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UND football star played most of season while sex assault investigation was underway

A Title IX lawyer who has worked several cases at the University of North Dakota believes more people at the school had knowledge of the investigations than the university is admitting.

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North Dakota State's Dom Jones dives for North Dakota’s Otis Weah as he runs into the end zone for a touchdown on Saturday, March 20, 2021, in the Fargodome. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
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GRAND FORKS — Who knew what and when?

That's the big question after former University of North Dakota football star Otis Weah was kicked out of the school and banned from campus for five years after an on-campus Title IX investigation found he sexually assaulted a fellow student.

All-American running back and college football player of the year finalist Otis Weah was investigated at least twice for sexual assault while at UND. A criminal case in 2020 was dropped after the accuser told police to stop investigating.

New details are emerging about a more recent sexual assault claim that was investigated by the university through Title IX.

"I think a lot more people had knowledge than what the university is saying," said Matt Dearth of Vogel Law Firm.

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Dearth has worked a number of Title IX investigations at UND. Title IX targets acts of sexual violence, harassment and discrimination on campuses across the country. In some cases, Dearth represented accusers. In other cases, he defended the accused.

Federal and state law keep almost all the information associated with these investigations confidential to protect both parties.

"That information is not available to the average person because of how dangerous it can be to their lives, to their reputations, etc.," Dearth said.

Unlike the criminal court system, where a person must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proof is far less in a Title IX investigation. UND applies the preponderance of the evidence standard when determining whether this policy has been violated.

"If it is ever ... more likely than not that something happened, that's sufficient for you to prove it," Dearth said.

Information obtained from people close to one of the investigations shows Otis Weah was under a Title IX investigation for sexual assault for a good chunk of the most recent football season. He was benched for the Potato Bowl in September for undisclosed reasons. He also missed a road game in October with coach Bubba Schweigert, citing an illness.

That weekend, Weah was seen on the field at a Moorhead High School football game and in the TV booth. He is a native of Moorhead.

Dearth said it's possible Title IX investigators could have tipped off the athletic department at UND.

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"I don't know that they would have been directly told, 'Hey, just so you know, there's an investigation going on,'" Dearth said. "But given who all the individuals were, I absolutely believe that the witnesses probably would have overlapped, and so even if they were never given an official notification of it, I'm sure probably people in the department would have found out about (in) some way."

Dearth also pointed out the Title IX investigation would have been parallel to an investigation into if Weah violated UND's code of conduct.

"Faculty and staff may have (known) something was going on and just not had access to that information to know exactly what the allegations were," he said.

UND football coach Bubba Schweigert, Atheltic Director Bill Chaves and University President Andrew Armacost all declined comment for this story. However, a university spokesman released a statement saying, "The University has followed all appropriate policies, as well as state and federal laws."

UND athletics also declined to comment about the 2020 rape case.

Weah had plans to go to Missouri State for this football season, but the school pulled the offer after learning about the Title IX findings.

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