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Grieving Family Alleges Notre Dame Did Not Take Assault Charges Against Football Star With Violent Past Seriously Until After Their Daughter’s Suicide.

December 18, 2010
A Football star with a violent past;  A beautiful girl from a neighboring college with a history of depression: the two meet, the girl is allegedly fondled against her will and with a friend, files a police report.  Afterward, she receives this text from the accused star’s friend: “Don’t do anything you would regret. Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea.”

Nothing is done.  The girl lives in fear and a few days later, takes an overdose and kills herself.   Should more have been done to prevent the suicide? Should Notre Dame have recruited a boy with great football talent but with a  history of terrorizing others since grade school? Can there be justice since the only witness to the alleged battery is no longer part of this world?

A wonderful friend who knows the Seeberg family forwarded this heartbreaking story from Politics Daily.

 Lizzy Seeberg’s Family Feels Rejected by Notre Dame as Football Star Is Not Charged
Melinda Henneberger
Editor in Chief
NORTHBROOK, Ill. — All of the dozen family members gathered in Tom and Mary Seeberg’s living room on Wednesday night said they’ve loved the University of Notre Dame, where 11 Seebergs have gone to college, for so long that they barely know how to process the way they’ve been treated by the school in the last three months.

Tom and Mary’s daughter Lizzy, a 19-year-old freshman at Notre Dame’s sister school, Saint Mary’s College, committed suicide in September, 10 days after reporting that she had been fondled against her will by a Notre Dame football player whose aggressiveness terrified her so much that she froze, cried, and broke out in a rash.

Her fear for her safety in his dorm room after another couple left them alone was 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, she said in a police statement, until he was interrupted by a cell phone call and angrily “threw her off.” The accused, a star whom head coach Brian Kelly has publicly praised in interviews both before and after Lizzy’s death, has a history of behavior problems that continued even after he was recruited by Notre Dame; he was suspended during his senior year in high school for throwing a desk at a teacher who’d taken away his cell phone. Yet after Lizzy’s allegations, he never sat out a single game, during a time that he could not have been “cleared,” because he was not even interviewed by authorities until five days after she died — 15 days after she’d filed her complaint. “How did they even know it was a ‘he said/she said,’ ” Lizzy’s mother Mary asks, “when they didn’t talk to the guy for 15 days? They didn’t know what he’d say.”

Almost preternaturally rational during a five-hour interview in front of their fireplace, the Seebergs understand due process and realized from the start that a case in which the only witness is dead was going nowhere — an outcome confirmed by prosecutors on Thursday. No, what they want isn’t money or vengeance but comfort, reassurance, and a process that does not deprive their daughter of the right to be heard posthumously, even if it is in a private disciplinary hearing at the school. “How do you not call us in,” Tom wonders, “and say, ‘This is a complicated situation and there are things we can’t say, but you need to know we intend to live our values’?”

Instead, they were stonewalled and stiff-armed. The lawyer they hired just to get the school to communicate with them reported back that Notre Dame’s general counsel, Marianne Corr, had this message for them: “I hope the Seebergs know how bad this could get for them” if they ever went public.

This was the second veiled threat the family received. The first came to Lizzy herself, in the form of a text message from the friend of the football player she said had assaulted her.

“We got kind of a double whack,” says Lizzy’s plain-talking 85-year-old grandfather, Bill Seeberg, a WWII Marine veteran and Notre Dame alum from the Class of ’44. No, make that a triple: “First Lizzy’s death, then two weeks later finding out about the assault; because we’re old folks who couldn’t understand such things, our kids kept that part from us — wasn’t that nice of them?”

Then came the galling refusal of Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins to meet with the Seebergs, or even read the letter they’d written him, on advice of counsel: “You’ve got a priest who’s the head of it — a priest! You have an assault and a death; why in God’s name wouldn’t he come to Mary and Tom” and throw his arms around them? “That’s what mystifies me – that’s what makes you so damn mad,” Bill Seeberg says.

“In the beginning,” says Tom’s sister, Kate Garvey, Saint Mary’s Class of ’79, whose husband, Lee, was her brother Dan’s Notre Dame roommate, “we made excuses for anything they didn’t do; we knew they’d do the right thing,” and kept waiting for a hero to emerge, “but the only hero in this whole story was Lizzy,” speaking out at great cost. “I feel like I was a different person then; we were so hopeful, and we believed we were part of this family” of Notre Dame people.

On Thursday, a leader of that family, Notre Dame’s Janet M. Botz, vice president of public affairs and communications, sent a letter to students and faculty that, in answer to a Chicago Tribune interview with Tom and Mary Seeberg, condescendingly suggests that “We also recognize that when a family is grieving for a lost child, procedures that are thorough and careful may be perceived as insufficient. The Seebergs have been and continue to be in our prayers.” Then, Botz assures the ND community in vague and sometimes misleading terms that all is well, and even that Notre Dame has been attentive to the Seebergs.

Notre Dame’s vice president of student affairs, Father Tom Doyle, whose duties until recently included overseeing the campus police who investigated Lizzy’s initial complaint, is a friend of a family friend of the Seebergs and someone they have met once, at the Saint Mary’s memorial service for Lizzy. He is also the only person other than the school’s lawyer who has been in contact with them at all. “They lawyered up from the start,” says Lizzy’s dad. “We never received one condolence from the university,” though they’ve suggested otherwise. “Not a card, not a flower.”

If Father Jenkins had read their letter, would things have turned out differently? Is he running the school, or are his lawyers setting its moral tone? Can you be a God-based institution that puts liability concerns ahead of people? Didn’t we learn from the clerical sex abuse scandal that ignoring wrongs does not make them disappear, but on the contrary multiplies them? And WJLU – Would Jesus Lawyer Up?

According to documents provided by the Seebergs, Notre Dame officials claimed that Lizzy had not formally requested a disciplinary proceeding investigating the behavior of either the accused football player or the friend of his who, after Lizzy reported her allegations to the police, sent her what she considered a threatening text. A screen shot of the text, which the Seebergs showed me, says, “Don’t do anything you would regret. Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea.”

Notre Dame also ruled that Lizzy’s family had no standing to request a disciplinary hearing, nor did the friend who co-signed Lizzy’s written account of what had happened on August 31, the night she said she was attacked.

Politics Daily has also confirmed that the accused player was suspended in high school for aggressive behavior towards a teacher, according to a newspaper account published at the time because he was a star player. The mother of a former classmate of the accused told me that after years of complaints that he regularly bullied other students, he was expelled from middle school in the 7th grade for threatening a girl.

Every day of elementary school, this woman told me, her daughter would come home in the afternoon complaining about something the boy had done. “She’d come home saying, ‘I hate him! I hate him!’ and I’d say, ‘You can’t speak about anyone like that.’ Then one day in the fifth grade she told me he had picked up a girl in their class and thrown her — tossed her like you’d toss a piece of paper. He was bigger than everybody else, and violent.”

The player did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment, and Notre Dame’s spokesman, Dennis Brown, returned a detailed phone message with an e-mail that said, “As I’m sure you can appreciate, you’re asking me something specific that I simply can’t respond to.”

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