Former USC kicker Matt Boermeester has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court, alleging the school ruined both his academic and athletic careers when he was expelled from the university after a "third-party, non-witness filed a false report" about a supposed altercation between him and his girlfriend in early 2017.
The lawsuit includes seven causes of action, including selective Title IX enforcement, breach of contract, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and represents the latest step in Boermeester's ongoing legal battle with the school. In 2017, Boermeester, who remains two classes shy of graduation, sued for his expulsion to be overturned in superior court, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
USC initiated an investigation into the incident involving Boermeester and his girlfriend, former USC tennis player Zoe Katz, after a USC student told his roommate he saw a physical altercation between the couple out his window late one night. The roommate told his father, USC men's tennis coach Peter Smith, about the incident and Smith reported what he was told to the school, as required by law.
As part of a court filing in the initial lawsuit, USC asserted that its investigation found Boermeester put his hands around Katz's neck, "causing her to cough, and shoved her into a cinder block wall in the alley near her apartment at least twice" in the early hours of Jan. 21, 2017.
Boermeester and Katz, who remain in a relationship, both vehemently denied the university's conclusion.
"The 'something' was in fact Zoe and I joking around in the parking lot, throwing McDonald's french fries at each other," Boermeester said in a statement. "At no time did Zoe ever file a complaint with USC or the LAPD. Instead, because I was a football player, USC's Title IX investigators, headed by Ms. [Gretchen] Dahlinger Means, automatically branded me guilty."
Boermeester was never arrested, nor was he the subject of a police investigation.
In addition to USC, Means, the school's Title IX coordinator, and vice president for students Dr. Ainsley Carry, who will begin a new role as the vice president for students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, next month, are parties to the lawsuit.
"USC stands by its investigation and the evidence in the Matthew Boermeester case," the university said in a statement Friday. "In a similar lawsuit Boermeester filed in state court, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in March 2018 ruled in USC's favor, upholding his expulsion. The court found that substantial evidence, including video of the incident and statements from witnesses, supported our decision.
"Student disciplinary records are confidential. If the students involved waive their confidentiality rights, the university could provide more detailed information."
On Thursday, Title IX due process attorney Andrew T. Miltenberg issued his own statement.
"What happened to Matt Boermeester at USC should terrify anyone who believes in the right to due process and innocent-until-proven-guilty," Miltenberg said. "Based on nothing more than a third-party report by a non-witness -- essentially a rumor that was easily and repeatedly disputed -- a star athlete lost his education and his future career in the NFL.
"By subscribing to anti-male stereotypes and insisting that the girlfriend of a football player must somehow be a victim, [Means] and USC officials have made a complete mockery of the Title IX process. The process my client was forced to endure and the end result was nothing less than abusive."
Miltenberg told ESPN they expect to uncover, through the discovery process, compelling evidence that the school acted wrongfully and there was a rush to judgement. He said they want Boermeester to be reinstated at USC, the findings against him overturned, his record expunged and will pursue monetary damages. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial.
Boermeester kicked a game-winning field goal in the 2017 Rose Bowl against Penn State to cap his junior season, but was unable to finish his career after his expulsion. Miltenberg said Boermeester has continued to kick on occasion in an attempt to keep his dream of playing professional football alive. He is currently living with his parents in Southern California and is employed by a startup company.