovino later retracted her claims, saying she lied to salvage a potential relationship.
“She admitted that she made up the allegation of sexual assault against [the football players] because it was the first thing that came to mind and she didn’t want to lose [another male student] as a friend and potential boyfriend,” says Yovino’s arrest warrant affidavit.
Yovino’s lawyer, Ryan O’Neill, says the impending suit is being assessed.
Sevillano, for his part, says the two football players “didn’t want to see this woman crucified, they just wanted a wrong righted.” But their attitudes purportedly changed after Yovino’s sentencing hearing—Yovino can be seen, on camera, rolling her eyes and smirking throughout the proceeding.
“Her attitude at the hearing was disgusting,” Sevillano said. “She was given so many opportunities to fix this situation but wouldn’t do it.”
O’Neill denied that Yovino was disrespectful and noted that the judge never reprimanded her for her body language.