I believe you are in a bit of a pickle, and I’m going to be tuned right in to see how it all turns out. In the meantime, I’d like to share with you my own thoughts on DSU’s statement regarding the not guilty verdict. There’s a very good response to it here: http://concernedfordixie.blogspot.com/
I’m simply adding my voice to that one.
I would wish you luck, but such a wish on my part would lack integrity. So I’ll just say that I hope you enjoy the proper consequences of your actions.
DSU's Statement is in italics; my response is in this script.
“With the conclusion of the City of St. George vs. Varlo Davenport trial, Dixie State University can now fully comment on the incident that occurred in Davenport’s introductory acting class in November 2014 without hindering legal proceedings.
Note that the purpose of what follows is not simply to “comment” on the classroom incident but also (and mostly) to try to justify DSU by slandering Varlo, his attorney, the defense witnesses, and, by implication, the jury for not agreeing with them. As you read, ask yourself this question: why is DSU do disappointed in the verdict? One could hardly be blamed for thinking, as someone pointed out, they would be glad one of their professors was found not guilty of assaulting a student. But clearly they would have rejoiced in a guilty verdict.
First, Dixie State University would like to acknowledge Davenport’s years of service to the institution. During his time at DSU, Davenport made positive contributions to the university’s theater program as well as to students’ development. However, the public should be aware that at the time of the incident, Davenport was on probation for aggressive behavior toward a fellow DSU employee. Even though the jury found Davenport not guilty of a misdemeanor charge of assault, the decision to terminate his employment was based on institutional policies and DSU’s commitment to keeping students safe.
If DSU wants to state the Varlo was “on probation”, then they should tell the whole truth about it, namely, that it was an informal probation issued by the untenured Theater Dept. Chair, the same person who made sure Varlo was fired before anyone ever spoke with him about the alleged incident in the classroom, that the “aggressive” behavior in question amounted to expressing frustration concerning work that was supposed to have been completed and was not. At the time of his termination, Varlo had asked for a due process hearing of the matter; that request had never been granted. I invite DSU to explain the “institutional policy” that was operative in this situation.
Dixie State University did not take part in charges filed against Davenport; that was a decision made by the victim, who was a minor at the time of the incident, and her parents. Dixie State University stands firm by its decision to terminate Davenport’s employment at the institution. During Davenport’s faculty review hearing, he admitted to pulling the student’s hair for a long period of time. Furthermore, Davenport stated that this particular technique is not a typical physical restraint exercise. Student safety is a top priority at Dixie State University, and the institution will not tolerate inappropriate behavior of any kind toward its students.
First, note that the statement refers to the “victim,” though a court of law determined she was not a victim of anything. Second, the assertion that DSU took no part in the criminal charges is clearly and demonstrably false. Consider: the alleged victim’s step-father testified in the courtroom (under oath) that he was told he didn’t have a choice as to whether to file charges. So, either he lied under oath, or the statement here is false. Which is it? Again, if DSU really had nothing to do with filing the charges, what were they doing in the courtroom flanking the prosecution, and why are they so darned disappointed in the outcome? On the other hand, what does the step-father gain from lying? He could easily say, “Yes, we wanted to file charges. DSU was reluctant, but we insisted,” and lose nothing. Instead he said they didn’t give him a choice. You be the judge as to who is telling the truth.
Regarding the technique, everything that was said in the courtroom by other acting teachers validated this form of pedagogy in acting classes. DSU’s statement here fails to mention that the alleged victim was participating in the exercises herself, for example, by punching another student’s open palms with her fists (was she assaulting the other student?). The point was to elicit the emotion necessary to perform the scene authentically. The claim that this is “inappropriate” behavior toward a student patently absurd. The statement invokes the faculty review hearing but omits its result: a jury of Varlo’s peers exonerated him and recommended his reinstatement. Thus, what the statement tacitly admits is that DSU was actually looking for a reason to fire Varlo. This is validated by the fact that Don Reid, who “investigated” the alleged assault not only did not talk to all of the students who were in the classroom when it happened. He also didn’t bother to talk to Varlo. That’s some “investigation.” Rather, he listened carefully to the faculty review hearing to try to find something Varlo said that, presumably, could be used against him. I invite DSU to explain regarding this and other actions the “institutional policies” to which they conform.
