Nasiru Seidu, the 41-year-old man accused of raping a Brigham Young University student in 2015, was acquitted on the charge of first-degree rape on Wednesday.
The case became a flashpoint last year when Seidu’s alleged victim was subject to an Honor Code investigation at Brigham Young University, the flagship school of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, after reporting the alleged rape to the police. The alleged victim was one of two women who told Jezebel in 2016 that they were unfairly targeted by BYU Honor Code investigators after they reported their sexual assaults. Though BYU later altered their Honor Code policy, promising that they would no longer investigate Honor Code violations for students reporting sexual assault, the university’s policies haunted the trial.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that defense attorney Matthew Morrise questioned the alleged victim’s credibility:
Morrise told jurors that the state’s case relies solely on whether the jury could believe the alleged victim, and he accused her of telling various stories about the rape to suit her audience. Her account shifted from preliminary hearing to trial, Morrise argued, and then later as she spoke with media in her efforts to change reporting policies at Brigham Young University.
“You can not convict Mr. Seidu unless you can trust that source,” Morrise said. He added that the alleged victim only accused Seidu of rape to avoid an Honor Code investigation. The prosecutor rebutted those claims. “She has come before you, and she is asking you to believe her,” the prosecutor told the jury.
The alleged victim left BYU shortly after reporting the rape to the police. She was prevented from enrolling in classes after refusing to cooperate with BYU’s Honor Code investigation over behavior detailed in the police report (the Honor Code prohibits everything from premarital sex to drug and alcohol use) as advised by prosecutors in the criminal case. “BYU likes to look at your rape and chop it up into little pieces and choose the parts that they can punish you for,” the alleged victim told Jezebel in 2016. “They’re emboldening my rapist,” she added.
The alleged victim never sought the university’s involvement and did not initially file a Title IX complaint since the alleged rape took place off campus. The police report, however, was given to the university by a Utah County Sheriff and friend of Seidu. In 2016, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights launched a Title IX investigation of the university and its handling of sexual assault cases. The results of the investigation are still pending.