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Court battle over alleged 2005 sex assault highlights complexity of #MeToo, Dartmouth party atmosphere

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/16/2019 10:06:31 PM
Modified: 2/16/2019 10:06:32 PM

HANOVER — A lawsuit stemming from a drunken encounter at Dartmouth College almost 14 years ago sheds renewed light on a party atmosphere the college has tried to curb because of concerns about alcohol abuse and sexual assault.

And it is also pitting a Dartmouth alumna inspired by the #MeToo movement against a Tuck School of Business graduate trying to protect his reputation in the internet age.

Monica Morrison, the plaintiff, was a 19-year-old sophomore in May 2005 when, she alleges, she was sexually assaulted by Robert Langrick, then 29, following a fraternity party. She says the case would be investigated and handled differently today than it was then.

Langrick, now a 42-year-old executive working in New York City, says in his court filing they had consensual sex, noting that Hanover police investigated and didn’t charge him with any sex crime, in part because of testimony from witnesses. He also has made counterclaims of libel and slander.

In her Nov. 1 lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, Morrison seeks legal protection to speak and write publicly without fear of defamation charges against her from Langrick.

In his Dec. 21 response to Morrison’s suit, Langrick denies sexually assaulting Morrison and says that her “false claims” were intended “to help garner attention to her nascent efforts to position herself as a thought leader of the #metoo movement.”

The undisputed facts in the case, filed in the Eastern District of New York in November, include that Morrison met Langrick while playing beer pong, a drinking game involving ping pong balls and cups of beer, at a fraternity party in May 2005. The two later found themselves back at the School Street group house belonging to an undergraduate society called Panarchy, where Morrison was living at the time.

Morrison said she was heavily intoxicated; Langrick acknowledged drinking that night and that the next morning, while “disoriented from alcohol consumption” among other factors, he urinated on the floor of Morrison’s bedroom.

At the center of their dispute is whether what happened at Panarchy was a crime or consensual. Morrison claims that Langrick sexually assaulted her while she was “dead drunk” and unconscious in her bed. Langrick insists they had consensual intercourse in Panarchy’s cupola.

Morrison, now a 33-year-old freelance writer living in New York City, in 2016 left a voice message for Langrick where he worked at the time, a commercial division of Bloomberg L.P. Then, in January 2018, upon learning that Langrick’s work required he spend time visiting college campuses, Morrison called the human resources department at Bloomberg to report her allegations, according to her filing.

Morrison alleges that, following that second phone call, Langrick sought to have her sign a nondisclosure agreement to prevent her from speaking or writing about her allegations in the future, according to her filing. Langrick, in his response filed in December, acknowledges having his attorney contact hers to outline his defamation claim, but he says he proposed an agreement where he would not take legal action for her “past defamatory statements” if Morrison “agreed to cease defaming (Langrick) in the future.”

Morrison is seeking a ruling from the court that her January 2018 report to Bloomberg was not defamatory, that a nondisclosure agreement would be baseless and against public policy, and that the First Amendment protects her right to speak and write publicly without fear of defamation.

Morrison also is claiming that “more than a dozen years after the original assault, in this year of the ascending #metoo movement, Mr. Langrick continues to count on what he evidently continues to believe is his inherent, indeed entitled power advantage over Plaintiff, once again expecting that he will have the power to intimidate Ms. Morrison into continuing her painful and debilitating silence,” she wrote in her lawsuit.

Langrick, who is married and the father of two children, in his court filing seeks to have Morrison’s complaint dismissed, require her to remove “defamatory” posts on the internet, and require that she refrain from making similar such statements in the future.

His filing describes her actions as “meritless allegations of sexual assault for self-aggrandizement and financial gain that represent a disturbing and unfortunate perversion of the otherwise laudable #metoo movement.”

Langrick and Morrison declined comment last month through their attorneys.

In their filings, they disagree about whether the fact that Langrick did not face charges meant that Hanover police found the alleged assault did not occur.

“Whatever actions the police did or did not ultimately take, as far as their decision not to prosecute Mr. Langrick for the crime of sexual assault, it is clear that the reasons for their non-action were unrelated to any serious dispute over the scope of the havoc wreaked by Defendant on that night, including the sexual and other assaults on Ms. Morrison,” she wrote in her filing.

The police, her filing said, blamed Morrison’s “heavy impairment due to alcohol” and also focused on how she handled some cash and cocaine Langrick inadvertently left behind. But the fact that Morrison was drunk, her filing asserted, also meant that she couldn’t consent to having sex.

“Suffice to say, the reasoning of the police investigators back in 2005 would be highly unlikely to pass muster in today’s far more sensitive climate toward the rights of the sexually abused, and in light of our improving understanding of the power dynamics in connection with such assaults,” Morrison’s filing stated.

