Two juniors face criminal charges for sexual assault, students desire greater clarity from college

Lacrosse house (pictured above) located on Court Street is the site of an ongoing criminal investigation against two Geneseo students accused of illegally trapping and touching a fellow student. Students are asking the college to take action (Malachy Dempsey/managing editor and courtesy of village police).

Geneseo students on the lacrosse team are facing charges from Geneseo Village Police for allegedly confining a fellow student in a room and forcibly touching her, leaving the campus community in outrage and instigating dialogue around appropriate administrative response.

Business administration major junior Nicholas French and accounting major junior Mitchell Virkler were arrested on Thursday Sept. 13 and charged with forcible touching and unlawful imprisonment, class A misdemeanors, according to Village Police Chief Eric Osganian. 

Both were arraigned on Friday Sept. 14 at the Livingston County Jail, Osganian said. French and Virkler were released on $500 bail each, Osganian said, according to The Livingston County News.

The incident occurred inside the lacrosse house located on Court Street at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 8, according to Osganian. 

The two men were both heavily intoxicated and the alleged victim was assisting one of them back to the house, according to the anonymous report submitted by a friend of the victim.

The report accuses Virkler of groping her bottom while blocking the exit, with French holding her down to prevent her efforts to resist. 

Accounts of how the alleged victim escaped differ according to both French and Virkler and the victim, Osganian said, according to The Livingston County News.“Her version is she kind of escaped out of there,” Osganian said, according to The Livingston County News. “I think she felt like she was trapped obviously and very uncomfortable with two men in a room.”

The anonymous report was filed through University Police Department’s “Silent Witness” form and contact with the victim was established through the friend who filed the report. 

The incident is still under investigation by the college, according to Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio. 

“The Village police is investigating them and so is the College Title IX Coordinator,” Bonfiglio said in an email. “At that point, we will have a better idea of the next steps in the process.”

Some students, including psychology major senior Lilliana Proe, believe that it’s important to make sure this kind of behavior is intolerable.

“I was frustrated, disgusted and disappointed,” Proe said. “Because of Geneseo’s small size, part of me still sees the town as a safe haven where instances like this don’t occur, even though this has been proven false various times.” 

Other students, like pre-childhood special education major junior Brooke Francis, believe the college should have more dialogue and open communication regarding these types of incidents. 

“The school seems to just cover up situations like this and instead of informing students about what to do, they just pretend like nothing happened,” Francis said. “I am appalled that sexual assault is handled this way at such a prestigious college and something needs to change before it happens again.” 

Many agreed that the school should open its line of communication regarding such incidents, like early childhood education major junior Melissa Maliniak. 

“It makes me really uncomfortable that the school wouldn’t send an email out letting us know the allegations, especially when the students are still attending classes,” Maliniak said. 

The college does not have any comment on the status of the investigation at this point. Director of media relations Monique Patenaude revealed that Geneseo handles these situations carefully. 

“[The college] takes any and all allegations of misconduct very seriously,” Patenaude said, according to The Livingston County News. “The safety of our students is paramount.”

The criminal investigation and prosecution process will be handled through the District Attorney’s office and court and can take an unspecified amount of time, while the judicial process by the college is up to internal investigation by the school, according to Osganian.

The accused perpetrators, are meanwhile attending classes according to reports from students. The accused students have not responded to a request for comment by The Lamron. The alleged victim declined to comment for the article. 

Osganian mentioned that an order protection issued for the victim in this specific case has been turned over to University Police. 

Six sex-related offenses were documented for 2017, according to a criminal investigations report from the Village Police Department. This figure mirrors previous years and might be underreported, Osganian said. Potential prosecution charges can vary depending on the plea bargain and other factors, Osganian said. 

“Most of the cases we do see in our court do get pled down to something else,” Osganian said. “It would be tough to answer; every case is different.”

Students such as international relations major junior Leliana McDermott believe people should treat the matter promptly.

“People need to be taking this far more seriously and we as a society need to stop allowing white cis straight boys to do whatever they please until they hurt someone,” McDermott said.