During the trial, the defense presented evidence of the common practice of physical restraint exercises in acting classes. Defense witnesses stated that while using physical restraint techniques, it is standard to provide students with an explanation of such physical exercises and/or provide descriptions within their syllabi. The defense witnesses added that the restraints are not intended to be traumatic experiences for students and none of them presented testimony that they had ever pulled a student’s hair in the manner that Davenport did. DSU would like to clarify that Davenport had no mention of such techniques on his class syllabus nor did he ever provide verbal instructions before pulling the victim’s hair or ask for her express consent.
Again, the student already was participating in the exercises. Her consent, as the trial jury seems to have agreed, was implied. And, please note, again, the alleged victim has been found not to have been a “victim” of anything other than an attempt to help her perform a scene from a play, one that she herself had chosen.
In the months leading up to the trial, the defense has made numerous false and inflammatory comments to the press and open court that misrepresented the university and its administration. These accusations were an attempt to take the focus off the assault charges and were an attempt at jury nullification.
This accusation lacks substance. Note one example is cited. For my part, I assert that much of this DSU statement is false and inflammatory, that it misrepresents Varlo, his attorney, the defense witnesses, the City Court of St. George, etc. The “jury nullification” bit suggests the contribution, if not the sole authorship, of DSU counsel. Charity restrains me from naming names, since said counsel is obviously in need of some coaching. But I’m sure DSU has an “institutional policy” that will help him out. Regarding attention being drawn away from the “assault” charge, it’s a bit hard to argue that that ever happened. Varlo was tried for assault. The whole question of the trial was whether he had assaulted a student. The jury said he did not. I’m sorry this disappoints DSU as much as it does. Their statement seems to want to “draw attention away” from the fact that he was found not to be guilty of assault. Unfortunately for the author, it draws attention to how desperate DSU was for a conviction.
The defense claimed that DSU did not cooperate with the defense’s discovery requests. However, Dixie State University has cooperated with every request from the court for information. Judge Read did not request emails related to Davenport’s administrative hearing, however, Judge Myers did, and the university immediately cooperated. The university believes the defense has abused the court system, particularly by filing a motion of contempt against President Richard B. Williams and calling for his arrest, and issuing subpoenas for the president and several DSU administrators to appear as defense witnesses. The university is pleased that Judge Myers saw through the unethical approach of the defense by denying the motion and subpoenas.
Uh huh. Unfortunately, not quite true. The defense requested all emails related to the incident, which the defense knew were many. DSU turned over a small file with a few emails in it. Judge Read, who recused himself because he was found (incontrovertibly) to have discussed ex parte with Mike Carter allowing DSU to remove an identifying email address from one of those emails, simply was not going to ask for any more emails. The university may believe the defense abused the court system, but I don’t think they do. The truth of the matter is they are angry at having had a conspiracy to prosecute an innocent man uncovered To anyone who believes DSU is being forthright and truthful in the matter, I ask you: Who is more likely to have abused the court system in this case, a theater professor who has been fired, left without resources and charged with a crime he obviously did not commit, or the public institution with essentially unlimited (taxpayer) resources that has done something unethical and stupid and wants to cover it up? Answer yourself honestly as to which seems more likely. The defense simply requested to see the investigatory files of DSU Police Chief Don Reid, which, in his words, consisted of “packets and boxes” full of information, along with emails related to Varlo and the incident. When you request that and in response get a few pages of documents and a handful of emails, you know something fishy is going on. You move for the subpoena and call for the administrators’ testimony, because they were all involved and you can’t get DSU to turn over information that could well prove your client’s innocence. And since Biff is the head, you file a motion to hold him in contempt—which he indeed was—in order to try to get the information that should have come to you as a matter of course. Is DSU unhappy that they finally had to turn over all the emails? Yes, yes indeed they are. I note that when the emails finally were turned over, they numbered in the thousands.
