Dezmine Wells, a highly touted former Xavier basketball player hoping to transfer to Maryland, was in College Park on Wednesday as the school studied a sexual assault allegation against him that a prosecutor said resulted from a game of "truth or dare."
Wells was undergoing the sort of Maryland review required of any prospective student who has been disciplined by another institution or has a criminal record. Wells' expulsion from Xavier, announced by the Cincinnati school last month, triggered the review by a Maryland student conduct office working with the university's office of undergraduate admissions, school officials said.
Wells has the backing of Maryland's athletic department, which has researched his background and is comfortable with the player. The review wasn't expected to take longer than a few days.
Wells' case is unusual in that not only were no charges filed by a grand jury, but the prosecutor has seemed to publicly advocate for the player.
Hamilton County (Ohio) Prosecuting Attorney Joseph T. Deters said in an interview Wednesday that "I think Maryland's getting a good kid, I really do."
Deters, a former Ohio state treasurer who has been a prosecutor for 30 years, said Wells was involved in a game of truth or dare involving three females and three males while he was enrolled at Xavier. The game led to the allegation of sexual assault against him by one of the females, and Xavier expelled him following a review by a committee of faculty, students and administrators.
Deters said the accuser's "dare" had been to lift her shirt up, and that she complied. At some point, he said, Wells and the accuser began having sex.
The two "knew each other [and] they were in a sexual situation totally consensual until the very last seconds, and that's where their stories diverged," Deters said. "I'm not known as soft on crime by any stretch of the imagination. But I am also very sensitive of people being accused of things where it doesn't even reach anything close to a standard of proof that we would even think of accepting. It wasn't even a close call. If I thought he did this, he'd be in prison. I wouldn't pull any punches."
Xavier spokeswoman Kelly Leon said the university could not comment because of privacy considerations. The accuser's name was being withheld.
In a statement last month, Xavier said federal law required that schools act independently in student conduct cases rather than turning them over solely to the criminal justice system. It said the procedure Xavier used "is the standard used in American universities."
But Deters expressed concern about Xavier's process. "If you're going to go down this path, the degree of proof shouldn't be in the hands of untrained people," he said.
Before Wells was expelled, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported last month that Xavier had signed an agreement with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights pledging to do a better job protecting victims of sexual assault and harassment. The newspaper has reported on several incidents.
Maryland basketball coach Mark Turgeon and others at the school said it was too soon to comment on Wells.
Assuming Wells is admitted by Maryland, he may have to sit out a year based on the NCAA's transfer rules. Maryland is expected to seek an exemption based on the unusual circumstances of his case.
Wells also considered Kentucky, Memphis and Oregon. He tweeted his decision Tuesday, saying: "After careful consideration with my family, I've decided to attend the University of Maryland."
Wells, who is from Raleigh, N.C., could eventually become one of Maryland's top players. He averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in his lone season with the Musketeers. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound wing would have been Xavier's returning leading scorer this season.
Wells would become the third transfer Maryland has landed this offseason, joining power forward Evan Smotrycz (Michigan) and shooting guard Logan Aronhalt (Albany). Smotrycz must sit out this season. Aronhalt can play immediately because he graduated from Albany and has enrolled in a graduate program in College Park.