I've written before of the peculiar case of Brown and Marcella Dresdale. In 2006, Dresdale accused another Brown freshman, William McCormick, of sexual assault. But she didn't go the local police, and she never filed charges. Instead, she went to the Brown administration--over which, it turned out, her father Richard, a major Brown donor, exercised considerable influence. After a prosecution-friendly process in which McCormick's only advocate was an assistant wrestling coach, McCormick accepted what amounted to a plea bargain, and agreed to leave Brown. The university never formally investigated Dresdale's charges.
There matters might have ended, but McCormick and his family decided to file a federal suit against both Dresdales and Brown. Their basic claim: that Brown had railroaded McCormick to accommodate the demands not of justice but of a major donor.
The case meandered its way through various courts and judges until this summer, but recently a district court had upheld McCormick's discovery demands--related to what sort of communication between the Dresdales and Brown administrators about the case. It seems that the Dresdales really didn't want McCormick and his attorneys to get access to this material. On Wednesday, the Dresdales and the McCormicks announced that they had reached an out-of-court settlement.
As is customary in such matters, terms weren't released, though the fact that the development came so close on the heels of the discovery order gives a good sense of which side prevailed. The settlement also, ironically, proved the McCormicks' claims that Brown effectively acted not as an institution of higher learning but as an agent of the Dresdales. The settlement's terms preclude the McCormicks not only from suing the Dresdales but also from suing Brown--even though Brown wasn't officially a party to the settlement negotiations. It appears that Richard Dresdale was willing to offer more money to shield the school from the sunlight of discovery. Brown's spokesperson, however, issued an Orwellian statement about how, regardless of the apparent cover-up and Brown's fierce attempts to prevent the McCormicks from getting access to data about the school's decisionmaking process, "the university stood ready at all times during this litigation to prove in court that it had acted appropriately and in accordance with applicable laws, policies and procedures."
A final point, on coverage of the case. Kudos to Bloomberg News, whose article on the settlement references the Dresdales by name. Contrast that approach with the Laura Crimaldi of the Associated Press, whose article never uses the Dresdales' name and instead explains that a settlement was reached between McCormick, his family, and "his accuser and her father." (This shielding policy even prevents the AP from referencing the name of the case, McCormick v. Dresdale.) Again: Marcella Dresdale never filed charges. She appears never to have gone to a hospital for a rape examination. Her father paid out an undisclosed sum of money to prevent documents regarding Brown's handling of the case from coming to light. And yet the AP believes that she's still entitled to the cloak of anonymity?