IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) – Court records show that Iowa City Police officers executed multiple search warrants on members of the University of Iowa Phi Gamma Delta fraternity (commonly known as FIJI) in September 2020. Records also show police collected evidence regarding an alleged sexual assault that occurred at the FIJI house on Sept. 5, 2020.
On the evening of Sept. 10, a female student reported a sexual assault to an ICPD officer that allegedly happened on Sept. 5. The student said she was at FIJI for a party and woke up the next morning with no memory of what happened. She reportedly had bruises on her arms and legs.
Friends told her there was a video going around the FIJI fraternity of two members having sex with her. FIJI members, including the men involved in the alleged assault, asked her not to contact the police, according to a search warrant application from Sept. 22.
KWWL’s policy is not to identify victims of sexual assault by name. The student is being represented by Eashaan Vajpeyi, an attorney at Ball, Kirk & Holm law firm in Waterloo.
“She was drugged, sexually assaulted, and the assault was filmed by two members of the University of Iowa chapter of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity,” Vajpeyi said. “We believe it was a planned occurrence.”
On Sept. 12, police spoke to Stefanie Jaszka, a woman who claimed to have seen the video and who was dating a member of the fraternity. Jaszka said she had seen the video on her boyfriend’s phone and said it fit the physical description of the woman who reported the assault.
Police also spoke with Genesee Merical, who was also dating a member of the fraternity. Merical said her boyfriend received a Group Me message from “possibly the fraternity president” asking members to delete photos of the incident.
Merical also said she saw Snapchat photos of two different FIJI members, both naked, having sex with a woman. Merical said the photos “didn’t look okay.” Merical’s boyfriend confirmed he received the photos.
After obtaining a different search warrant, police seized cell phones of the two men in question and found a photo corroborating what Merical had described.
After getting the Sept. 22 search warrant approved, officer Eric Nieland went to the FIJI house and took a closed-circuit video recording device as evidence. Officer Nieland said the video, “may assist in developing a timeline of events leading up to and after the reported incident. Further, surveillance video may assist in showing intoxication levels of persons present during the reported incident.”
After learning of this search warrant and the evidence obtained nearly one year ago, KWWL asked ICPD what investigators did with that evidence. A spokesperson said they do not comment on open investigations.
Neither of the two men mentioned as allegedly having sex with the victim have been charged with a crime.
Vajpeyi said he and his client are waiting to learn if charges will be filed in the case. On Monday, they were told by the prosecutor assigned to the case none would be filed.
The next day, thousands of protesters gathered outside of FIGI’s house on the U of I campus. It started off peaceful but turned violent, as demonstrators vandalized the FIJI house and another residence where some fraternity members were reportedly staying. An online petition circulated on social media. Wednesday, ICPD and the county attorney’s office asked the public for help in this investigation.
This week, the student asked for another prosecutor in the Johnson County Attorney’s Office to examine her case and offer a second opinion. Vajpeyi said he and the student expect to meet with prosecutors and learn their final decision from Johnson County prosecutors next week.
“From multiple conversations between the investigator and my client, it is also our understanding that there is considerable evidence and that’s why we’ve asked for a second review by a different prosecutor,” he said. “That is why, regardless of what comes with a criminal case, we feel very confident in pursuing the assailants.”
Vajpeyi, who is serving as her personal attorney for civil matters said he plans to seek all civil remedies. He has waited to file anything until the criminal investigation has run its course.
“I’ve handled plenty of these cases where there is an intersection between a civil case in a criminal case and it’s always best to respect that criminal investigation and not interfere with any possible criminal prosecution,” he said. “That took quite a long time.”
He is not taking anything or anyone off the table.
“The assailants, anyone who shared the video or pictures, all taken, of course, without her consent, the fraternity, local chapter, national chapter, and possibly the University of Iowa,” he said. “The last piece of the puzzle, which we don’t have a ton of information on yet, but which we have some suspicion on is what the university’s response was.”
He expects the lawsuit will be filed “swiftly,” but exactly when will depend on the level of access he gets to the evidence law enforcement has collected in their investigation.