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The Jesse Matthew Cases: Can we expect a new law requiring colleges to help identify serial sexual predators?

By October 8, 2015September 25th, 2023No Comments

Jesse Matthew was linked by video evidence to the disappearance of UVA student Hannah Graham, and linked by DNA evidence to the murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. Police investigators say DNA evidence in the Hannah Graham murder led to the implication of Matthew in the Morgan Harrington murder as well. He was charged with murdering Morgan Harrington this past September and charged with murdering Hannah Graham this past May. He faces life in prison for the murder of Morgan Harrington and a potential death sentence for the murder of Hannah Graham.  But the evidence of Matthew’s crimes started even earlier than these murders.

Matthew’s College History:  Accused of Campus Sexual Assaults at Two Different Colleges

Matthew was accused of sexually assaulting classmates at both of his colleges (Liberty University and Christopher Newport University).  The outcomes of those two campus disciplinary proceedings are unknown.  But what is known is that the second college he attended – Christopher Newport – was unaware of the charges at the first college.  The first campus sexual assault allegation occurred in 2002 at Liberty University.  The second happened in 2003 at Christopher Newport.

Matthew’s Post-College History:  Charged and Convicted of Rape

Two years after the Christopher Newport incident, Matthew raped, beat and strangled a 26-year old graduate student in Fairfax, Virginia.  The woman survived and gave key testimony against Matthew, describing how Matthew banged her head into the ground “like a football” before raping her and then began strangling her.  For this crime, Matthew was sentenced this past Friday, to three life prison terms – the maximum penalties.  In her statement at sentencing, the heroic survivor told the judge “That night I died.”

Could A Law  Requiring Colleges to have Identified & Shared Information about Campus Sexual Assaults Have Prevented This?

The murders of Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington may be a consequence of the failure of his universities to properly investigate and share information with law enforcement.

The evidence now demonstrates that Jesse Matthew is a serial sexual predator that should have been stopped years ago. As a college student, Matthew was accused of not one but two campus sexual assaults at two different universities. The second university never knew he had been accused at his first university and Matthew roamed freely for over a decade.

We need a law that identifies sexual predators like this. Federal and state legislators need to pass a law providing a guide for colleges and universities. A law that requires them to share such information amongst themselves to protect our children.

What would this law clear up and accomplish?

● It would explain to colleges and universities that the existing privacy laws on the confidentiality of educational records already permits the sharing of information when safety of a student or the community is at stake.

● It would require the use of that exception to develop protocols for sharing information with other educational institutions and law enforcement about campus sexual assaults and domestic violence.

● It would require the colleges to arrange for the timely collection of DNA and other forensic evidence in all cases of suspected sexual assaults. (through cooperation with hospitals and/or law enforcement)

*Many universities already make specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners (“SANE” nurses) available to students who report possibly being sexually assaulted.

● It would require law enforcement to not only work with the schools but to work with each other to share relevant information across jurisdictional lines.

Such a law is more than a need.  It is a debt we owe.  It is a debt we owe to the heroic woman who helped finally put Jesse Matthew in prison.  And it is a debt we owe to Morgan and Hannah who never came home.

What do you think the next step should be? Do you think a new laws like the Campus SAVE Act will get us moving in the right direction?

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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