For over a year now I’ve wrestled with the question of how to bring closure to the situation surrounding my arrest from last spring.
Those who know me well know that I’m open to sharing my side of the story with anyone who will hear it. I haven’t gotten that chance with all of my friends or even my family, so I decided to write this quick note to clear up any doubt and uncertainty. This short message is all I can do at this point, and I’ve come to accept that as the reality of the situation.
The claim made against me was that as president of my fraternity I instructed members of my fraternity not to cooperate with the police as they investigated an incident at our chapter house. That claim is blatantly and objectively false.
I worked closely with fraternity advisors as well as the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University to ensure that my actions were in accordance with the law, University policies, and my own values.
I actively encouraged my fraternity brothers to meet with police if they felt they had information that might help the investigation. I also encouraged them to have an attorney present to ensure their rights were being protected. I personally offered on multiple occasions to meet with the University police and answer any questions they had, so long as I could have an attorney with me. I provided the number for my attorney and they chose not to contact her— a decision that still confuses me. It seems as though they were pursuing an arrest rather than the truth.
I was later arrested on the steps of our fraternity house and taken to a county holding facility until I could post bail. Fortunately, I was able to post my bail and was released later that day. I would spend the next week waiting for the county attorney to review my case and decide if charges would be filed.
The two days following my arrest my mugshot was on the lead story of the local news stations. The University police had a sergeant interviewed on camera discussing my case (for which, I had yet to be charged). The choice to discuss an ongoing investigation in detail was both unprofessional and unethical. The University Police Department has since publicly stated that they were out of compliance with Nebraska State Statutes and have changed their procedures in reporting crimes. (http://www.dailynebraskan.com/news/dn-changes-crime-reports-due-to-unlpd-compliance-with-nebraska/article_8408ac66-2318-11e7-baa4-e3d1414d8bc4.html) Had they been in compliance with these statutes, I don’t believe my name would have ever been released nor would the details of an ongoing investigation been in the headlines of the local news.
The University of Nebraska was also quick to make a statement regarding the situation. (http://www.klkntv.com/story/31917100/unl-fraternity-president-arrested) No retraction or apology has ever been issued by the University. Channel 8 KLKN (source for the link above) originally broke the story and has yet to issue an apology or retraction.
So I sat at home with my family and watched my mugshot on our TV. I’ve never felt so powerless in my life, sitting there watching my reputation and that of my entire family destroyed by an objectively false allegation. My only choice was to have faith in the truth, and patiently allow the legal process to run its course.
The next step in that process was for the county attorney to review the case and decide if charges would even be filed. To clarify, law enforcement agencies can choose to arrest someone but the ultimate decision of whether or not to file charges falls on the County Attorney.
The next week was without a doubt the longest of my life. As my roommate Lucas can attest, I hardly left my bed. I waited each day to hear if the county attorney had had time to review my case. After five days of postponing my hearing, I finally got a call from my attorney telling me that no charges would be filed. The relief I felt was overwhelming. I struggled (and honestly, I failed miserably) to maintain my composure as I called my parents to let them know.
In a statement that afternoon, County Attorney Joe Kelly said clearly and definitively “the language used didn’t amount to a crime, tampering with a witness or otherwise.” (http://www.omaha.com/news/crime/no-charges-against-fraternity-president-accused-of-tampering-with-witnesses/article_c69ff80e-213b-5396-b6bd-b9d5a78bbaaf.html)
The damage was done, though. The court of public opinion doesn’t wait for facts or truth. My story, as certain news outlets had presented it prematurely, struck a nerve and evoked some hateful and horrible reactions on comment sections across social media. Reading those sections was my own fault and I admit it was a dumb choice. If you’re ever in a similar situation, do yourself a favor and just throw your phone into a nearby lake.
After the county attorney cleared me, I asked the University—specifically Chancellor Green— for some kind of review of my situation and/or statement to clear my name. I received a dismissive response and was directed to their general counsel (Oh, the irony!). The news coverage of my exoneration was nonexistent in comparison to the cover stories that ran when I was accused.
I don’t write this blog to bring attention back to the situation, but rather to give myself closure. Unfortunately, this is all I can do to rebuild my reputation at this point. The University had made it clear that they aren’t willing to fix their mistake or make even the slightest effort to restore my reputation. Those of you who followed the situation deserved to hear my side of the story and I hope this blog post suffices.
Up until today, a Google search of my name presents a one-sided perspective on the situation based on blatantly false information. In addition to bringing myself some personal closure, I’m hoping this post will help to provide a broader perspective on the situation for employers, colleagues, and anyone else who may come across the story in the future. The more traffic this post gets, the more likely it is to be bumped up in a Google search. Thank you for taking the time to read my side of the story- you’re helping me out!
To future student leaders on campus, I hope that my story doesn’t deter you from taking on leadership roles at the University of Nebraska. Lean heavily on your advisors and always retain your right to legal counsel. You are not a criminal for wanting to have your rights protected. Let the process play out and have faith that the truth will ultimately prevail.
I said this at the time of the ordeal, but I need to reiterate how thankful I am for those that stood by me, or at least waited patiently for the truth to come out. Without getting too much into detail, I’m sure you can imagine the toll that this entire situation took on my family and me. As unjust as the situation may have been, it should have been solely my burden to bear. Far too many family members and friends took on the stress and uncertainty of my situation, and for that I’ve felt horrible. I’m hoping this post can bring closure to those individuals as well.
All that being said, I’m finally closing the door on this whole ordeal and moving on to bigger and better things.