Updated: 5:25 p.m. | Posted: 12:58 p.m.
Suspended from athletic competition and facing expulsion over accusations of sexual assault, University of Minnesota basketball player Reggie Lynch on Thursday dropped his appeals and slammed the process as unfair.
Lynch was set to be part of an appeals process Thursday in one of two cases. Instead, he told reporters that while he was innocent of the accusations, he said he'd become a "victim of false accusations" and could not get a fair hearing in today's climate.
He said he felt "hopeless and powerless" and there was no way to defend himself. He said he planned to pursue a career in professional basketball.
"I did not commit any of the acts that I'm accused of," said Lynch, adding that he had been truthful to university investigators during the inquiry. "The truth did not set me free, however."
His lawyer, Ryan Pacyga, ripped the university's appeal process as skewed toward the accusers. Sexual assault victims deserve compassion, justice and fairness, he said, adding, "people accused of sexual assault deserve those very same three things."
In the current environment, he said, "it's a no-win situation for the accused and it's not fair. We need to do better. It is a hypocrisy right now."
The University of Minnesota in a statement Thursday defended its "processes that protect all parties in sexual misconduct cases." The U statement also noted that Lynch is no longer a student and so is not on the basketball team either.
Lynch was suspended from athletic competition by the school in January following a sexual misconduct investigation. An initial report on the investigation by the University of Minnesota said a woman reported an alleged sexual assault by a student in a dorm on April 2016. The accuser identified that student as Lynch.
The university's office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action found that Lynch violated the school's sexual misconduct policy and university rules, concluding that Lynch should be suspended until August 2020.
Shortly after that came news that the EOAA had recommended Lynch be expelled from school after another sexual assault allegation involving the player came to light. The EOAA has a lower standard of proof than a criminal court.
Lynch had been cleared previously in a third 2016 incident. In that case, Lynch was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct but ultimately not charged by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. The school investigation ended because of insufficient evidence for a case.
Lynch had vowed to fight expulsion. As part of the EOAA appeals process, the accusers and Lynch would be allowed to speak to a panel that can be composed of students, staff and administrators at the U.
The panel would make a recommendation on punishment. If Lynch or the accuser didn't like the recommendation, they could have taken their case to school administrators and possibly civil court.
U of M alum Abby Honold, a rape survivor and advocate for victims of sexual assault, says the training these panels receive is critical for their understanding of the sexual assault cases they are hearing.
"The panels do receive training about sexual assault which helps them discern between things that are legitimate issues of credibility and things that are normal for victims of trauma." she said.
She said she expected Lynch and Pacyga's decision not to move forward with the appeal.
"I'm glad for the women involved that they don't have to face Mr. Lynch," Honold said. "It can be a really stressful and retraumatizing process. By not participating in the appeals he is accepting his finding as responsible with the university as well as his expulsion."
While he won't play again for the Gopher, it's not clear if Lynch is graduating. His lawyer said the player had enough credits for a degree but acknowledged that dropping the appeals process means he must accept expulsion.
"It's a zero-sum game for Reggie Lynch," Pacyga said. "Somebody had to stand up and say, 'I'm not going to participate in this process if it's not going to be fair."
Lynch said he was the victim of false accusations. He said he hadn't given up on dreams of playing in the NBA.
Lynch's mother Marlene also spoke to reporters. She said she was proud of her son and called him a "happy and harmless young student ... I believe Reggie 100 percent."