The grade the student received in Davenport’s class also became a point of discussion. Dixie State University cannot directly comment on these accusations, as discussing a student’s grades is a violation of The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The university can confirm that no improper actions took place concerning the student’s grade. The university can also confirm that the student didn’t receive any kind of offers or compensation in relation to the incident.
It’s hard to say what grade the student actually received. But this much is true: Varlo said he received an email instructing him to give the student an “A” grade for the class. The prosecution and DSU lawyers, in court, asserted (falsely) that no such email existed. When the emails were turned over, there, lo and behold, was an email to Varlo from Mark Houser instructing Varlo to give the student an “A” for the class, a grade that she in no way would have earned. Note that the DSU statement conveniently omits this part of the story.
DSU is disappointed with the defense’s witnesses openly perjuring themselves in court, such as Davenport’s family member denying his relationship to the defendant when testifying on his behalf — which was admitted on the audio recordings of the faculty review hearing — and another witness denying personal relationships with Davenport. Additionally, several of the student witnesses stated that Davenport did not pull the student’s hair, which directly contradicts the audio recordings of the faculty review hearing and their own written statements.
This part of the statement is as sloppy as it is repugnant. Whoever wrote the statement is, evidently, not terribly smart and should have their qualifications for the job reexamined. No “relative” of Varlo’s testified at his trial, making it impossible for the supposed “open perjury” to have occurred. As for the students, to say that they all are liars, which is what the statement says, is so incredibly childish as to be beyond belief. They testified as to what they remember now, almost two years later, of an event that, when it happened, did not strike them as significant. If there are small discrepancies in their testimony, does that mean they are blatantly lying? Note that these are either current or former DSU students. And this institution of higher learning, masquerading as a “university,” now slanders them without conscience.
Dixie State University respects the jury’s decision regarding the misdemeanor assault charge, but stands firm by its decision to terminate Davenport’s employment at the institution. DSU will always uphold policies and procedures that protect its students, faculty and staff.
If DSU respected the jury’s decision, they would have issued a different statement, i.e., one that did not implicitly accuse the jury of letting them down. DSU can stand firm by its decision until, as the saying goes, the cows come home. But there’s not an ounce of proof in any of this, or in anything they’ve put forward, that shows a single student, faculty or staff member needed protection from Varlo Davenport. Quite the opposite. It seems clear that he needed protection, not only from the failure of DSU administrators to follow their own policies and observe due process, but also from their conspiracy—and yes that’s what it was, and still is—to brand him a criminal. Let’s not forget that, as reported previously in this blog, their original effort was, on the basis of the same flimsy evidence that failed to convict him of misdemeanor assault, to get Washington County to charge him with felony child abuse. On that basis alone I suggest that these are not simply the good and decent people they present themselves to be
In consideration of all of the above, if you were in Varlo’s shoes, how would the claim that you had abused the legal system strike you? I'll give you one word, at least: ironic.
A final note, something else to think about. After the charges initially were filed, a St. George City Council member called Andrea Davenport, Varlo’s wife. She told her she had spoken with City Attorney Sean Guzman and he had said the city had a “really strong case” and that Varlo shouldn’t use Aaron Prisbrey as a lawyer but rather a public defender. And, she said, with the case being so strong against him, Varlo should take a guilty plea. Safe to say, this is what Don Reid and the other thugs were hoping for. That’s how all this was really supposed to go down, no important questions asked. Well, sincerest condolences, good old boys and girls . . . looks like this one got away from you.
There’s something else I want to mention to you. I almost forgot. It occurs to me that this trial might not actually go forward. I very much doubt that Cassidy Sorensen has ever really wanted to testify. And now that the trial is almost here, I think there’s a chance she might back out on you. It might even be the case that you and your advisers have decided this trial might not be in your best interest after all. So I’ll be only half surprised if, sometime between now and Wednesday morning, we learn that the charges are being dropped. I’m not saying that it will happen, but it’s not unreasonable to think it might.
