Updated 12/17/10 – 4:00 p.m. (WBBM) – While an Indiana county prosecutor has chosen to not prosecute a University of Notre Dame football player for alleged sexual battery, the federal government is now reviewing the university’s handling of the case.
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A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education said a preliminary inquiry is under way into the case of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Seeberg, but stopped short of confirming a full investigation.
According to a statement, the department’s Civil Rights office “has begun an inquiry into the university’s policies, procedures and responses to sexual harassment complaints. The university is cooperating.”
The university said in its own statement that it is working with the Education Department “an overall review of our policies that is unrelated to any specific investigation.”
Seeberg was a freshman at St. Mary’s College, which is a sister school to Notre Dame. She reported the alleged attack to police. Eight days later, she received a text message from the player’s friend, saying she shouldn’t do anything she will regret and that messing with Notre Dame Football is a bad idea.
Several days after receiving the text, Seeberg killed herself.
On Thursday, St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak decided not to charge the student because of the suicide, saying Seeberg’s statement would not be admissible in court.
Asked if he felt vindicated by the prosecutor’s decision, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly said, “”I don’t think that I’ve ever felt a vindication at such an unfortunate time.”
“A young girl lost her life and I can’t imagine how tough that is for the parents,” Kelly added.
According to published reports, Seeberg’s parents feel the university performed a superficial investigation into their daughter’s allegations.
But Kelly defended the school’s handling of the case.
“I’m committed to the way the university handles the process. They’re thorough and we’re all part of that process,” Kelly said.
In a statement Friday, the Seebergs’ family attorney said “at this time, they have no statement regarding no charges being filed in the case.”