Once a grand jury decided Tuesday there was insufficient evidence to indict Dez Wells on charges of sexual assault, the former Xavier standout received support from a highly unlikely source.
Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters urged the university to "revisit" its decision to expel Wells for what Xavier deemed last week "a serious violation of the Code of Student Conduct." He also told WLW-AM 700 in Cincinnati that it was "fundamentally unfair" that Xavier expelled Wells August 3 and denied his appeal August 14 without allowing the legal process to first play out.
A defense attorney standing up for a client wouldn't raise any eyebrows, but it's certainly more unusual for a prosecutor to take such a stance. As a result, it has raised questions as to whether Xavier officials may have overreacted in expelling Wells in an effort to protect the image of a basketball program still recovering from the brawl with crosstown rival Cincinnati last December.
Xavier defended itself Tuesday with a statement noting it cannot cede matters of student conduct to the criminal justice system and it must instead rely on the "preponderance of evidence" standard. As if that wording alone didn't make it clear won't be back at Xavier, the statement also reiterated the expulsion is "final."
Wells' expulsion has inspired emotional responses from the Xavier fan base.
Some have praised Xavier for taking a zero-tolerance attitude in incidents of this nature and for valuing ethics above basketball success. Others are outraged administrators would expel the Musketeers' top returning player when prosecutors couldn't even gather enough evidence to press charges, let alone get a conviction.
The truth is that any strong opinions about this situation are rash because we don't have enough information about what actually happened. We aren't privy to Wells' side of the story or his accuser's — and we probably never will be either.
If Wells committed an act as reprehensible as sexual assault, he deserves to be punished harshly for that. If he was wrongfully accused, then the school has played a role in needlessly sullying his previously spotless reputation to protect its own.
The one thing that is certain is the grand jury's decision not to indict Wells will enable him to continue his college basketball career elsewhere. Louisville, Memphis and Texas are reportedly among the leading suitors at this point.
Before moving on for good, Wells had one last message for Xavier.
"I had a great time at XU!" he tweeted. "Love you guys forever."
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