Student found guilty of indecent assault and battery

Williams College sophomore Graham Lee was found guilty of indecent assault and battery of another student at a trial held in Central Berkshire District Court last month.

Lee was sentenced to two years probation.

Lee’s lawyer, Charles W. Rankin of Rankin and Sultan in Boston, said last weekend that he intends to challenge the conviction, and has begun the steps to have a transcript of the trial prepared.

Lee is currently enrolled as a student at Williams College. The survivor is no longer enrolled at Williams College, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Mulcahy confirmed.

When asked if the College had taken disciplinary action against Lee, Dean of the College Peter Murphy said the Dean’s Office does not comment on the disciplinary status of individual students.

Berkshire Eagle article

The incident first came to the attention of many members of the Williams College community when the Berkshire Eagle ran an article on February 12 reporting on the trial and conviction.

According to the Eagle article, Lee denied touching the female survivor in an inappropriate manner during a party at Tyler house on December 4, 1997.

He did admit that he consumed five shots of rum and one beer, and told the court that alcohol might “make him a little looser.”

According to the Eagle article, the survivor testified that Lee invited her to attend the party, and touched her on the buttocks, thigh and breasts at various points during the evening, despite her requests for him to stop.

The woman testified that Lee forced her to dance with him, pulled her down on the floor with him and followed her when she hid underneath a table.

Lee denied being under the table with his accuser, forcing her dance with him or touching her on the buttocks, thigh or breast.

The Eagle reported that District Court Judge James B. McElroy found Lee guilty of one count of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 and one count of assault and battery.

Decision to be appealed

Rankin, who was not Lee’s lawyer during the trial, said he can not be specific about what issues would ultimately be raised in an appeal. But he does think the fairness of the trial will be questioned.

“Having spoken to the trial lawyer, I believe that several issues are worthy of review,” he said. “I do a considerable amount of appellate work, and I believe that serious questions will be asked on appeal about the fairness of the trial.”

When asked whether or not she believed Lee received a fair trial, Mulcahy replied, “absolutely.”

Mulcahy added that she is not surprised that the decision will be appealed.

Rankin said it will be up to an appellate court to decide whether Lee received a fair trial.

However, he made several observations about the case.

“I understand from people who attended the trial that the complainant claimed that the alleged assault occurred at a party attended by a number of people,” he said. “Yet none of the people at the party corroborated her account that something untoward happened. In fact, the people present who did testify corroborated [Lee’s] testimony that nothing improper happened. I also understand that the complainant testified that she wanted to drop the charges. Finally, I understand that the complainant testified that she had been drinking on the evening in question.”

Mulcahy took issue with some of these points.

“That is a characterization of the evidence that I am not quite comfortable with,” she said. “For him to say that no one was able to corroborate the victim’s version of the facts is really not factually accurate given the posture of the case and the evidence that was presented. . . .To me that means that every single person at the party testified. It was very clear from both the Commonwealth and the defense witnesses that it was extremely possible and highly probable that the crime was committed and went without people noticing it.”

Mulcahy said there were points when the survivor thought about not prosecuting the matter.

“At one point in time she did indicate that she had some misgivings, but that is not unlike many sexual assault victims. It is an extremely arduous process and the victim often feels like they are on trial.”

Mulcahy described the incident as instructive.

“It is a terrible instruction on the intersection between incidents of sexual assault and alcohol abuse,” she said.

Rankin said Lee plans to remain at Williams throughout the appeal process.

College disciplinary procedures

Although Murphy would not comment on a specific case, he did note that Williams College disciplinary processes are always handled independently of court processes.

“We would never ‘hand over’ College process to the courts,” he said. “College process and judgement is parallel to any possible legal action. If someone was accused of rape, for instance, that might be handled in the court system, but we would also handle it through our disciplinary process. . . .We say that the conduct of an enrolled student is of interest to the College, and we will hold students accountable for their behavior, on campus or off.”

Murphy added that the College and courts always reach decisions independently in cases involving Williams students.

“The decision reached by the College is always independent of any decision reached by outside processes,” he said. “So it sometimes happens that we differ in our understanding of either the facts of some case, or our estimation of the severity of a case. This happens rarely, partly because Williams students go to court relatively rarely.”

Murphy said the College seldom pursues an investigation of sexual assault against the wishes of a survivor.

“I have never supervised such an investigation,” he said.