In contrast, Langrick asserts that “a fulsome police investigation completely discredited Ms. Morrison’s claims, absolved Mr. Langrick of any sexual assault.”

In his filing, Langrick says that after the two flirted at the fraternity party, Morrison invited him back to her bedroom to “hook up.” Because her roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend were asleep in Morrison’s room, he alleges, Morrison led him out a window onto Panarchy’s roof and into a cupola “that the house residents regularly used as a place to have romantic encounters.”

There, he said in his filing, the two had sexual intercourse “in which Ms. Morrison was an active, willing, and enthusiastic participant.”

He alleges that several witnesses told the police that they did not believe a sexual assault had taken place. One resident, who according to Langrick lived directly below the cupola, overheard the two having what seemed to be consensual sex, Langrick said in his filing.

Langrick also asserts that when the two returned to Morrison’s bedroom, her roommate was there and later told police that she did not believe Morrison had been assaulted.

“Ms. Morrison’s own friends and housemates would also later describe her as a ‘professional victim’ who made ‘bogus’ claims and ‘faked being raped,’ ” he wrote in his filing, alluding to interviews he said police conducted.

Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis declined to comment on the case because it is pending litigation.

After a public records request, Hanover police provided the Valley News with a 15-page police report from 2005 in which almost all names are redacted, including Morrison and Langrick’s and even the names of two assistant deans who were contacted as part of the investigation.

In his response, Langrick alleges a series of counterclaims against Morrison, including slander and libel.

Langrick alleges that Morrison made the 2016 and 2018 phone calls to him and his then-employer Bloomberg in an effort to obtain money from him.

Langrick was the head of Bloomberg for Education, a commercial division of Bloomberg L.P. until last March, according to a LinkedIn profile. He now is head of practice analysis at the CFA Institute, which has been working with Bloomberg to develop a database, available on the Bloomberg Terminal, to assist in the education of financial analysts.

In her filing, Morrison said these calls reflected her “reawakening” to the trauma she experienced related to the 2005 incident. Specifically, in addition to her concerns about Langrick’s work-related travel to some college and university campuses, she said she was also influenced by 2017 news coverage describing allegations of sexual assault by some Bloomberg executives, although Langrick was not among them.

Langrick alleges that the phone call to Bloomberg “caused Mr. Langrick great emotional distress, damaged his professional reputation among his colleagues, and caused him great embarrassment and humiliation at his place of employment.”

Further, Langrick alleges that Morrison referred to him as a “rapist” in an internet posting accompanying a video of Langrick making a presentation on the website Vimeo. He also alleges that she made a similar posting on mylife.com, a site that provides “reputation scores” of individuals.

“These statements are defamatory and libelous per se in that they tend to expose Mr. Langrick to hatred, contempt or aversion, or to induce an evil or unsavory opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking persons, and to deprive him of his friendly intercourse in society,” Langrick wrote in his response.

He seeks damages in excess of $75,000, and asks that the court require Morrison to remove the allegedly libelous posts and refrain from “similarly defaming” Langrick in the future.

In subsequent court filings, Morrison sought more time to respond to Langrick’s counterclaims, at least in part because she is seeking to determine whether her insurance company will cover the costs of defending her. Morrison also has launched a GoFundMe page seeking to raise money to help with legal bills she said could reach $75,000.

Judge Robert M. Levy in mid-January granted her a 60-day extension to respond. Morrison is due to respond to Langrick’s counterclaims by mid-March.

The mix of alcohol and allegations of sexual assault are issues Dartmouth officials and Hanover police have long struggled to manage.

In 2010, then-Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone told the Valley News that his department investigated roughly a half-dozen reports of sexual assault at Dartmouth annually, and that invariably either one or both of the parties involved had been drinking. Giaccone, who worked for the Hanover Police Department for 40 years and died in 2017, said in 2010 that the allegations rarely resulted in prosecution.

More recently, Hanover police have made changes to the way they handle allegations of sexual assault. Last year, the department became the seventh agency nationwide to become certified in the You Have Options Program that affords victims three options for reporting a sexual assault to police.

Aiming to identify serial offenders, the program allows a victim to submit to an information-only report, providing only basic information to police with the understanding that an officer wouldn’t investigate further unless a victim wished them to. A victim also can seek a partial or complete investigation into the matter. Lastly, anonymous reports are welcomed.

The department also has trained its officers in the ways in which trauma affects the brain and how to best interview someone who has suffered some sort of trauma.

Dartmouth banned hard alcohol for undergraduates on campus in 2015, but recently reported that the 2017-18 school year saw a 12.6 percent increase in the number of alcohol-related incidents that required the involvement of Dartmouth security officers or dorm advisers, rising from 388 to 437.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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