Paul Nungesser was cleared by the university sexual assault adjudication process and not charged by police after being accused of rape by fellow student Emma Sulkowicz. The two had had an intimate relationship at one point until Sulkowicz claims Nungesser raped her. Sulkowicz subsequently carried a mattress around campus as a piece of performance art (and class credit) to protest what she saw as a miscarriage of justice in the case. Sulkowicz became famous for her protest, and was invited to the State of the Union by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Now Nungesser, who has claimed all along all of his encounters with her were consensual, is suing the university for allowing what he believes amounted to Sulkowicz’s campaign of harassment. As part of the lawsuit, he’s releasing many texts and Facebook messages between the two of them—from friendly to intimate to crude—that took place before during and after the time of the alleged attack.
Nungesser and his attorneys, Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP, allege that the university was complicit in allowing the harassment to commence, which “significantly damaged, if not effectively destroyed Paul Nungesser’s college experience, his reputation, his emotional well-being and his future career prospects.”
Nungesser alleges in his 56-page lawsuit that Columbia knew about the harassment and did nothing to stop it, becoming first “silent bystander and then turned into an active supporter.”
The lawsuit includes dozens of Facebook messages between the two friends — far more than were included in the Daily Beast article in which Nungesser finally told his side of the story. The messages contained many declarations of Sulkowicz’s love for Nungesser before and after the alleged rape.
None of that proves one way or another whether Sulkowicz consented to sex on the evening that he allegedly raped her, of course. It’s possible that Sulkowicz withdrew her consent and Nungesser continued—in brutal, violent fashion. But taken together, the messages she continued to send him even after he allegedly attacked her—as well as some of her demonstrably false assertions, including that she never brought up anal sex with him—certainly look bad for her…
The ordeal has certainly made life a living hell for Nungesser; whether that entitles him to any relief from Columbia, I can’t say.
I can say that those in the media who uncritically re-reported Sulkowicz’s claims and gave credence to her antics should be feeling rather ashamed of themselves. With each new development, this story begins to look more and more like a Rolling Stone job.
I guess this is what due process looks like in the court of public opinion, and I hope (in vain) that Nungesser’s side of the story gets an equal hearing. When you can’t get due process elsewhere, or it’s ignored once adjudicated, you gotta go somewhere.