November 17, 2018

UCLA Jewish Fraternity Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Sexual Assault

UCLA’s Alpha Rho chapter of Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) is currently facing a lawsuit by a female student who claims that one of its members sexually assaulted her and the fraternity did nothing about it.

According to the lawsuit, filed by the Foundation for Accountability in Higher Education and Keith A. Fink & Associates on August 10, the student – who wanted to keep her name anonymous – was at a party hosted by Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) on August 12, 2016. The defendant, Blake Lobato of ZBT, allegedly pressured her to consume voluminous amounts of alcohol at the party. Eventually, the student became too exhausted and left the party with a group of friends.

However, according to the lawsuit, as the student left the party, she noticed she was too intoxicated to walk properly, so she went back to the party, which she hoped “would end soon.” She encountered Lobato again on her way back to the party, who encouraged her to spend the night at the ZBT house, where he provided her with a bed to sleep alone.

The student alleges that while she was sleeping inebriated and drifting “in and out of consciousness,” Lobato “forcefully removed her shirt and pushed her body down to unfasten her shorts.” The student protested and attempted to resist Lobato’s actions to no avail, and she says Lobato forcefully penetrated her without her consent – twice.

The student says that she felt “excruciating physical pain” for days after the alleged assault happened, and that she had to see a therapist in order to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

She went to ZBT’s president at the time, who is not named in the court documents, and described to him what Lobato allegedly did to her. The president responded by saying he believed her, but the fraternity did not investigate or reprimand Lobato. The student kept pressing the issue, resulting in Irving Chase, a lawyer and board member of ZBT, to handle the matter.

Chase allegedly disbelieved the student’s allegations against Lobato, insisting that no ZBT member would engage in such actions and he urged her not to bring the matter to UCLA. Chase eventually told the student the fraternity would investigate the matter.

The student later learned after telling her friends about Lobato’s alleged assault that he had allegedly raped another female student in 2015, who is also not identified in the court documents.

“Both women are members of the same sorority; both women were drinking at fraternity parties prior to the assaults; Lobato offered to walk both women home prior to the assaults but instead took them to his room; both assaults occurred in Lobato’s room, and in his bed; Lobato ignored them telling him ‘no’ and making comments like, ‘you know you want this’; LOBATO attempted to or did orally copulate them, without their consent, prior to penetrating them; LOBATO first penetrated them while positioned above them and then physically turned them over and penetrated them from behind, without their consent; LOBATO’s conduct was aggressive and forceful; and both women were unable to find their underwear after the encounter,” the lawsuit states.

Both women confronted ZBT’s president, but he reportedly gave them “the runaround.” The student then confronted Chase about the investigation, but he replied that he was unable to render a verdict on the matter. When ZBT installed a new president, the student told him about Lobato’s actions against them, and the president pledged to remove Lobato as a member. The fraternity never reported the assault to UCLA’s Title IX office, the lawsuit alleges.

After taking a class on Title IX, the student decided to report the alleged rape to the university’s Title IX office. The student claims that Lobato threatened to kill her and that he was frequently “lingering outside her sorority house window.”

Lobato was eventually expelled from the fraternity in January 2017 after the student filed the report, but “he continued to affiliate himself with ZBT to no objection from ZBT or its members.” He was expelled from UCLA in November 2017 and currently resides in Ohio.

In sum, ZBT faces allegations of negligence, and Lobato faces allegations of assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress in the lawsuit. SAE and UCLA’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) also face allegations of negligence, as the lawsuit argues that they’re liable for serving alcohol to minors and failing to establish proper safety measures.

UCLA’s ZBT chapter has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment. ZBT and SAE told The Daily Bruin that it was not their policy to comment on “pending or threatening litigation.”

The full court documents can be seen on The Daily Bruin.