A Benton County Circuit Court judge on Friday reinstated the team suspension of a Corvallis High School football player who is facing rape charges.
Last week, an attorney for the player, 17-year-old Marco Brewer, won a temporary restraining order allowing Brewer to practice and play with the team. The attorney, Michael Finch of McMinnville, argued that Brewer had not been convicted of the crime and that the suspension puts at risk a possible football scholarship from UCLA.
But the temporary order expired on Friday, and at the end of an afternoon hearing, Judge Matthew Donohue reinstated the suspension. Donohue rejected Finch's argument that the Corvallis School District had been inconsistent in enforcing its code of conduct. The judge also said Finch had not offered proof that Brewer would lose his scholarship if he does not play football this fall, despite testimony from Brewer's grandmother, Carol Sweet, the player's legal guardian. Sweet testified that her grandson would not be able to afford to go to college without a scholarship. In June, Brewer gave a nonbinding verbal commitment to play for UCLA.
Although Brewer remains suspended from the team, the lawsuit Sweet and Brewer filed against the district will continue. The district's attorney, Peter Mersereau of Portland, has one month to respond to the complaint for declaratory judgment, Donohue said. The case could proceed to trial.
During Friday's hearing, Brewer sat at the front of the courtroom near his attorney and his grandmother. Brewer did not address the court during the hearing.
After a grand jury indicted Brewer on three Measure 11 crimes and other lesser crimes in late July, the district barred Brewer from playing football. Brewer has not been suspended from school. The rape allegations stem from a May 14 post-prom party that Brewer and other students attended, court documents show.
During the hearing, Corvallis School District Superintendent Ryan Noss testified that he did not know about the criminal investigation into Brewer until after the grand jury indictment and that he alone made the decision to suspend Brewer from the team. Noss said he made the decision to suspend Brewer because of the likelihood that “substantial” evidence exists in the case since the grand jury went forward with charges. Corvallis High School Principal Matt Boring and Chris McGowan, the team's head football coach, testified they knew about the criminal investigation in May and that Boring informed Noss after the indictment.
Mersereau said that on the Monday after the party, Brewer informed Corvallis High School Student Behavior Specialist Justin Volker about drinking alcohol. At that time, the district imposed a punishment for first offense possession or use of alcohol, as outlined in its code of conduct for student athletes. Brewer’s penalty was a three-game suspension from the football team, to commence in the fall, Mersereau said.
Also on the Monday after the party, three students reported to Volker alleged sexual misconduct committed by Brewer, Mersereau said. Volker informed the school resource officer and a police investigation ensued, he said.
When handing down his decision, Donohue noted that the school's code of conduct outlines "citizenship expectations" of student athletes, including a statement that "criminal acts … may be cause for immediate suspension from the program."
Finch argued that Brewer has not been convicted of the alleged crimes and that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But Donohue said he has reviewed case law that indicates "criminal acts" includes those that are alleged and does not exclusively relate to charges that have resulted in a conviction.
Finch also argued the school district was breaking a state law which requires districts to consistently and fairly enforce their written rules regarding student conduct. Finch asked the school employees about a student who had been previously expelled from school for eight months for fighting but who then was allowed to return to the football team when his expulsion ended. The student returned to the team for a short time before facing a misdemeanor charge for another incident, at which time he was “excluded from the community,” Boring testified.
But Donohue noted that the student Finch was referring to wasn’t charged with a crime until after his expulsion and return to the football team, and noted that the case involving that student was a misdemeanor.
In his arguments, Mersereau said the school district needed to send a message that it intends to enforce its code of conduct.
Finch argued that the district was simply worried about negative publicity should Brewer remain on the team.
“They’re not worried about Mr. Brewer’s rights,” he told the court. “They’re worried about their image.”
Finch declined to speak with a Gazette-Times reporter following the hearing.
At the start of the hearing, Donohue noted that he had previously served on the Corvallis School Board for eight years. He stepped down in 2013 when he was appointed to the bench, he said. The judge asked the attorneys if they had any concerns about him hearing the case, and both said they did not.
Brewer pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against him on Aug. 2.
In Oregon, a person who is 15 to 17 years old and who is charged with a Measure 11 crime must be tried and sentenced as an adult.
The indictment charges Brewer with first-degree rape, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of second-degree sexual abuse. The charging document alleges that on May 14 of this year, Brewer engaged in sexual intercourse with a person who was incapable of consent by reason of mental incapacitation or physical helplessness.