Prosecutor won't pursue charges

Updated: December 21, 2010, 2:03 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- An Indiana prosecutor said Thursday his office won't pursue criminal charges in the case of a St. Mary's College student who reportedly accused a Notre Dame football player of sexual battery.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak said in a news release that the decision was based on evidence and the fact that statements by 19-year-old Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg would likely be inadmissible in court because of "evidentiary rules involving hearsay."

Seeberg died of a suspected drug overdose on Sept. 10. Dvorak says Seeberg had accused a student-athlete of touching her breasts on Aug. 31. He did not name the athlete.

A message seeking comment on Dvorak's decision was left Thursday by The Associated Press for Seeberg's parents, Tom and Mary, of Northbrook, Ill., and their attorney, Zachary Fardon.

The Seebergs told the Chicago Tribune in a story published Thursday before Dvorak announced his decision that they feel betrayed by the college that generations of their family have attended. They said campus police seem to have conducted a superficial investigation of their daughter's allegations, according to the newspaper.

They also questioned why a timeline they received from Notre Dame shows it took police two weeks to interview the football player their daughter accused of assault.

Janet Botz, Notre Dame's vice president of public affairs and communications, wrote in an e-mail to faculty, staff and students in response to the Chicago Tribune article that privacy laws prohibits it from discussing specific disciplinary cases. But she said the university conducts "all investigations of potential student violations of the law or university policies with the utmost professionalism."

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said the school takes allegations about potential violations of the law seriously and has a process in place to pursue them.

"The prosecutor also has a process in place in which he knows all of the facts. He has made a decision and issued a statement that speaks for itself," Brown said in a statement. Brian Hardin, Notre Dame's director of football media relations, said football coach Brian Kelly was on the road recruiting and could not be reached for comment.

Dvorak said Seeberg made two separate allegations against two Notre Dame students, one of whom was an athlete. He said the first allegation involved the touching of her breasts on Aug. 31 by the athlete. The second complaint was about text messages received by Seeberg from the other student on Sept. 2.

Dvorak said only Seeberg and the athlete were present during the alleged assault. He said statements were taken from those two and a female friend.

"Conflicts exist among the witnesses' accounts of the events given to the police. Subpoenaed cell phone records are inconsistent with parts of the complaint itself," he said.

Dvorak did not return a telephone message from the AP more seeking information about the conflicts and the cell phone records.

He said text messages sent to Seeberg on Sept. 2 by the other student did not rise to the level of a criminal act.

"The student subjectively believed Ms. Seeberg's complaint was false and therefore he had a legitimate purpose for his text messages," Dvorak wrote.

Dvorak said his office began investigating the case on Nov. 17, after campus police handed the office its reports.

"Ultimately, there's a sense of betrayal," Tom Seeberg said, according to the Tribune. "There's a sense of the university not living its values. ... It is not our intention to take down this great institution. But it has disappointed us. That hurts, and it hurts our family."

Lizzy Seeberg told police in a Sept. 6 statement that a week earlier, on Aug. 31, she was sexually attacked by an unnamed player on the Irish football team. She also completed a hand-written statement the day after the alleged attack, and also went to the hospital where she told authorities of the attack.

The Seebergs say that, according to a timeline the school gave them, it took Notre Dame police two weeks to interview the player. They also say that they have not received all the information that they have sought from the school regarding any internal discipline the alleged attacker may have received, though their daughter would have received the information if she was still alive.

The Seebergs also showed the Tribune documents that included text messages that Lizzy Seeberg forwarded to police from a friend of the player which said "Don't do anything you would regret. Messing with notre dame football is a bad idea." That was the second complaint filed.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.