A Northern Kentucky University student was assaulted in front of the University Suites. He was hit in the face and the damage was extensive, incurring nearly $14,000 worth of medical expenses. The Northerner was unable to report on this assault because the case was still under investigation by the NKU Police Department until Aug.8.
The Freedom of Information Act, begun by Congress in 1966 to give the public access to information, says that allowing the public to view open cases would “interfere with enforcement proceedings; deprive a person of a right to fair trial or an impartial adjudication…disclose investigative techniques or procedures,” according to the Code of Federal Regulations, 5 U.S.C. 552 (b) (7).
The Northerner has received questions and letters regarding this case since it occurred.
On Feb. 10, student Diego Varela was assaulted by another student Jared Dillow on campus after a university sponsored trip to Jillian’s for homecoming activities. Varela reported the incident to police Feb. 12 and pressed charges against Dillow.
Dillow turned himself in to police Feb. 15 and was charged with fourth degree assault. He gave a written confession about the incident. In it he said, “I went to a bar with a couple of my friends. While I was there I had several drinks and started dancing with a girl named Amy.” The call came for the bus back to campus. Dillow got on the bus and sat next to a friend of his, then said he noticed “the guy with Amy making gestures, laughing and provoking me.” Once Dillow got off the bus at NKU, he said that he “asked the guy what he had said about me. He stopped, turned to me and said ‘Fuck you.'” Dillow wrote that at this point he “hit him once with my right hand. Everyone turned around and told me to go home. I left and later found out that the guy’s name was Diego…”
Witnesses, though, said that Varela never cursed at Dillow. In an e-mail recount of the situation, student Katie Vought said, “We were all pretty much in shock because Diego hadn’t said anything to this kid…he didn’t even know him at all.”
Varela also said that he didn’t know Dillow. “I didn’t say anything. He imagined that I was talking to Amy about him,” Varela said. “I did not say ‘fuck you.’ I’m not that kind of person.”
Matt Brown, director of University Housing, interviewed Dillow after the assault and asked him what happened. Brown then submitted a typed account of the interview to the University Police.
In it, Brown said, “He informed me that he had been drinking…He said that he and Amy had talked about hanging out after they got back to campus. (Dillow) said the bus ride was uncomfortable because Amy and Diego were speaking Spanish most of the trip.” Brown also said that Dillow believed that Amy and Varela were talking about him and that Varela called him a name. Dillow told Brown, “I lost my temper and punched him.”
According to University Police Detective Rob Yelton, there has been some controversy over whether Varela was hit in the face with a shoe or a fist.
“Witnesses said he was hit with a shoe,” Yelton said. “But upon reinterviewing, they didn’t see the hit at all-they only saw him putting his shoe back on.”
Yelton believes that Dillow’s shoe slipped off his foot when he punched Varela. Dillow was wearing slip-on shoes with no backs. The difference is important because if Dillow had used a shoe, the assault would have been a felony.
“Everybody I talked to agreed that the damage that was done to the face and eyeball was not something that could have been done with a soft shoe,” Yelton said. “It was more of a bone on bone contact, in my experience.”
Varela disagrees. “He struck my face with a shoe,” he said. “I saw the shoe.”
Yelton also said that he had heard some talk that this was a hate crime.
“By law a hate crime has to be directed to a group-a certain race, religion or sexual orientation, and not an individual for a specific action,” he said. “I feel that this was definitely driven by alcohol-Dillow said he wouldn’t have done it if he hadn’t been drinking.”
Varela said he thought in the beginning that this was a hate crime, but now believes that many different factors were involved.
“He was jealous. He was upset. He just didn’t like me,” Varela said. “He was drunk.”
Varela also said that Dillow was upset that he was speaking in Spanish. “He was uncomfortable with that, I can say that 100 percent,” he said.
Yelton said there were reasons that Dillow wasn’t arrested once the crime was committed. He said, “If we had been called when the fight was active, then we would have been able to make an arrest.”
Yelton said that because of the delay in reporting the crime, the police were unable to make an arrest. There was also confusion about whether or not the crime was a felony.
“If I had know that it was a felony then I could have made an unwitnessed arrest,” he said.
Yelton said that the question of the crime being a felony was eventually taken before the grand jury. “They saw pictures of (Varela’s) injuries and the statements were presented,” Yelton said.
“They said it was not a felony. They failed to indict and sent it back to district court.”
Varela won his case in the Campbell County District Court. Dillow was ordered to pay Varela’s medical expenses, to keep away from Varela, to take anger management classes and alcohol and drug evaluation programs. Dillow is on a two-year probation. Varela says he’s not satisfied, though-at least, not with NKU.
“Technically (Dillow) never got expelled,” Varela said. “He was expelled from the dorms after two weeks, but he was still going to classes until May 7 or 8.”
Varela also said that he was disappointed in the university’s reaction to his injuries. “I’m really kind of upset with the school,” he said. “(Dean) Kent Kelso or Steve Meier never called me at home to see how I was; they never called and said ‘Diego, we’re taking care of things.'” Varela said that Matt Brown, director of University Housing called and checked up, but aside from that felt that he didn’t get any support from the school.
“The school should have done something for me to make me happy; satisfied,” Varela said.