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University of Miami Rape Investigator Quietly Fired for Hitting On Students

As the director of judicial affairs at the University of Miami from 2008 to 2016, Associate Dean of Students William A. "Tony" Lake investigated rape and sexual assault complaints. When he left in 2016, many assumed it was connected to a mishandled rape case that drew national press. Lake punished then-student David Jia for assault allegations that police later found to be partly false and was also separately accused of mishandling a different case by telling a victim to simply "avoid" her alleged rapist on campus.

But according to documents New Times obtained, Lake was fired May 31, 2016, because university officials discovered he had behaved inappropriately toward students.

According to Lake's termination letter, a female student filed a formal complaint against him April 26, 2016, after the two met through the school's Panhellenic Council. The student said Lake was hitting on her.

"Specifically, the student advised that you had expressed personal feelings toward her, and as a result, she requested that you refrain from further participation as an adviser to the Panhellenic Council," Ricardo Hall, the school's then-dean of students, wrote in the memo. (The council handles Greek-life issues around campus.) "On May 31, 2016, the investigation was completed and the allegations were substantiated."

The letter went on to state that Lake also engaged in "unprofessional discussions regarding other female students."

The letter does not specify what Lake said or did to warrant the firing. But Hall laid out three university rules that Lake broke, including acting in an "immoral or indecent" manner on the job, acting in a way that would "bring unfavorable attention" to UM, and committing any "willful act, careless act, or conduct detrimental to University operations or the safety and rights of other persons on University premises." He was fired immediately, according to the letter.

It's unclear how long the inappropriate comments went on or how many women the incidents ultimately affected. UM spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests from New Times. Lake did not respond to a message today — lawyers representing both him and the university in open lawsuits declined to comment.

Lake was hired under then-UM President Donna Shalala, who served in that role from 2001 to 2015. Shalala, the former secretary of health and human services under President Bill Clinton, is the former president of the Clinton Foundation. Shalala has reportedly been considering a run for central Miami's open congressional seat in 2018.

Lake was ultimately fired under Shalala's successor, Julio Frenk, UM's current president. But Lake's reputation was already on shaky ground before Frenk took over. In 2014, then-UM student Angela Cameron accused fellow student Jia of rape — leading one unofficial rape counselor at the school, former professor Katharine Westaway, to rally around Cameron and demand Jia's expulsion. Lake agreed and ultimately punished Jia.

But portions of Cameron's case unraveled: The Coral Gables Police Department ultimately found that Jia was not in town when Cameron said one physical assault occurred. (Cameron still maintains she was raped during a separate encounter.) Westaway's teaching contract was not renewed as a result. Jia sued the school, Westaway, Cameron, and Lake in federal court last January for Title IX violations, negligence, and defamation. The university and Lake have filed multiple motions to dismiss the suit.

"Many of the allegations are intentionally sensational and demonstrably false," Lake and UM's lawyers have argued in court.

Separately, the university was sued again, in September 2017, for another case Lake allegedly mishandled. (He was not sued personally but is named in court documents.) In this instance, an anonymous victim says she reported a sexual assault to Lake in 2013 — and instead of helping, she says, Lake refused to investigate the claim, told her to "avoid" her assailant on campus, encouraged her to "feel bad" for her rapist because he "did not have many friends," and tried to convince the victim that, perhaps, the assailant had used his finger instead of his penis to penetrate her. The student said she was assaulted in August of that year at Red Road, an off-campus apartment complex that caters to UM students, and that after the assault, her rapist continued to stalk and harass her.

The student also reported the assault to Coral Gables Police, who ultimately arrested the male student on stalking charges. She says she eventually attempted suicide due to the stress.

The university has filed documents maintaining it did not violate Title IX in this case. The school's lawyers have also attempted to out the anonymous accuser, who filed as a "Jane Doe" complainant.

While many commentators and education professionals have debated whether universities should take it upon themselves to investigate rape complaints, Lake's termination letter suggests he was likely a uniquely unqualified person to handle the job.

"The investigation found that you engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior towards the aforementioned female student, which undermined and jeopardized the integrity of your position as the Associate Dean of Students," Hall wrote. He then asked Lake to clean out his office and turn in his employee badge.

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