LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A state appeals court panel today overturned a Superior Court ruling upholding USC's expulsion of Matt Boermeester, who kicked the winning field goal in the 2017 Rose Bowl.
In a 2-1 decision, a California 2nd District Court of Appeal panel ruled Boermeester was denied the right to a hearing at which he could cross-examine witnesses when the university sought to expel him over an alleged physical altercation between him and his girlfriend.
“We find meritorious Boermeester's contention that he should have had the right to cross-examine the witnesses against him at an in-person hearing,'' according to the majority opinion by Justices Tricia A. Bigelow and Maria E. Stratton.
“In reaching this conclusion, we reject a number of forfeiture-related arguments advanced by USC and the dissent. We also find the errors identified are not harmless.''
Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr. dissented, writing, “The university was right to discipline this man. Substantial evidence shows he committed domestic violence. All procedures were fair. Overturning this discipline is unwarranted.''
USC is “reviewing the decision from the Court of Appeal in detail,'' according to a statement from the university.
In March, USC issued a statement saying, “USC's process was fair. The special process for sexual misconduct cases does not apply in this case because this involves violence toward a girlfriend, not sexual misconduct.
“This case didn't happen behind closed doors without any witnesses. And it is not a case where “credibility of witnesses is central to the adjudication of the allegation,'' another requirement for having a live hearing as part of an investigation of a sexual misconduct case. It is a case of violence, perpetrated in public, witnessed by numerous people and caught on video camera.''
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue said during the trial she did not find evidence Boermeester was denied due process or was a victim of a biased investigation.
A Title IX probe led to Boermeester's expulsion from the university and its football team in 2017. Boermeester was accused of pushing his girlfriend, Zoe Katz, then the captain of USC's women's tennis team, against a wall late one night in January 2017.
Boermeester's lawyer, Mark Hathaway, said Katz repeatedly denied making the statements attributed to her and that she and his client walked away from the incident holding hands.
According to a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Boermeester's expulsion, the interaction in the parking lot of a McDonald's near Katz's home was the result of horseplay misinterpreted by a “third-party non-witness'' as assault.
“Mr. Boermeester and Ms. Katz joked around about Mr. Boermeester's role in USC's Rose Bowl win, threw French fries at each other, and laughed together,'' the suit states.
“During this interaction, Mr. Boermeester playfully put one hand on Ms. Katz's neck, in an intimate manner. They then entered Ms. Katz's building together.''
Boermeester was two classes shy of graduation when he was expelled.
Boermeester kicked a 46-yard field goal as time expired as USC completed the greatest comeback in Rose Bowl history, overcoming a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Penn State, 52-49, on Jan. 2, 2017.
Photo: Getty Images