If it does happen, here’s my prediction. The Spectrum will be ready with a story about the case. That story will include a statement either from Cassidy Sorensen herself, or from DSU, about how she has suffered so much because of that day in her acting class that she just wants to put it all behind her, can’t bear to be in the same room with her acting teacher, etc. She, or DSU, while expressing regret and indignation over the alleged “assault” and suggesting that the alleged perpetrator is escaping condign punishment, nevertheless will insist that, all things considered, a trial would be more than she could take. Regardless of what actually happens, I think you’d have to agree, Biff, that something like that would be par for the course.
Meanwhile, the truth will remain: Varlo was attempting to help Ms. Sorensen perform a scene she had chosen. And for doing so, the university that had employed him to teach acting, tried to call it "child abuse", and when that didn't stick, "assault." One thing's for sure, Biff, no one will ever, ever mistake you for a man of culture.
P.S. -- Have you visited the Temple lately? If not, I urge you to get there, because (a) it looks good to your fellow citizens and (b) I think I've given you some good things to think about as you meditate in the Celestial Room. Take Don Reid with you. It would be a good way for you two to spend an evening. I'll bet you could even go on paid time from work.
As you know, Varlo’s trial is this week. And recently I was reminded of something that I think a lot of people should know but do not. Remember back when you first decided you were going to have to try to press charges against Varlo, when you were getting all the bad press and flack for firing him? At one point you made this statement regarding Varlo: “a criminal investigation is being conducted by local law enforcement.” I’m sure you’ll remember that well enough. It was calculated, of course, to allow the broadest possible speculation, to make people wonder what nefarious and illegal deeds Varlo might be guilty of. You knew, of course, that the only thing you had to go on was the alleged classroom “assault,” and that the only “law enforcement” investigating anything was your cynical little henchman, Don Reid. But why not suggest that Varlo might be a real criminal? After all, even if it was underhanded and dirty, sort of like hitting below the belt, it was to your advantage. I hope you keep a record of both your actions and the moral maxims that are their basis. Since I suspect that you don’t, I may have to help you with it. And, there will be no need to thank me; I’ll be glad to do it. I’ll even send copies to your posterity, because I care about their moral education.
Anyway, your little statement worked. Even Varlo and those of us who know him couldn’t imagine what this “criminal investigation” was all about. So we did our best to discover what was going on. What we found out, Biff—and you know this, of course—is that Varlo was being investigated for felony “child abuse” (apparently because our alleged “victim” was still 17 at the time she enrolled in the acting class, i.e., the class in which acting is taught). Yes, the same evidence that has landed Varlo in city justice court for “assault” was, early on, forwarded to the Washington County Attorney as a child abuse case. Biff, this could not have happened without your stamp of approval, nor without the cooperation of (perhaps even at the instigation of) Brother Reid. I’m guessing Reid did his level best to try to write things up in such a way as to make that child abuse charge stick. And I’m guessing that it was urged on the County Attorney by both you and Reid, and perhaps others, so that the statement I’ve mentioned above, along with some other statements, could seem justified. Remember those other statements, Biff? I refer to the ones about how when the “truth” was known everyone would see what a bad guy Varlo is and how right you were to fire him. Well, here we are, almost a year and a half later, and what you managed to muster up was a contrived misdemeanor assault charge. Where’s all that other information you promised was going to come out?
Here’s a “truth” for you, Biff: a decent person would not try to stick someone with a bogus “child abuse” charge. That was done not just to try to make your decisions look right but to ruin Varlo completely, to stigmatize him. It shows a complete lack of regard for basic decency. It’s hitting below the belt and then sneering at your opponent while you celebrate your victory as though it were legitimate. I suppose we use various terms to refer to such people. Here’s one of them: thug. And, Biff, though I hate to say it, that’s you. It’s not just Varlo’s case that proves it. There’s also Joel Lewis. Let’s not forget how Brother Reid was suggesting to you that if Lewis didn’t cooperate when you pressured him to resign he could be charged with “witness tampering.”
Yeah, Biff, that’s quite the shop you’re running over there, quite the shop indeed. I hope no one who knows what’s going on is mistaking it for a university. Meanwhile, we’ll see how things turn out for Varlo. He’s a very good and decent man. I hope things work in his favor.
P.S. - Please convey my apologies to Doaja Hicks for these “inflammatory” statements.