Attorney Ryan Pacyga pulled off a stunning performance in a press conference today, barely 24 hours after Minnesota basketball player Reggie Lynch retained him as part of his appeal to avoid expulsion for sexual misconduct. Pacyga’s response to the allegations against Lynch included his concerns about the “hysteria” caused by the Me Too movement, a wish that Lynch’s accusers were publicly named, and a tricky analogy involving Japanese internment camps.
Lynch has been found responsible in two cases of sexual misconduct by the University of Minnesota’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office, with the EOAA recommending suspension in one case and expulsion in the other. Rather than accept the punishment, Lynch has requested panel hearings to appeal the recommendations.
According to Pacyga, who had the investigative reports in front of him and referred to them during the conference, both of Lynch’s accusers say their assaults occurred in April 2016. In the case that ended with Lynch recommended for suspension, he’s accused of non-consensual digital penetration, while in the expulsion case, he’s accused of both non-consensual “full-on” sexual intercourse and oral sex. Lynch denies not only the sexual assault accusations, but that any sexual contact occurred between him and either of his accusers.
You can watch the full hourlong video of Pacyga’s conference here, but above is the strangest minute, featuring a Japanese internment camp analogy for the “hysteria” caused by the Me Too movement and the increased public awareness of sexual assault. The lawyer himself admits the comparison is “not perfect,” but here’s what he says:
It’s a little bit like where there was all of this hysteria when World War Two started, and we had the Japanese internment camps, and everybody rushed out of fear to do something like that. And we look back now and we think, “Oh my god, what were we doing?” How wrong was that? To assume all of them guilty and a threat and everything else and lock them up, and that’s what we’re going to do. And it’s a little bit like that right now. Yes, is it as alarming? No, so it’s not a perfect analogy, like I said. But is the concern there that we’re in this hysteria right now, and we’re like shoot first and ask questions later and we’ll just deal with it? And so what if the Japanese-American really wasn’t a threat? Oh at least we felt better, we felt safer.
Pacyga never in his hour mentioned any kind of motivation that the accusers might have for falsely accusing Lynch, but he did seem upset that the women’s names aren’t publicly known.
“Frankly I don’t think it’s that fair that they can air him out publicly and they can stay behind a curtain, but that’s my own thought. If you print that my wife will probably kill me,” Pacyga said. (Sorry!)
Pacyga said that he would like a statute of limitations for reporting sexual assault, because there was a gap of 18 months between the alleged incidents and the beginning of the investigations. He also cited Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s work rolling back Obama-era Title IX policies as a positive step toward protecting students falsely accused of sexual assault.
“Title IX right now isn’t fair,” he said.
This is Pacyga’s second high-profile sexual assault case related to the University of Minnesota in less than a year: He also represented Gopher football player Antoine Winfield Jr. when he was cleared of sexual misconduct back in February 2017. Pacyga made similar comments about his concerns with Title IX and the stigma on those accused of sexual assault at that time as well.
“We’ve got the ‘Me Too’ movement right now,” Pacyga said today. “But I wonder when if ever we’re going to come up with a ‘What About Me?’ movement.”
Update (7:26 p.m.): Via activist Abby Honold, here’s a statement from the woman in the case that led to Lynch’s recommended suspension.