San Diego State University

San Diego State fraternity and a former member sued for alleged sexual assault

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The San Diego State University chapter of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and one of its former members are being sued for damages that include negligence, sexual assault and emotional distress caused by an alleged rape during a rush party at the fraternity's house last year.

The accusations stem from an alleged incident during a rush party at the frat house in September 2022, according to the lawsuit.

The 18-year-old accuser was drinking at the party and taken to the frat member's bedroom, the lawsuit said. While she was drifting in and out of consciousness and unable to give consent, she was held down and raped, the lawsuit claims.

The suit also claims at one point the female student remembers the former frat member, who was a senior, saying: “Don’t worry, I used a condom."

The former frat member then put his name and number in her phone, according to the complaint.

The alleged incident occurred during the university's mandatory "dry period" from Aug. 1 to Oct. 1.

The fraternity tried to hide what happened and didn't report it to the proper authorities while allowing the senior to remain part of the fraternity, potentially putting other women in danger, the lawsuit also alleges.

“Allowing this individual to remain an active member of the fraternity gives access to other minors,” said attorney Haley Aanestad

Phi Delta Theta issued a statement about their commitment to the safety of fraternity members, as well as everyone on the campuses and communities they're a part of.

"They took action to expel the former member shortly after the alleged incident," the fraternity's director of strategic content said.

Now they’re working with the university to investigate and address any misconduct as necessary.

This latest suit comes after prosecutors declined to charge three former SDSU football players in connection with an alleged gang rape involving a then-17-year-old girl at a Halloween party in 2021.

Phi Delta Theta is among seven fraternities placed on interim suspension at the start of this school year as the university investigates possible code of conduct violations.

Though they didn't specify what was being investigated, code of conduct violations include hazing, underage drinking and sexual misconduct; all things the Aanestad said this lawsuit will hopefully stop.

“The expectation is that it will lead to a systematic change within the university so that when parents and students go off to these schools, that they're ensured their safety and that they can flourish in a social environment without fear of sexual abuse or assault or these types of varying levels of misconduct within the Greek life system," Aanestad said.

By phone, the defendant's attorney, Kerry Steigerwalt said "this is an absolutely silly lawsuit with no basis going forward."

"These claims are frivolous," Steigerwalt said.

San Diego State University, who is not named in the lawsuit, says while they can't comment on active investigations, they have yearly educational activities around student safety, including sexual violence and sexual misconduct prevention.

The San Diego Police Department confirmed Tuesday that this case remains under investigation by the department.

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