Crime & Courts

Prosecutors drop another sexual battery case against male Davidson student

After Ward Coleman’s sexual-battery arrest earlier this year, fellow Davidson College students called on the school to suspend Coleman from the baseball team and marched to the team’s practice in protest. This week, a Mecklenburg prosecutor dropped the case, saying there was no evidence Coleman used force against his campus accuser.
After Ward Coleman’s sexual-battery arrest earlier this year, fellow Davidson College students called on the school to suspend Coleman from the baseball team and marched to the team’s practice in protest. This week, a Mecklenburg prosecutor dropped the case, saying there was no evidence Coleman used force against his campus accuser. Olivia Daniels

A sexual battery charge against a male Davidson student has been dismissed, making it the second campus-assault case involving the prestigious school to be dropped for lack of evidence.

Ward Coleman’s arrest in February based on allegations from a female Davidson student set off marches, petitions and calls for school leaders to do more to protect female students.

This week, however, Assistant Mecklenburg District Attorney Brittany Bowab threw out the charge against Coleman, saying that “the evidence is insufficient to prove that the defendant acted with force in his touching” of the other student, according to a copy of the formal dismissal.

Coleman and the female student had a prior “consensual physical relationship” at the time, Bowab said. On the night of the incident, which occurred in the accuser’s room, both students had “consumed large quantities of alcohol.” There was no indication Coleman used force either to enter the woman’s room or in making the sexual contact “that formed the basis of this charge,” according to the dismissal document.

Coleman was a varsity baseball player at the time of his misdemeanor arrest by Davidson town police. A petition circulated by six women who said they were victims of sexual assault called on Coleman to be suspended from the team pending the results of his trial. More than 100 students sat in the stands at the baseball field in silent protest while the team practiced.

Though he had played on the team the year before, Coleman was left off the roster for the 2017 season, according to his attorney, Chris Fialko of Charlotte.

A few days after the demonstration, Davidson President Carol Quillen wrote a column for the Observer in which she expressed support for the victims of sexual assault – “When a woman tells you she’s been assaulted, believe her” – but described the clash of values involved in protecting the rights of all students.

Fialko alluded to Quillen’s writing in a statement following the dismissal of the case.

“Normally I don’t comment much in the press, but I feel I need to speak up about one thing: Those were strange days earlier this year when college students marched, and a college president opined, against the American principle of the presumption of innocence,” Fialko said. “I am glad wiser heads prevailed.”

Coleman’s arrest is the second high-profile Davidson sexual-battery case to be dismissed this year by prosecutors for lack of evidence.

The charge against Danny Jones was dropped in May after a prosecutor said he did not use force to touch the breasts of a female student who came to his dorm room and got into his bed. The two had a previous sexual encounter, documents indicate. As with Coleman, Jones was arrested by Davidson town police.

In a February statement about the two cases, college officials said they “were grateful that these courageous young women reported these events, and we trust that the town of Davidson police will investigate fully.”

The issue of campus sexual assaults continues to simmer across the country – with some women accusing their schools of not doing enough to counteract the problem while some male students allege they have been expelled or suspended based on false allegations.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS

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