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Woman Sues Utah State after Sexual Assault at Fraternity Party

OGDEN, Utah — A former Utah State University student has sued the school, claiming officials knew about reports of sexual assault and heavy drinking at fraternity parties but failed to take serious action before she was raped by a fraternity brother who had been accused multiple times before.

The lawsuit filed last week contends women were sexually abused at the parties even after USU pledged to crack down on Greek-community excesses following the alcohol-poisoning death of a fraternity pledge in 2008.

USU spokesman Tim Vitale declined to comment Monday on the allegations but said a lawsuit only contains one part of a story.

The Associated Press is not naming the woman who filed the lawsuit because it generally does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault.

The suit says five other women previously reported to the school being sexually assaulted by the same man.

Criminal charges were filed in two cases and police said earlier this year they investigated a third allegation, though charges weren’t filed in that case. The other allegations did not result in criminal charges, according to Utah court records.

Jason Relopez, 28, is serving a year in jail after pleading guilty to reduced charges of attempted rape and attempted forcible sexual abuse in the attack on the plaintiff in 2015.

A call Monday night to Relopez’s attorney, Shannon Demler, for comment on the lawsuit wasn’t immediately returned.

Court documents said university officials talked to him in 2014 after a student reported having been sexually assaulted. A university official warned Relopez was “on USU’s radar” and would be disciplined if the allegations were proven, the suit said.

Months later, Relopez took the inebriated woman to his bedroom, locked the door and then raped and beat her for several hours, despite a friend’s attempts to find her and get her out, the suit claims.

The complaint also names the fraternity’s parent organization, saying it knew he “was a sexually aggressive person who was a risk to others, especially women and especially when he became intoxicated.”

The Illinois-based Sigma Chi declined to comment, citing a policy against commenting on active litigation.

In addition to the claims against Relopez, USU officials were also aware of complaints against another member of a nearby fraternity, the suit said. Ryan Wray had been assigned to watch over drunken partygoers who couldn’t take care of themselves when he inappropriately touched a woman in 2015, prosecutors said.

He later pleaded guilty to a reduced felony charge of attempted forcible sexual abuse.

Those cases together should have signaled that university administrators needed to take action to curb sexual assaults and drinking, but administrators didn’t do enough to protect women, the suit contends.

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, also says the university failed to offer or provide the plaintiff with services to overcome the trauma of the assault so she could continue to study at the Logan-based school, as mandated by federal Title IX.

She has since transferred to another university.

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