Legal expert: Cougar Robert Barber being treated unjustly

A SERIES OF CALLS and other outreach to Washington State's administration for comment on Cougar lineman Robert Barber's suspension from the university by the WSU Student Conduct Board proved fruitless, but an attorney who knows the workings of the Conduct Board was unequivocal today when asked his assessment of the board's handling of Barber's case: "Unjust."

"At the University of Washington, at least you can get a real hearing," Steve Martonick, a defense attorney in Pullman since 2001, told this morning. His experience with the conduct board goes back a long ways.

"It’s horrible, it’s terrible, it’s unfair -- and it’s unjust,” Martonick said of the conduct board's process.   "I can't say enough bad things about it. It's the worst possible way to approach serious matters, such as expulsion, that you can imagine.

"(WSU) rules say that Student Conduct is supposed to be educational ... I've seen this particular hearing officer (Lisa J. McIntyre) say we're going to teach you, we're going to expel you. I've seen that in the written reports ... These students are entitled to some fair process. I've been fighting this damned thing for 15 years and I can't say enough bad things about it... it's just not right, it's not fair, it's not just."

A source close to the situation who requested anonymity said WSU's Student Conduct Board reflects none of the diversity of the broader university.

"Is there a cross-section of racial and ethnic representation? Is anyone from athletics or the Asian Pacific Islander Club on that board?" the person said, while noting that the Whitman County Prosecutor’s office has filed no charges against Barber for his alleged role in a fracas at a house party over the summer that led to him being summoned in front of the board.

The board voted to expel Barber earlier this fall, later changed it to a suspension, and this week denied his appeal.

"Is Robert being singled out because he's easy to spot -- a 300-pound Polynesian guy with tattoos? If anyone knew the provocation that led up to the situation I think they would be shocked and outraged by how he's being railroaded," said the source who asked not to be identified and declined to provide details.

CF.C reached out to WSU president Kirk Schulz,  McIntyre, board members Elizabeth Hindman and Consetta Helmick, and Adam Jussel, the director of the Office of Student Conduct.  Schulz is traveling today, his office said. Hindman was the only person who responded, saying she could not comment. 

"You have a very biased hearing officer, you have a process where (attorneys) can't ask questions, you don't get to face your accuser,” said Martonick. “The bottom line is that if you go in front of Student Conduct it's almost inevitable you're going to lose. Very seldom will you come out of Student Conduct without being expelled or suspended.

Martonick said that years ago, he submitted a question for the complainant against his client and the hearing officer, McIntyre, answered the question herself on the complainant's behalf. 

"She wouldn't even ask the question of the alleged victim, the hearing officer just answered it herself. She is extremely biased against any student facing expulsion. You cannot have her recused... The numbers are something like 85 percent that if you’re in front of her, that you're going to be expelled. (The attorney) can't ask questions but you can propose questions through the student. These are the kinds of things you run into," said Martonick.

“Fairness of the tribunal is fundamental to due process at any level - at any level, even at a proceeding like this. And (they say) no, we're not going to recuse her. It's just the recalcitrance, the welding of power without responsibility that is so extremely frustrating,” he added.

Barber's suspension, barring something unexpected, effectively puts on hold his graduating from college one class -- indeed, effectively six weeks -- shy of his degree.  It also ends his playing career at Washington State, effective immediately.  The suspension also means Barber would not be able to re-apply for admission back into WSU until July 2017.

The Seattle Times' Stefanie Loh had this article today, posting the question of whether Barber received due process. CLICK HERE

RELATED STORY: Barber's appeal denied

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